Practicology founder Martin Newman talks about the future of e-tail

Martin Newman, founder and executive chairman of e-commerce and multi-channel retail consultancy Practicology, knows retail better than most after owning the P&L of direct mail, e-commerce, mobile and call center channels for a number of brands including Ted Baker, Harrods, Burberry and Intersport.

E-commerce One to One sat down with Martin to have a chat about mobile commerce.

Retail technology is one of the fastest moving tech sectors, especially in the area of ‘Conversational Commerce’, isn’t there some risk retailers may become distracted?

There is. There’s no question that Artificial intelligence powered ‘conversational commerce’ chatbots, and sexy tech like Virtual Reality, can be a leveller for pure-play retailers because it enables them to offer comparable, or even better, levels of service online than traditional multichannel retailers. But I think before retailers go too far down the AI or VR rabbit holes they need to stop and spend time getting their mobile offering sorted first.

The big change in the last 20 years is that the balance of power has shifted from the retailer to the customer. And mobile is at the heart of putting the customer in control of where, when and from whom they buy. It’s a core part of the customer’s journey, so it needs to be treated as such.

Where should retailers be focusing their mobile effort?

The entire way along the path to purchase, and beyond. Customers often start their journey on their mobile phone and use their phone with increasing frequency when on the path to purchase. Whether that’s to price compare when they’re in a retailer’s store, or when they’re looking for a particular brand or product ‘near them’, or even just to transact directly from their mobile.

At least 50 per cent of retail sales are impacted by a mobile device, so there are no excuses for not having mobile tightly integrated into the overall offering. As a starting point, retailers need to ensure their site displays properly on all devices, because failing to optimise mobile will result in missed opportunities from dissatisfied customers, meaning sales will decline.

Who’s getting it right? Can you give me a couple of examples?

Two really good best practice examples are and They’ve made it their mission to put their customers’ needs first. They clearly understand the core role mobile plays in their customer’s lives, and they’ve delivered seamless mobile offerings that reflect this. What you’re seeing with these two examples are brands that ‘get it’.

They know customers respect transparency and like to engage. So if there is a lesson to learn from these two examples, it’s that retailers should ask themselves what they can do to truly put their customers first? What needs to be improved in their mobile offering that takes friction away from the path to purchase, be that online or instore?

Answering these questions has got to be the starting point for any mobile strategy, if for no other reason than the fact that consumers’ are only as loyal as their last purchase. If someone offers them the same, or similar product, but with a better experience, then you’ve lost them.

Martin Newman is on the advisory board for e-Commerce One to One Southeast Asia in Phuket, Thailand, from May 29-31. For more information, click here.


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