12/23/2008 5:11:00 PM
Jean-Pascal Van Overbeke's retail prediction for 2009
Online is the channel that will demonstrate the greatest innovation in 2009. It is cheap and very interesting when it comes to the possibilities for sales, retention, services and even bringing in a new source of revenue through advertising.
The potential lies in the upgrade market, and largely through a migration from call centres as 80% of Orange's upgrades are through our own channels, and the vast majority is done on the phone.
Call centres are very limited in what they can do. You can't see or touch anything you are buying.
You can't touch products online, but you can see them. I expect there to be considerable innovation from all operators to improve this process.
As a customer, you should be able to return a handset you bought online to your local Orange store. You should be able to make a query to a call centre, and walk into a store a few weeks later and the notes should be on the system to pick up the conversation and come up with the right solution quickly.
Finally, I think there will be a redressing of the balance for direct and indirect retail. The dream of putting everything through direct channels will disappear in light of the shift in thinking towards customer experience.
Operators will make more rational decisions about return on investment rather than simply shift business away from indirect retailers.
In the days when acquisition was paramount, operators would welcome every dealer and retailer, and subsequently some poor quality business. As a result there was a big swing towards direct. I think an equilibrium will be found in 2009. I am not sure every operator will do this, but more operators will take this balanced view as the indirect channel becomes more professional.