As our regular blog followers already know, Virtual Logistics Inc. spent some time in London, England earlier this month to participate in the 2015 UK eCommerce Expo as an exhibitor and speaker, as well as to present an Award. But did you know that we also made our trip to explore the climate and culture surrounding omni-channel data integration?
As our first official foray into the UK omni-channel market, we made plenty of interesting discoveries. Keep reading below to see our full review of our time in the UK!
VL in the UK: Interesting Observations
1. Lots of Paper
The amount of paper we brought home with us from our UK trip was astonishing! Almost every single stand at the UK eCommerce Expo was handing out paper of some sort – VL included. We were handing out our VL Overview Brochure and our New VL OMNI Brochure – a whopping 2 pages of 8.5″x11″ paper all said and done – but this was nothing compared to what other exhibitors were handing out.
Multi-page brochures that rivaled novels. Entire manuals. Stacks upon stacks of documents.
Don’t get me wrong – the information in these documents is great! After all, we did bring a lot of it home with us, so we must see value in it all. But what astounded me, personally, was that all of this information could easily be disseminated via e-downloads.
This was our strategy going in to the 2015 UK eCommerce Expo, as it has been at past trade shows VL has exhibited at: provide some unique content to the show that is available for download at our booth via a form fill. At the UK eCommerce Expo, we were promoting our recently released ebook, “Ecommerce & Supply Chain Data Integration: A 7 Questions Series Ebook.”
Many of the expo attendees who stopped at our booth had a look through the print version of the ebook, which we brought with us as a sample for people to flip through to see if they were interested in downloading the full ebook through our landing page form.
Many of these attendees mistakenly tried to take our sample printed ebook!
Extrapolating our experience with the printed ebook and cross-matching it with our other experiences (below), the UK culture is still very paper-centric. It could be the desire to take something physical with them, or a response to the digital privacy laws that hold email messaging and downloads like our ebooks to high standards. Or it could just be a cultural difference between North America and the UK – perhaps we’re much more inclined to trade our personal information for a download!
2. Lots of ‘Integration to Paper’
Almost everywhere we went in the UK, we discovered that people almost always asked you to fill out a form by hand, rather than capture or gather your data via electronic means.
This was true for the 2015 UK eCommerce Expo, the hotel we stayed at, and a number of other places.
The result? The company collecting the data was producing a lot of paper which, I can only assume, would have to be manually inputted into various systems after the initial data transaction was complete. Additionally, this slowed everything down.
For example, checking into a hotel in North America is as simple as providing your name and your credit card to authorize your reservation. In the UK, checking 2 VL team members into our hotel took at least 15 minutes. Why? Forms had to be filled out, the same credit card had to be scanned twice, and in an odd little quirk, our key cards (fully digital) had to be stapled into a little paper pocked.
While this might not be the norm everywhere, our experience in the UK leads us to believe that there seems to be a preference for ‘integrating to paper’ over setting up automatic integrated systems that would save money and likely, mistakes. Stay tuned for an upcoming guest blog by UK native and integration expert Mark Goodwin of Graziashop.com for his perspective on why this phenomenon persists in the UK.
3. There’s an understanding – and a need – for omni-channel data integration services
We were pleasantly surprised by the number of conversations we had with the expo attendees about omni-channel data integration services – specifically, the specialized and customized approach that VL takes to our integration sites.
The UK market understands the benefits of customized (or ‘bespoke’) omni-channel data integration; many people I spoke to about their current systems recognized that their plug-and-play integrations had some serious deficiencies that they were very aware of. And not only do they recognized the benefits of customized omni-channel data integration services, they’re hungry for it.
Some of the challenges that we discovered when speaking with these people as to why the adoption of high-level integration services aren’t being used to the same degree in North America included holding tight to legacy systems and a lack of companies like VL who can provide such a service. But ultimately, there’s a lot of need for omni-channel data integration, and the UK is hungry for solutions!
4. It’s clear that the UK is an ecommerce mecca
It took us a couple walk-bys to notice it, but in a mall not too far from both The Olympia and our hotel was this big, yellow Amazon locker.
These lockers are only just starting to pop up in North America. Some of you will be familiar with the Walmart lockers usually placed somewhere near the cash registers, designed for people who order online to come in and pick up their orders at their convenience. I’ve also noticed these types of lockers now outside of some Loblaws locations.
But these don’t compare to the absolute prevalence of the ecommerce world in the physical world in London. This Amazon locker was just one example of how seamless ecommerce has become in UK life. What’s abundantly clear is that North America has some catching up to do!
London, England is familiar to our North American sensibilities in so many ways, but it was interesting seeing the ways in North America are leading over the UK, and how the UK is leading over North America. What genuinely surprised us on our trip was the amount of paper that is still being used to collect customer information with, especially in light of the strength of their ecommerce market.
VL is greatly looking forward to our next trip to the UK to continue our education on what this market’s needs and wants are – and how we can fit in!
To see more of VL’s time in London, you can browse through the gallery presentation below.
VL in the UK: A Visual Recap
Subscribe to VL’s Blog
Share this article!