River Island chief information officer Doug Gardner believes that the customer journey is now the biggest battleground for the retailer.

Speaking at Retail Week’s Supply Chain Summit, Gardner said that River Island was thinking anew about customer engagement.

He said: “We are redesigning the journey from scratch. There are huge implications in terms of cultural process and people as well as huge system changes.

“This is the big battle ground for us now – we do not have a super end-to-end experience yet, but we do have an impatient and engaged customer.”

He said that customer behaviour meant River Island was having to rethink the way it was approaching its business model and that it needed to work in an unfamiliar way.

“We are unsure which department ‘owns’ the customer now but this new sort of engagement is causing us to question everything in our organisation and causing us to make very large scale changes,” Gardner said.

“You can learn a lot from the digital experience and what it is doing to the mindset of the consumer.

“We are seeing a lot of disruption. Things are changing and customers are taking to them in a very positive way. It throws up challenges but very quickly we are reacting to those and turning them into positives.”

Gardner said one example of the way that River Island was turning challenges into wins was with its click-and-don’t-collect initiative.

“Click-and-don’t-collect seemed like a crazy idea,” he said. “Click-and-collect was convenient and cost free – so why would people pay a premium to reverse that decision?

“But within a day it became popular – with pretty much no advertising. It proves you have to continuously adapt and react to what customers want.”