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Finding inspiration In the independent toy retail sector we’re seeing a lot of developments which take inspiration from the omni-channel style of retailing coming to the fore. For example, in June 2012 The Entertainer launched its own click and collect service. The service is so efficient that if an item is already in store it will be ready to collect in 30 minutes, for free. If an item needs to be delivered to a store it will be ready to collect in 2-4 working days. At launch, Gary Grant said that the main aim was to “create a platform for growth through an improved online and store experience, as well as developing new channels to market through third-party partners”, and that’s just what it did. The retailer even offers a 90-minute home delivery service courtesy of Shutl, available in selected areas. But click and collect services represent just one way that retail is transforming to provide improved service for consumers. Toy World recently reported the news that eBay

and Argos have joined forces to offer a ‘click and collect’ service where 50 merchants using the online marketplace will participate in a trial of the service that will enable eBay customers to collect their goods from a choice of 150 Argos stores. The companies said the trial (expected to last six months) was aimed at delivering what customers wanted in terms of choice, convenience and speed and is seen as going someway towards reversing the continuing decline in the number of retail premises on the UK’s high streets Devin Wenig, president of eBay, said:

“Traditional retail isn’t going away; it is transforming. Smart retailers are innovating, re-imagining the store and what it means to shop. We’re proud to join Argos on this journey. Their unique store network and operating model is fit for serving customers in a digital future. This pilot takes us one step nearer to our goal of offering customers an inspired and seamless shopping experience.” However smaller toy retailers

across the country are also realising that providing an increased amount of personalisation and bespoke recommendations to enhance the shopping experience of their customers, is where they can corner the market. Toy Hub, the Dunblane-based independent toy retailer, aims to address this demand with the launch of its Concierge service. Gez Gourley, co-owner of Toy Hub, said: “We wanted to be able to replicate the in-store shopping experience in the online setting. Customers can contact me on Twitter, Facebook, or use the dedicated Concierge phone line to discuss and order products. Customers will be able to get in touch and ask something like, ‘I need a gift for my daughter, she’s five, loves this television show, loves this, loves that’, and we can respond with a tailored list of

products, prices, stock levels, and when they can pick them up from the shop. But most important is what the service will allow us to do for regular customers. We will be able to monitor purchasing habits, log key events such as a child’s birthday date alongside specific customers, and then tailor newsletters that show deals and new product offerings to those customers based on their previous purchases with us.” On the more quirky side, Gez is also in the

process of setting up Toy Hub’s own Minecraft server, in the caves of which will be hidden discount voucher codes for use on Minecraft products. Admittedly it caters for a very specific consumer looking for a very specific line of products, but it’s an inventive and fun way for consumers to engage with the retail environment. Coiledspring Games has created a brand

new website which integrates Shopatron, an e-commerce solution that allows online sales to be fulfilled by local retail partners, as a reaction to the demands of its customers, and the desire to offer a better level of service to its stake holders. Roger Martin, Coiledspring’s managing director, found that web stats showed the company received a lot of visits from consumers looking for product information, but that when those consumers wanted to buy something they didn’t want to try and work out who their nearest retailer was. Roger said: “By adding Shopatron’s functions to our business, customers can buy from our site but the order, and the revenue, goes to their nearest

Toy Hub’s Concierge service operates on Twitter, Facebook and a soon-to-be-setup telephone line

Shopatron-enabled retailer. It’s another way for us to support our retailers as it’s completely free for them to sign up as a fulfilment partner.” The above examples are just a few of the changes businesses are making to keep up with a new breed of customer. It’s tricky trying to sum up an article about a style of retailing that is still very much in a shifting state of evolution, but my inspiration came from re-reading the tweet about implementing the big ideas in an on-a- budget way. Omni-channel retailing can, and should, be picked apart for good ideas, because for many businesses it’s not about trying to sell or communicate through every conceivable channel at great expense. There are so many new and interesting ideas being born from the omni- channel concept that retailers should pick the ones they know their customers will respond to, and implement them in their own ways, whatever they may be.

Devin Wenig, president of eBay, as he announced the pilot programme between Argos and eBay.

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