Q&A: M&S eCommerce programme manager Craig Smith

What do you think are going to be the key trends in retail technology over the next 12 months?

How important is mobile, social networking, eCommerce and the cloud to retailers? What are the other subjects you think are key considerations?

Cloud enables us to create a service oriented architecture (SOA) that enables us to build customer experiences that require less cost/effort to integrate. SOA also makes it easier for us to do continuous automation testing and thus being able to do more frequent releases without fear of breaking something. Social is a big opportunity to understand what our customer is doing. Mobile means people are constantly shopping wherever they are and whatever time of day. It's important to create a playful,  personalised shopping experience on mobile to keep drawing customers back.

Are there any innovations that you've seen or heard of recently that have caught your interest?

Low frequency radio (like NFC & Bluetooth) enabling customers to use phone to identify themselves in the physical world will enable them to have a more personalised shopping experience.

What are biggest challenges to your business at the moment?

Converting store customers into multichannel customers. Multichannel customers are worth a lot more than single channel customers.

What is the biggest headache in your job right now?

Migration to our new multichannel platforms. I'm working on the biggest retail multichannel re-platform programmes in the world right now.

Best retail CRM example you have seen or experienced?

Tesco clubcard. Certainly not exploiting what can be achieved but the most robust.

Watching the space where a few retailers like Walmart and Sears are investing in real-time data analytics that are analysing vast quantities of customer data, understanding patterns of behaviour and giving them relevant information.

What do you see as the challenges and benefits in the growth of multichannel?

Big retail organisations with lots of legacy will find it hard to keep pace with the smaller nimbler retailers. Those who are thinking SOA and API first will be the winners.  They will be able to create the best experiences at pace.

Best invention you would like to see in the business?

Who are your business heroes?

Who would be your dream speaker at a conference?

Two thought leaders in the land of eCommerce and connected retail.

What's the best example of digital engagement that you've experienced/heard of?

Audi City virtual showroom in Central London. A great way to use small footprint to immerse customers in the brand through use of digital.

Favourite retailer?

M&S. Great brand that is investing more in eCommerce innovation than most.

Craig Smith runs his own retail innovation website, detailing some of the latest trends in retail technology.