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Stuart O'Brien

U-Freight restructures in the Netherlands and adds e-commerce warehousing

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U-Freight Group has restructured the management team at its headquarters in Amsterdam.

Robert Rens has been promoted from operations manager to operations director and will take responsibility for work undertaken by current managing director in the Netherlands, Cas Scheij, who has reached official retirement age but will remain in post on a part-time basis.

Rens, 44, has been with U-Freight Holland for almost 25 years and started with the company in an administration role and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming export supervisor before being promoted to operations manager.

Scheij said: “Robert is an excellent choice. There really is no one who knows U-Freight Holland’s role in our customers’ supply chains as well as he does and I am sure he will be an excellent asset for the management team here in Schiphol.

“Robert’s promotion comes at an exciting time for U-Freight in the Netherlands. We have opened a new warehouse for the company’s growing e-commerce logistics operations, in addition to our existing on-airport facility.”

The new e-commerce fulfilment centre adds 684 sq m of space plus 124 sq m of offices to U-Freight’s Holland’s portfolio, and will enable it to expand added value activities such as pick and pack for e-commerce, including shoes imported from the Far East.”

Rens explained: “E-commerce from the Far East and South East Asia is booming, so we need the extra space.”

Alongside the Amsterdam office, which caters for airfreight, U-Freight Holland has a long-standing relationship with Independent Freight Service in Rotterdam, which operates under the U-Ocean branding. This ensures that U-Freight in the Netherlands can offer a complete portfolio of multimodal services.

Why the IoT is key to the UK retail sector’s post-Covid recovery

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By James Bristow, SVP EMEA, Cradlepoint

According to the latest ONS figures, the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the physical retail sector has been mixed. Stores selling hardware, paints and glass, for example, saw a 13% increase in the value of retail sales compared to last year. Others have been hit particularly hard – with clothes store sales down by more than a quarter (26%) in the same time frame.

The forthcoming wave of vaccinations promises to restore the UK’s economy to a more stable position. Nonetheless, we must consider the possibility that changes in consumer behaviour may linger even when lockdowns and social distancing are a thing of the past, as well as how different sub-sectors within the industry will be affected.

Let’s therefore look at two opposing, but equally possible scenarios on the road ahead.

Scenario A – Opening the floodgates

After months of being cooped up at home, customers flock to town centres, industrial parks and shopping centres to exercise their freedom to purchase goods in-person. Sales volumes increase, but supply chains become stretched due to spikes in product demand and store inventories become more difficult to effectively manage.

In addition, disruption to both the need and availability of workers in the months prior leaves stores understaffed, leading to long queues and disgruntled customers. Finally, customers who for months have been encouraged to go cashless are now making far more card and contactless payments, leaving some POS systems struggling with the uptick in data traffic and leading to more frustration for staff and customers alike.

Scenario B – The high street ghost town

For many, shopping online during the pandemic switched from something people wanted to do to something people needed to do. As a result, those who were previously sceptical or unfamiliar with technology (or who simply preferred shopping in-person) had to familiarise themselves with the process. Of course, although many within this group may still be averse to e-commerce today, we must assume that at least some will use their newfound familiarity to continue shopping online in the post-Covid era.

In this scenario, customers new to e-commerce have been swayed by the user-friendliness, low prices and fast delivery on offer online. As a result, footfall on the high street struggles to recover to pre-pandemic levels, creating a tough environment for the small independent retailers who compete with the online giants.

Preparing for every outcome

While these two scenarios are diametrically opposed, the Internet of Things (IoT) could help address some of the issues described in both situations. Comprising a dynamic network of sensors, devices and equipment, the IoT makes it possible to view and interact with physical objects as easily as files and folders on a computer. In other words, the IoT creates a digital overlay that sits across the physical infrastructure of retail stores, effectively facilitating the agility of online shopping in a physical space.

It will require investment, but securing the future is a goal that pays dividends. Here we look at the solutions the IoT has to offer in these two scenarios.

Solution A – Unlocking efficiency at every stage of the supply chain

Preparing to mitigate the negative outcomes in this scenario requires retailers to take a hard look at the systems they have in place, identify areas in urgent need of greater efficiency, and implement new IoT tools to address them:

  • Real-time supply chain – inventory sensors and POS data are integrated into a direct communication system with supply chain partners, triggering automated manufacturing and production systems and adjusting stock delivery schedules accordingly.
  • Data-driven decisioning – capacity sensors linked to data analytics platforms not only track the number of customers in-store, but analyse seasonally-adjusted data relating to the length of time customers spend in the aisles and predict where and when staff will be needed.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA) – from processing supplier deliveries to quarterly stock counts, RPA systems automate time-consuming tasks that happen behind the scenes, freeing up staff time for better workforce scheduling and more focus on customers.

