Peter Fitzgerald

A willingness to collaborate will become a key attribute for businesses that thrive and grow in the new world of omnichannel service.

Customers demand increasingly personalised experiences, ever-faster order fulfilment and a first-rate physical store experience sprinkled with a bit of stardust. It is going to take smart partnerships to meet these increasing expectations.

I still recall when the notion of Google teaming up with Currys PC World in London for the Chrome Zone was first mooted. Dixons had the opportunity to excite customers with a hands-on experience of an innovative product like the Chromebook while Google could build direct engagement. And now we have the first Google-branded store experience within the same store.

And we’re not the only ones following this collaboration model. Dixons Carphone is now taking full advantage of its recent merger with the opening of Carphone Warehouse stores within Currys PC World.

The company has just raised its annual profit guidance due in part to the incremental sales generated by these stores within stores. Investec estimated the first 35 stores with Carphone concessions boosted like-for-like sales by 0.5% in the previous quarter. Over the longer term it predicts the rollout will add £180m of new sales.

Another example is a trial of small retail Argos formats in 10 Sainsbury’s stores. Shoppers will be able to order from Argos online and pick up their goods on the same day or the next day in the store. This ability to transform outlets into mini distribution centres will be vital in the battle for the modern customer.

Collaboration can also help seamlessly integrate the online and offline worlds to create and curate a marvellous customer experience. An example is the partnership between online men’s clothing retailer Mr Porter, 20th Century Fox and Google.

The retailer worked with Fox to create a bespoke menswear collection based on the film Kingsman: The Secret Service and Google developed a fully integrated launch strategy to bring to life content for the target audience. This included an immersive physical cinema experience where people could create avatars to share via social media.

The hurdles to creating a company culture receptive to partnerships are understandable but within a decade such brand tie-ups will be the norm. It takes courage and vision to embark on a collaboration and it won’t work for everyone - partners need similar commitment levels and aligned objectives. But now is the time for bold retailers to persuade their colleagues that partnerships are the best way to build a customer-centric business.

Peter Fitzgerald is country sales director at Google UK