The appearance of fitting rooms in Waitrose shows how retailers are reacting to changes in the eCommerce landscape, says tech entrepreneur Ed Bradley.
Bradley is the co-founder of digital supply chain Virtualstock, which uses cloud-based technology to create a seamless experience for its clients’ customers.
Six of the top 10 UK retailers are among those clients, including Tesco, John Lewis and Argos. Bradley (pictured below) says a new generation of Click and Collect services means the modern-day customer is more demanding and fickle than ever.
“We’re seeing changing rooms appearing in Waitrose because you can Click and Collect clothing supplied by John Lewis to the store, so it makes sense to try it on and return it where you are at that point,” he told BusinessCloud.
“We also see services where carriers will wait outside people’s doors while they try their jeans on and, if they don’t fit, they can return them directly there.
“It’s all about the ease of customer experience, that’s what’s really driving all this at the moment. Customers are so fickle and demanding now that the retailer has to react to that.”
Bradley believes this is just one of several trends picking up pace in the retail space. He highlights drop shipping – where retailers do not keep goods in stock but instead transfer customer orders to the manufacturer, another retailer or wholesaler, which then send the product out directly – as one of these.
“We’ve seen a lot of the strategies for large retailers looking to expand their range, which manifests in drop shipping,” he said.
“We’re also seeing a move for retailers become marketplaces. Other brands can sell products directly to their consumers through their platform but they don’t become the principle in the transaction.
“Then there’s Click and Collect on the back of that. In some categories we see as high as 95 per cent being collected in store.
“The methodology is becoming more widespread, particularly in consumer electronics, because people don’t want their iPad sitting on their doorstep while they’re at work so they often pick up from store.”
Virtualstock, founded in 2007, helps ensure that stock is always accounted for and retailers can expand their range without physically holding more items.
Most retailers that specialise in one area can hold around 20,000 products in their warehouse. By using Virtualstock’s system to sell suppliers’ stock on their websites without holding the stock themselves can massively increase this figure.
“We enable traditional retailers to hold a full assortment of their core range of products and expand into other complementary categories as well,” said Bradley.
“For example, if you’re a DIY seller you might be expected to have every type of stepladder and garden shed and lawnmower so we enable huge ranges of those types of products to be featured online but then you might also want to go into products like DIY books and consumer electronics and IT products.”
The platform, which has recently expanded into the NHS to help it make savings of up to £1bn a year, pulls in all of the product data to the retailers site then converts it all to the specifications of the retailer.
It then takes the inventory feeds from suppliers and updates it rapidly so any changes with the supplier are reflected on the retailer website.
“You go to check out and the drop ship product comes into our platform,” said Bradley.
“We place the purchase order with the supplier and when they dispatch it we track and trace it right up to when you sign for it at your door.”