Solution B – In-store customer experience unmatched by online retailers

Innovations such as live product tracking and same day delivery have recently tipped the customer experience race in online retailers’ favour. To attract new customers and retain their business, brick-and-mortar stores must emulate the dynamic, digital and personalised experience offered by their online counterparts:

  • Interactive digital displays & kiosks – positioned at the store entry, customers can benefit from an optimised in-store journey and a highly personalised experience by viewing commonly bought items, their location within the store and in-the-moment marketing offers based on purchase history.
  • Roaming POS – queuing is eliminated as tablets carried by staff process customer payments anywhere in the store. In addition, RFID scanners built into trolleys and baskets can total large volume purchases in real-time, without needing to take a single item out to scan.
  • Customer application integration – in-store geotargeting systems can link via Bluetooth to customer-facing smartphone applications to help locate specific items and provide other useful pieces of information, such as stock levels, current offers and the location of staff.

LTE & SD-WAN branch networking: laying the foundations for the future of physical retail

Regardless of which scenario becomes a reality, any subsequent IoT strategy must begin with a reliable, secure and agile network. The first step is cutting the cord with fixed broadband connectivity and setting up a private in-store network running on LTE. Also known as wireless WAN (WWAN), this solution offers retailers greater levels of flexibility thanks to out-of-the-box connectivity and unparalleled reliability through multiple network channel management.

The second foundational requirement for retail IoT is SD-WAN. With the sheer quantity of network applications running in most branches, cloud monitoring and troubleshooting features – including automated alerts – SD-WAN enables retailers to cost-effectively manage WAN conditions at widespread locations. Crucially, SD-WAN also allows secure VPNs to be established in a matter of minutes, providing robust protection for devices and sensitive information, such as customer payment data.

Survive and thrive in the future of retail

The past year has been an uphill struggle, not least for retailers contending with limited footfall in their physical stores. Investing in new technology may not be top of mind for all retail businesses in the immediate future. But for those who are able and willing to make small adjustments to innovate may find they are able to unlock efficiencies in their supply chain, improve their in-store experience and attract and retain new customers once lockdown restrictions start to ease.

Grow like a Badass Unicorn at the eTailing Summit

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Not yet registered for the eTailing Summit? This unmissable event takes place virtually 23rd & 24th March!

The Summit allows you to connect with innovative and budget-saving suppliers, as well as learn about the latest insights within the eCommerce industry.

Your pass is entirely free and includes access to insightful webinars including “Grow like a Badass Unicorn“, in which Alice ter Haar, Founder & Chief Unicorn, Badass Unicorn, will teach you how to apply the growth strategies of the world’s most inspiring businesses.

This session is a whistle-stop self-awareness and self-empowerment tour where you’ll reconnect with the most important ingredient for personal and professional success – yourself.

The output? The self-awareness and motivation to take your potential by the (unicorn) horn by being your most badass self.

Confirm your place here via our online booking form – attendance options are flexible.

Do you specialise in Mobile Optimisation or Mobile Payments? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on eCommerce & Payments Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on different parts of the market – and in February we’ll be focussing on Mobile Optimisation or Mobile Payments.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help eCommerce management buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a Mobile Optimisation or Mobile Payments specialist and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email c.ross@forumevents.co.uk.

Here’s our features list in full:

Feb – Mobile Optimisation / Mobile Payments

Mar – Conversion Rate Optimisation / Fraud Management

Apr – A/B Testing Platforms / Card Payment Solutions

May – Multi-Channel / mWallets

Jun – Affiliate Marketing / Payments Processor

July – Email Marketing / Payment Service Provider

Aug – Google Shopping / Chargeback Systems

Sep – Personalisation / Artificial Intelligence

Oct – PPC / Account Issuing & Merchant

Nov – SEO / Payment Solution Software

Dec – Customer Experience / IT Security

For more information on any of the above, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email c.ross@forumevents.co.uk.

UK parcels to EU ‘must have custom declaration form’

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Post Office customers in Great Britain are being warned that from Tuesday 29 December, any parcel containing gifts or goods that is being sent to an EU country must have a customs declaration form attached to it.

The UK’s exit from the Customs Union means that customs declarations which apply to non-EU countries has been extended to EU counties. A form does not have to be completed if customers are sending a letter, postcard or document to an EU country.

Around 45% of the total international parcel traffic received by Post Offices in Great Britain goes to EU destinations. Post Office is advising its customers that they can pick up customs forms at its branches and complete them at home before returning to their Post Office to hand over their parcels in order to save themselves time.

