Eye on eCommerce: Sarah Kellett, Fujitsu

"I'm not convinced a lot of retailers really know who their customer is," admits Sarah Kellett, associate director of consumer facing industries at Fujitsu.

"Take M&S for instance, well, I'm going to be a very different 55-year-old than my mum was."

Kellett hits on a very important social development in the UK. Shoppers attitudes and ways of life are radically changing – they are working and living longer and are very time poor. Combine this with the onset of digital media which causes an immediacy in retail, and customers are becoming more and more impatient when the shopping experience is not up to scratch.

"I want retailers to know me, what I want, my way of life and the things I look at," says Kellett.

She also points out that the UK's aging population holds most of the country's wealth. "They've had a huge benefit from the property boom all their lives and now they're downsizing and putting that money in the bank or spending it – they are very demanding," explains Kellett.

Meanwhile, the number of 16-24 savvy shoppers are declining – "The value retailers may feel a draft there," she adds.

Single view

It becomes even more prevalent that retailers need to take the time to understand their customer and the channels they use to engage.

"There are some brilliant eCommerce sites, but very few of them have a consistent view," she says. "It often feels they don't know who they're directing that offer at."

But how are retailers supposed to keep track of their customers if they are struggling to even understand exactly where their own stock is at any point in time?

"The technology win is the single view of stock," says Kellett. "But retailers haven't upgraded the systems behind the scenes – they haven't had the money in the last few years – and they're not terribly well joined up."

She continues: "When 50% of a retailer's business is online, the outlook is two things – retailers really need a single view of stock and a single view of the customer."


RFID is one solution, but as Kellett points out only Zara has had outstanding success using the technology, purely because it has the advantage where it owns its entire supply chain.

"M&S has suppliers who make things for them with their label, but it is much more difficult to pull them out and put in an RFID tag."

In addition to Zara being able to control the distribution of RFID tags, the retailer has no stock rooms in each of its countries. "Astonishingly, if you order on Zara's website, the product comes from northern Spain, where everything is designed and made, direct to the store with your name on it.

"Zara doesn't predict, it reacts, from design to instore from four and a half weeks," she adds.

Engaging with technology

And when it comes to consumer facing technologies, Kellett says retailers have struggled. In stores, some retailers have put in the effort to introduce tablets and screens to shop on. "But I don't go to the shop to do that, I can do that at home," exclaims Kellet. "'Do you want to go to this kiosk?' they ask. No, I want someone to serve me."

Meanwhile, retailers are also struggling to create truly engaging mobile applications, according to Kellett.

"I often just wait until I get home and do it on my PC," she explains. "It's difficult to deliver something visually commanding and visible."

This becomes even more frustrating when technology giant Amazon can deliver one-click ordering capabilities. "I'm absolutely flabbergasted others haven't gone down this route."

But she says security is a huge blocker of mCommerce adoption. "I don't want to sit on the bus and have people see me key in my card number."

She believes biometric security could be the answer to this problem. Kellett describes how Fujistu has been developing biometric technology using voice and iris recognition, as well as veins in human hands – "a fingerprint can be easily lifted off a glass," explains Kellett.

She says vein technology – known as palm vein – may gain more interest with the recent cyber security breaches from the likes of Talk Talk. Customers would use their veins to authorise payments such as banking transactions or Visa verification steps in eCommerce purchases.

"We developed palm vein technology quite some time ago, because the pattern of veins is fixed when we're born, so you just go to a bank you place your palm or finger two inches above a reader to identify yourself."

While she says the whole of Turkish and Saudi health services are secured by palm vein technology, UK retailers and banks have not had enough money in recent years to upgrade their systems.

"But these recent breaches will change things," she says, noting how US retailer Target's data breach costs are climbing into the hundreds of millions. "I'd probably put a bit of effort in to fix that."

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