Online success wedded to in-store IT, says John Lewis

John Lewis’ success in 2013 will be underpinned by IT investments both online and in-store, CIO Paul Coby has told Computer Weekly

John Lewis’ success in 2013 will be underpinned by IT investments both online and in-store, CIO Paul Coby has told Computer Weekly. The comments follow record online sales by the retailer, showing growth of 44% compared with this time last year.

John Lewis recently announced it is bolstering its IT department by one-third, adding another 100 roles. 

“We are recruiting skills across the board and behind that we have had a fantastic year online. Building on that is a big part of what we are doing,” Paul Coby said.

“But we’re also doing major work on behind-the-scenes systems. We’re investing heavily in distributions, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and replacing our order management system. We are doing a lot about front-end mobile, but we're also investing in back-office support. And we’re working on new ways to develop the omni-channel experience, such as running pilots with tablets in stores.

“It’s important to note that store growth is also up year-on-year. So this is not about channel shift, it’s about how we are looking after customers, whether online or in-store. We know that two-thirds who buy in-store research online. And at least one-third who buy online do their research in-store,” he said.

The retailer saw an overall increase in sales of 13% during the Christmas period, at a time which saw most retailers fight to maintain sales on the previous year.

“There is no room for complacency, it’s fantastically exciting but a competitive environment,” Coby said. “We wouldn’t have had a great online story if wasn’t for all behind scenes work we are doing.” 

Coby cited the growth of click and collect as an example of the importance of aligning online channels with in-store, back-end systems.

Coby said he did not believe in outsourcing. 

“I believe in working closely with partners, which we do in the UK and overseas," he said. "So I absolutely see the recruitment drive as a big vote of confidence in IT in the John Lewis partnership and recognition that technology is a core part of our strategy going forward. We are a retailer not an IT business, but technology is now recognised as a key enabler for that.”


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