The new requirement applies to anyone posting a parcel from England, Scotland or Wales to EU destinations. This was already a requirement when posting a parcel to non-EU destinations. Whilst this requirement comes into effect on 1 January 2021, Post Office advises that customs labels are attached from 29 December so that customers can be sure their parcel has the correct documentation in case there are delays to their parcel arriving at their EU destination.

Customers posting a parcel from Northern Ireland to EU destinations are not required to attach a customs declaration form. However, they must continue to do so for parcels going to non-EU destinations.

Amanda Jones, Retail and Franchise Network Director, said: “We know that over the past few weeks, many people will have been preoccupied with thoughts about Christmas and the pandemic. Postmasters are on hand to provide practical advice, particularly to small businesses, who regularly send parcels to the EU. Customers should also look out for a leaflet in branches that has information about the new customs declaration requirement.”

Five reasons to attend the eTailing Summit

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Here are five reasons why you should attend our eTailing Summit – 23rd & 24th March – register today!

1. Enjoy free, flexible, virtual attendance to fit around your schedule.
2. Our cutting-edge software creates you a bespoke itinerary that allows you to virtually meet essential and budget-saving suppliers for short 1-2-1 meetings, based on mutual agreement and matched requirements.
3. Create new business relationships and gain industry knowledge easily, from the comfort of your home/office.
4. Enjoy two insightful, 30-minute, live webinar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders.
5. Receive additional pre-recorded webinar presentations that focus on the current and future challenges within the eCommerce industry.

Click here to request your free pass via our online booking form.

Do you specialise in Customer Engagement Solutions or ePayment Solutions? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on eCommerce & Payments Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on different parts of the market – and in January we’ll be focussing on Customer Engagement Solutions and ePayment Solutions Software.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help eCommerce management buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a Customer Engagement Solutions or ePayment Solutionsspecialist and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email c.ross@forumevents.co.uk.

Here’s our features list in full:

Jan – Customer Engagement Solutions / ePayment Solutions

Feb – Mobile Optimisation / Mobile Payments

Mar – Conversion Rate Optimisation / Fraud Management

Apr – A/B Testing Platforms / Card Payment Solutions

May – Multi-Channel / mWallets

Jun – Affiliate Marketing / Payments Processor

July – Email Marketing / Payment Service Provider

Aug – Google Shopping / Chargeback Systems

Sep – Personalisation / Artificial Intelligence

Oct – PPC / Account Issuing & Merchant

Nov – SEO / Payment Solution Software

Dec – Customer Experience / IT Security

For more information on any of the above, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email c.ross@forumevents.co.uk.

Learn new skills in 2021 with these online courses for eCommerce professionals

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Our selection of online courses tailored specifically for the eCommerce sector will enable you to both learn new skills and improve existing ones – sign up today!

These are specially-curated online courses designed to help you and your team improve expertise and learn new things.

The Sales & Marketing online learning bundle provides you with over 50 courses, which cover all areas of both professional and personal development:

  • Converting Leads into Sales Certification
  • Creating a Marketing Plan Certification
  • Closing Techniques Certification
  • Cold Calling Certification
  • SEO for Business Certification
  • LinkedIn for Business Certification
  • Vlogging Certification
  • Customer Retention Certification
  • Negotiation Skills Certification
  • Networking for Sales Professionals Certification
  • Online Reputation Management Certification
  • PR Certification
  • Presentation Skills Certification

And many more!

Find out more and purchase your bundle online here.

For just £99 +vat (usually £149), you can share the courses with your colleagues over a 12-month period.

Additionally, there are a variety of bundles available on all spectrums;

  • Personal & Professional Development
  • Healthcare
  • Sports & Personal Development
  • Human Resources
  • Customer Services
  • Health & Safety
  • Education & Social Care Skills
  • Sales & Marketing
  • IT & Personal Development

Book your courses today and come out of this stronger and more skilled!

Lunch is on us at the virtual eTailing Summit!

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Although we are extremely disappointed to miss seeing your faces in-person at the eTailing Summit, the virtual Summit really is a smart way to get in front of budget-saving solution providers in the comfort of your living room/office – we’ll even provide lunch direct to your door!

  • Do you have any new projects you need help with?
  • Are you facing any new challenges?
  • How can we support you?

You’ve probably had to make numerous changes within your organisation, leaving you with little or no time to source new suppliers – therefore, at the Summit, your bespoke itinerary of online, 1-2-1 meetings will be arranged by us, with little effort required by you.

23rd & 24th March 2021 – 09:00-13:05.

