Why the online/offline split no longer matters

A story I wrote for the March 2014 issue of WIRED UK.

28_2

Early in 1999, when Robin Terrell was managing director of Amazon UK, the company postbag would regularly contain a particular form of correspondence. Customers would send handwritten letters to the newly launched online retailer’s headquarters on an industrial estate in Slough, drawing attention to something extraordinary: they had dialled up the Amazon website, searched its catalogue for a product, paid for it using a credit card, waited a few days and then a deliveryman had arrived at their door with a box, inside which was the book they had ordered. The transaction was enough to prompt not just correspondence, but wonder: it wasn’t the product that excited the consumer, it was the fact that the process had worked.

“These days you’re more likely to get a call from a customer because they’ve got a different type of asparagus,” says Terrell, who now runs Tesco’s multichannel activities after spearheading digital at John Lewis and House of Fraser. “The internet has changed people’s expectations completely.”

Continue reading