Is B&Q’s £35m multichannel investment too much?

Is B&Q’s £35m multichannel investment too much?
B&Q announced this week that major changes will be made to its multichannel capabilities, but is the retailer spending too much?

By Ben Sillitoe - 06:59PM - Fri 4th March 2011

DIY retail group Kingfisher is investing £35 million over the next three years on the launch of a new multichannel platform for its B&Q brand.

The changes to the business’s retail offering are set to align B&Q’s bricks and mortar stores with its online transactional website and a new m-commerce facility.

Part of the plans will see a mobile transactional website rolled out in the second half of this year, with the retailer hoping to capitalise on consumers’ growing desire to make purchases on the go.

CEO of Kingfisher UK and B&Q, Euan Sutherland, said the multimillion pound investment means the business “will finally be able to deliver the multichannel experience to suit our customers’ lifestyles”, but one web expert believes the money could have been misspent.

Andy Budd, Managing Director at web design consultancy Clearleft, told Retail Gazette: “£32 million is a lot of money to spend and indicates much of what is wrong with corporate thinking in general.

“Companies often think that big problems require big budgets, but small changes can often make the difference.”

Budd argued that much of Kingfisher’s investment could end up being wasted, especially as the mobile space is constantly changing and systems quickly go out of date.

In potential advice to B&Q ahead of its online development process, he added: “Retailers regularly forget about the user experience online and focus on the technology, when attention to design is needed.”

There is an argument to suggest that Kingfisher knows what it is doing, having successfully established a multichannel operation for busy tradesmen through its Screwfix brand.

Indeed, B&Q said this week that it will draw from this experience, but Budd thinks there may be less of a demand for consumer DIY goods than there is for tradesman supplies via mobile platforms.

External partners for B&Q’s multichannel project include Capgemini, TCS, EPAM and ATG, while a digital design agency is set to be appointed to enhance user experience online, but is such a heavy investment necessary?

“Today’s retailers need all channels aligned, but they do not need to spend this much money,” Budd explained.

“There is a real argument for thinking small - massive improvements can be made with small investments.”

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