Attendance is flexible, you can either attend for one or both half days.

Lunch is also provided and will be delivered to your door!

The event is entirely complimentary – register your free place here or get in touch for further details.

INTERVIEW: Retailers will be left behind if they don’t increase their digital presence

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As the UK entered into a second lockdown, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are facing difficulties in conquering the e-commerce space. Pete Reis-Campbell, CEO and Founder of Kaizen, a performance marketing agency based in London, warns that traditional retailers who haven’t shifted their focus to e-commerce platforms face being left behind if they don’t begin to make drastic changes to their approach…

Why do traditional retailers have to invest more in digital? 

As we’ve seen with the nature of the pandemic, we can’t be sure how long it will take for brick-and-mortar businesses to return to “normal” and if we do what will that be like? In the US, Google’s latest report showed searches for “online shopping stores” increased by 100% compared to last year. It is clear that customers are shifting their attention to shopping online, and whilst it has been a steady increase over the past few years or so, the pandemic has definitely increased this demand.

During the first lockdown, we noticed some businesses made the effort to shift their budgets on digital strategies and implemented changes in case we would go back into another lockdown. Whilst other businesses, justifiably, wanted to protect their revenue and didn’t invest in their e-commerce strategy, meaning they’ve now impacted their growth. For instance, familiar brands of the UK high street such as Woolworths, Debenhams, and Littlewoods have all been forced to close down over the years due to their negligence to e-commerce and thinking about innovation.

What do you think the biggest issue is when it comes to retail stores and online stores?

Customers often remember the experiences retail stores give them and this isn’t often translated online. Whilst brands should make an effort to separate their in-store experience from their online stores, they should also remember what consumers are looking for when using these mediums. For example, Apple has a great in-store experience that is focused on allowing customers to test out their products, attend training sessions, and receive hands-on customer support. However, their online experience translates this in a different way – as they know they cannot replicate everything they do in-store and it needs to be tailored differently.

The high street has become more focused on these types of experiences, for example, growth in independent cafes, grooming salons, and restaurants, as going in-store is the only way you can actually experience them. Whilst with e-commerce, there is an opportunity to create an online space to generate sales. In my experience, I’ve found the most difficult e-commerce websites to navigate are ones trying to replicate their entire in-store experience, and haven’t thought about a digital strategy, which can make their UX confusing and frustrating for users.

What are some of the areas retailers should be turning their attention to during this time?

  1. SEO – Retailers should be looking at the way their customer searches for their products via Google and optimising their website accordingly. From an agency perspective, we often notice that retailers can get caught up in the importance of ‘brand tone of voice’ and this can compromise on SEO as this isn’t the common sense way consumers search for products – meaning they miss out on thousands of opportunities each month just because they aren’t thinking about optimising product descriptions or landing pages.
  2. Create better online experiences with integration and visibility – Most online retailers have great user experiences, however many are missing out on the trick of integrating payment solutions such as Amazon and Apple Pay. By creating one-click experiences you can increase conversions and expect returning customers.
  3. Swoop in on SEO opportunities that affiliate content marketing is profiting from – In theory, affiliate content marketing shouldn’t even exist, but thousands of brands miss out on SEO traffic because of this and essentially lose out on sales too. Ecommerce brands should look at the search terms their affiliates rank for and try to fill in those content gaps themselves instead – your own ‘discount codes’ page for example.
  4. Create evergreen seasonal occasion pages – Retailers have a tendency to create new pages for an event each year, i.e Valentine’s Day 2019, Christmas 2020, or Black Friday 2021. However, these pages should just be a singular URL that’s updated each year in order to retain its SEO value and visibility – otherwise, you’re just resetting your efforts each time. Google recently published an article on best practices for this.
  5. Review your product description pages – Of course, shopping online will never be the same as shopping in-store, but there are some ways you can include features to help create that experience. A favourite of mine is 360 video, which allows potential customers to view the product in 3D. This might be a tedious and time-consuming project, but if you even did it for your top ten products, you might see a difference in conversion rates. Ensuring customer reviews are displayed is a huge bonus too – no matter how bad or good they are!
  6. Explore shopper personalisation and influencer marketing – Most traditional retailers are beginning to implement this into their e-commerce strategies, but many are missing out on the trick. Ensuring you’re trying different methods to engage with your audience is crucial, so exploring Instagram and influencer marketing is also a viable option for many larger brands.

Kaizen is a creative-focused performance marketing agency based in London that provides digital PR, social and search marketing services across the UK, EMEA, and the US. Other clients in Kaizen’s portfolio include Adidas, Lastminute.com, and TUI.