Innovative Retail Technologies

NOV-DEC 2016

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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taken advantage of," explains Forrest. "Once in store, OVS found that 40 percent of customers continue to shop, often using integrated digital technologies." For instance, in store fitting rooms, he says customers can scan a barcode in OVS, notifying sales associates armed with iPads that they need a new size or a new prod- uct. "For OVS, creating the best customer ex- perience 24/7/365 is the goal. This aim has had big results, including a 100 percent increase in e-commerce conversion in just one year." Potts adds that store associates play a criti- cal value-added role of extending the digital purchase and helping to create a seamless experience for the customer. By using both real-time inventory systems and advanced in-store applications, he says store associates can create key differentiation for your brand. "The in-store fulfillment and distributed order management system deployed in over 600 locations for Zumiez is a prime example," says Potts. "Using these tools, Zumiez store associ- ates are now actively involved in both physical and digital transactions with their customers, improving the brand experience and creating seamless customer engagements." How Unified Commerce Improves Store Operations While digital commerce growth continues to far outpace overall retail growth, physical stores still account for more than 92 percent of total retail — and by some estimates, even more. With that in mind, Forrest says retailers are using unified commerce platforms not only to reduce the friction between the online and in- store shopping experience, but also to delight shoppers with digital experiences in store. "Similar to the OVS 'magic fitting room,' retailers are using solutions like the 'magic mirror' or 'magic carpet,' which provide ad- ditional information to the customer about the specific products that they are trying on, product availability, and additional sugges- tions for matching items," says Forrest. "NYX Cosmetics, a socially savvy cosmetics brand, is using digital technology to crowdsource im- ages of customers using their products. When customers shop online or in-store, they can browse a library of user-generated images that show what a particular shade of lipstick, for instance, looks like on another customer with a similar complexion." He says these examples have proven to empower customers to make better purchasing decisions, improve the retail experience, and prevent walked sales. Smart retailers are also leveraging the power of the seamless digital/physical shop- ping experience for clienteling. Forrest says by bridging online and offline customer activ- ity, retailers can enable associates to look up information about customers, such as what they have in their shopping carts or wish lists and what they've purchased in the past. "This helps the associate not only to make better recommendations and improve the shopping experience but also to increase the average order size," he says. "Retailers are also releas- ing the store associate from behind the cash wrap with mobile devices that unlock all of this information. Personalized service isn't happening when customers get to the register; it's happening in real time at every step of the customer's shopping experience." Forrest offers up ECCO, a footwear and ac- cessories company with 3,300 shops world- wide, as an example of how a seamless unified commerce platform can improve in-store operations. The brand armed its associates with iPads, which empower them to offer customers great assortment and close sales on locally-out-of-stock products that they would have otherwise lost. "Using data from sales completed in this manner, ECCO is able to better understand its customers' preferences in each market and modify its merchandise accordingly, store by store," says Forrest. Accordng to Potts, consumers' growing expectation of fast shipping and "see-now, buy-now" instant gratification makes the devastating effect of out-of-stocks on the customer's shopping experience all too real. "Providing customers with global, real-time visibility into product inventory is therefore critical to improving the in-store experience," he says. "Retailers that improve the purchase experience can look to increase average order values and bolster their bottom lines." Potts again points to the real-time inventory visibility at Zumiez as an example. "Visibility across its 600 stores and warehouses establishes a com- plete and real-time view of orders, deliveries, and in-store pickups," says Potts. Tech Empowerment For The Store Associate Merchants have quickly realized that while stores are still a key part of their retail strate- gies, the store's role in the shopping journey is evolving as consumers' habits shift. To prepare store associates for their new place on the shopping journey, Forrest says retailers must empower them with technology and access to information. He also admits this can be a challenge. "Oftentimes, store associates work part-time or seasonally while going to school, which contributes to their high turnover rate," says Forrest, citing a Hay Group study that pegs the median turnover for part-time retail workers at 94 percent. "With retail workers cycling through the store, empowering them with technology that requires training can be a challenge, but it can pay dividends in improv- ing the customer experience if done right." To mitigate the learning curve, he says retailers should consider intuitive and familiar technologies like apps on an iPad or iPhone that mitigate necessary training. An app strategy, he says, emboldens associates with the information they need to make the best product recommendations, provide detailed product information, track down an item that's out of stock in store for a customer, monitor sales in real-time, and improve overall opera- tional efficiency. Potts agrees that the store associate retains an important role as a personal advisor to customers, delivering value by offering personalized recommendations for each shop- per. "Associates need access to a single view of customer data, including past purchases, brand preferences, and delivery choices, to create a superior shopping experience," says Potts, "but today, the store associate's role also includes the fulfillment of e-commerce orders." He recommends advanced order manage- ment systems that can help retailers consoli- date customer data across channels, provide a single view of inventory, and give shoppers a range of shipping options. The barriers presented by inventory and customer data silos among once-disparate channels are being knocked to the ground by innovative retailers. Visibility into centralized inventory, order management applications, and associate empowerment through mobile access to data are their sledge hammers of choice. 29 Nov-Dec 2016 Associates need access to a single view of customer data, including past purchases, brand preferences, and delivery choices, to create a superior shopping experience, but today, the store associate's role also includes the fulfillment of e-commerce orders. David Potts, founder and CEO, SalesWarp

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