Online-only retailers win on tech adoption, says ASOS/Wiggle chairman
Online-only retailers win on tech adoption, says ASOS/Wiggle chairman

    Online-only retailers win on tech adoption, says ASOS/Wiggle chairman

    Internet of Business caught up with Brian McBride, chairman of ASOS and Wiggle and keynote speaker at this week’s Internet of Retail conference in London, to talk about IoT adoption among British retailers.

    When it comes to embracing innovation, online-only retailers enjoy a distinct advantage over their multichannel rivals, according to Brian McBride, the chairman of two e-commerce ‘pure plays’: fashion retailer ASOS and cycling and tri-sports specialist Wiggle.

    Liberated from the costs and other burdens associated with running estates of high street stores, he says, these companies, and others like them, are able to focus more on innovation and implement new technologies faster.

    Huge advantage

    “Being online-only is a huge advantage in terms of agility,” said McBride, the keynote speaker at the Internet of Retail event in London this week.

    “Multichannel or omnichannel or click and collect retailers – whatever you want to call them – are trying to make a virtue out of a vice. They’ve got these extensive estates that they know they need to do something with, but at the same time, they know their customers want to buy online,” said McBride, in an exclusive interview with Internet of Business.

    “I get the logic of click and connect, the opportunity to increase footfall and encourage add-on purchases, but for me, I find the agility of being online-only, the ability to offer customers huge choice is more compelling,” he added.

    ASOS’s inventory, he added, stretches to around 80,000 stock keeping units [SKUs] and its technology expertise is firmly fixed on mobile: 65 percent of the company’s web traffic comes from customers’ smartphones and tablets and over 50 percent of its revenue. Its mobile app has been downloaded around 11 million times and “customers who come to us via the mobile app browse more and buy more, visiting on average 8 times per month and spending 81 minutes with us a month,” he says.

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    Who needs stores anyway?

    In fact, McBride asks, if your retail business started life as online-only, “why would you ever need to invent a store?” (That said, Amazon, where McBride was previously UK MD until 2011, has recently begun to dip its toes in the world of bricks-and-mortar.)

    Online-only means starting with the customer and working backwards, he says, whereas chain stores are forced to deal with online as a necessary evil. And as a consequence, businesses in the first category are likely to be swifter at adopting IoT technologies, as well as artificial intelligence and robotics.

    “Technology has the potential to make the shopping experience better, to help us take care of the customer better, to address pain points in customer service,” he says. “Britain is very, very good at e-commerce. E-commerce is a great global business and Britain’s a great place to run it from.”

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