I’m speaking at Retail Week Live this week. It’s a great event focused on the future of retail and features some of the biggest hitters in the industry. My own talk is focused on creating a seamless customer experience and how this helps to drive business transformation. It’s really linked to digital transformation and how it is possible to digitise customer contact in a way that improves communication and creates new insights. I’m speaking at the event with Phil Hackney from Shop Direct and really looking forward to the session.

Shop Direct is the UK’s second largest pureplay online retailer, with annual sales of more than £1.8 billion. The company sells more than 1,100 famous brands, including big name labels and their own exclusive brands, and delivers 48 million products to over four million customers every year.

I think the real challenge for companies like Shop Direct has been to find how they can transform the traditional retail business in a way that creates a great customer experience. Moving from a traditional customer service operation to a modern omnichannel-enabled system requires a large-scale digital transformation programme. You need to explore the existing systems and draw a roadmap from there to a stable platform that can then be flexible for future changes because this is a fast-moving area of business – customers are constantly changing because their own digital experience of consumer technology evolves extremely quickly.

There are now some excellent examples of how changes to the typical retail processes can really make life easier for customers. Look at the Collect+ service that Shop Direct uses across all their brands. Deliveries are made free, the customer receives a text when a delivery is made and they can choose over 5,500 locations across the UK. This fixes one of the classic problems with e-commerce and online retail – how to accept deliveries when you might not be at home all day waiting for a package to arrive.

Returns are handled in the same way, allowing customers to receive an item easily and to then drop off the package at the same location if they have any items that need to be returned.

It is processes like this that don’t just improve the customer experience, they can reinvent it and make the process of using an online retailer even better than the in-store experience they might be more used to. This has been a really important change for a business like Shop Direct. Traditional brands like Littlewoods used to be considered catalogue businesses – we all remember those big photo-books – but now Shop Direct has transformed what they do positioning their business as a world-leader in digital retail. It is no exaggeration to suggest that by focusing on the customer experience, they have transformed and reinvented their business.

Customers today have an enormous amount of choice – many retailers are competing for their pounds – so the customer experience is top of the agenda for companies that want to succeed. However it is important to also consider how processes that might just be considered a part of the customer service can be used more strategically to change how the company does business.

Can you transform your business by focusing on and improving the customer experience? If you are going to be at Retail Week then I hope you can attend our talk, but please feel free to leave a comment here.