Vodafone needs to learn from John Lewis

High street retailers have plenty to teach telecom operators. In fact, when it comes to multi-channel strategies, they are literally streets ahead. That’s my take after interviewing retail leaders at the well attended Retail Bulletin’s 2011 Multi-Channel Summit which gathered retailers including John Lewis, Debenhams.com, Halfords Group, Mothercare, Gala Coral Group and many other high street retailers. John Lewis: Multi-Channel results

Mobile operators have been working intensely on their retail network for quite some time but a lot more needs to be done. Most recently, a colleague was stuck in a Vodafone shop for 20 minutes after some time spent talking with the call centre operator and quite some time the website looking for the right package. This is not an unusual situation for customers trying to buy from telecom service provider in most countries.
Today, most Telco’ brick and mortar, ecommerce, direct sales channels are in silos; the good thing is that they know something needs to be done to align their channels. The bad thing, is that the keep looking at each others’. In a quest to enrich customers’ shopping experience Telecom companies need to look outside the comfort zone.

Need for a change
At Retail Bulletin’s 2011 Multi-Channel Summit I talked to a number of non-telecom high-street retailers that are far ahead of telecom companies not only in their thinking but also in their implementations.
Unsurprisingly, the big opportunity for retailers is to integrate their sales channels in a way that renders a smoother (and leaner) shopping experience to their customers. In fact, implementing a truly integrated multichannel retail strategy it is not only a nice think for shoppers, but also a lucrative business for the retailer.

John Lewis has showed the results of their multichannel strategy: it is an impressive chart for a clear vision. Many other presentations from non-telecom retailers such as Debenhams, Halfords Group, have outlined their plans which appear, once again ahead of Telcos’ thinking and practice.

At the event I met number retail professionals that have a different views and ways for deploying integrated multichannel sales but they all have something in common: they are ahead of telecom players in the UK.

US Cellular moves ahead
Looking outside the UK, there are some emerging cases of Telco operators implementing integrated multichannel solutions. Most recently, US Cellular, a US-based wireless operator implemented a retail solution for multichannel selling environment based on Amdocs technology. US Cellular example as well as a UK recent announcement from Orange’s “click and collect” implementation, an important element of multichannel, show that the world of Telcos is moving; but more needs to be done. Meanwhile, we’ll carry on shopping in John Lewis and queuing up at our Telco’s shops.