River Island's omnichannel strategy focuses on the store, says CIO

The stores are still a major part of River Island's digital strategy, CIO Doug Gardner told Essential Retail this week.

The fashion retailer's head of IT said taking a customer right through the omnichannel journey from online to offline is increasingly important.

Speaking with Gardner at the TrueStart investor evening in London, he said: "Omnichannel is about connecting the customer journey – from the customer service, to the app, to the desktop, to the tablet. And the most important thing we’re really focussing on is taking that journey into the store and really embracing it."

He said the retailer is using digital technologies to enhance the in-store experience as customers shop across all channels.  

"It's not necessarily about installing the flash crazy technology," he added. "But we don’t want people to switch their phone off when they come into store, we want them to feel it’s an enhanced experience."

He said River Island has spent a lot of time and money making sure customers have an enriched experience when they are sat on their sofa surfing the retailer's website, "so why not when you're inside the box we own – with our own branding and our own clothes – enhance that experience?"

Today, River Island revealed profits for its full year ending December 2014 surged by 70%, which the retail put down to store openings and IT investment. Response to its multichannel efforts have also increased, with a 48% increase in mobile traffic to River Island's website and a 32% rise in click & collect sales.

Technology for staff

As well as customer-facing digital enhancements, the retailer is empowering its store staff with digital technology.

"We're rolling out Android devices with our apps on it and a new store system which will help them better engage with the customer," he said. "So no longer will it be the days the customer comes into our store with a mobile phone and has more information than our store staff.

"We’re going to enable them to serve the customer and have the knowledge so the customer will be able to engage with our store in a relaxed comfortable way," he said.