John Lewis, Under Armour, Westfield Execs Advise Retailers To Go Digital

The retail store, as it presently is constructed, is no longer just a store: it can also serve as a showroom and even a warehouse. In an era when many retailers are making a choice to optimize either the store or the e-Commerce site, these merchants must take the steps — and added risks — to ensure both sides provide a seamless experience.

At a panel at this year’s NRF Big Show in New York, executives from the John Lewis Partnership, Under Armour and Westfield discussed their strategies around bringing the physical and digital stores into a more intimate and human relationship with their consumers.

Speakers throughout the keynote included:


  • Steven Lowy, Co-CEO of Westfield;

  • Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership; and

  • Kevin Plank, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Under Armour.

To kick off the presentation, Lowy stated that “Collaboration is the new competition,” noting that a changing global landscape means retailers can no longer fear to share data. Instead, they will need to leverage the power of collective knowledge that further creates value for the customer. With collective insight into shoppers’ browsing habits, geo-location and online activity, shopping centers and retailers can make the most of data in real time to seamlessly blend digital and physical shopping experiences, according to Lowy.

“Businesses are beginning to realize that their biggest threat isn’t one another.” Lowy indicated. “Their biggest threat is actually the status quo.”

Is Multichannel Dead?

John Lewis’ Mayfield indicated that “the age of multichannel is over.” He explained that the notion of multiple channels was particularly unhelpful in thinking about developing a business that strives for integration.

Mayfield revealed that 40% of John Lewis sales are made online, while e-Commerce sales comprised 15% of Waitrose grocery shopping totals. This has required investments in the retailer’s logistics and supply chain systems.

“We’ve had to effectively reengineer our business in an extraordinary fashion,” Mayfield said. “Now, we are able to take an order from a customer at 8 pm, and the customer can collect it from any one of our Waitrose or John Lewis shops before midday. It’s an incredibly convenient proposition, it requires a whole different level of investment in technology to enable that kind of customer service.”

Under Armour Builds Out ‘Connected Fitness’ To Drive Experience

During the presentation, Plank indicated that Under Armour has always relied primarily on its product line, more so than the other channels these items are presently sold through.

Plank acknowledged that the true brand winners understand how to live both online and offline, but noted that consumers want choice and flexibility in purchasing as well as an interactive experience. To build this experience, the Under Armour team unveiled its digital “Connected Fitness” initiative, which is designed to give consumers a chance to track, analyze and share health and fitness activity via a mobile device.

“We believe there’s a role that we will play to ultimately be a better company for our consumer,” Plank explained. “The idea was to build a flag on the future, and what we will look like. We’re worried about the competition that doesn’t exist yet, that will think about it digitally. Imagine the ability to truly swipe your wrist and change the color of your top, bottom or shoes, to adjust the thermostat that controls the body temperature of your apparel, because that day will exist. Someday, when the product does exist, we would be the first company to make it.”


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