I have just returned from presenting at Shop.org, the US’s leading ecommerce event and the digital arm of the National Retail Federation, where I was asked to present in the ‘Bootcamp’.

I have just returned from presenting at Shop.org, the US’s leading ecommerce event and the digital arm of the National Retail Federation, where I was asked to present in the ‘Bootcamp’.

I was the token European presenting this year, as was the case when I presented back in 2009.

In 2009 I was slightly star-struck attending one of the big global ecommerce events. And it’s fair to say that back then the US led the way online.

This time around I was struck by the fact that the online and multichannel market in the US has matured and feels as though it has stagnated.

This is borne out by the fact that ecommerce in the US accounts for about 10% of total retail sales, while in the UK it’s closer to between 18% and 20%. However, there were some notable exceptions. None more so than Walgreens.

Its president and chief executive, Greg Wasson, gets credit for my favourite quote of the whole conference, in fact probably my favourite quote of the past decade:”I provide air cover for our president of ecommerce. Like a B-52 bomber, my job is to remove the roadblocks to enable her to leverage digital to meet our business goals.”

To use an Americanism, that is truly awesome. I think there are a large number of chief executives both Stateside and in the UK who would do well to follow that visionary approach.

The clearing of obstacles has enabled Walgreens president of ecommerce Sona Chawla to implement some ground-breaking initiatives and helped create what is arguably the world’s most joined-up cross-channel business.

Businesses that are going to prosper in the next decade are those that build a vision aligned with the customer’s journey. And to do that they should provide a structure and pathway for the team to leverage digital to deliver a unified, channel-agnostic customer experience that keeps the business relevant in the eyes of their shoppers.

While Americans aren’t known for their international travel, the stagnation in domestic performance will fuel the move of US retailers towards meaningful internationalisation and localisation, and they will be in the mood to broaden their horizons.

  • Martin Newman Founder and chief executive, Practicology