Innovative Retail Technologies

MAR-APR 2017

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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What's Next Don't Wait To Save The Store T his headline may have you be- lieve that the store is hanging on for dear life. While brick- and-mortar retailing isn't on life support, brick-and-mortar retailing as we once knew it is. Just ask Macy's, Sears, and The Limited. As e-com- merce gains momentum by the day, over- and under-inventoried stores with ill-informed associates and aged technologies pose tangible issues for most brick-and-mortar retailers. Yet, there's much more to resuscitating the store experience than any one 600-word article can tackle. For the sake of this article, let's focus on a top brick-and-mortar concern we can all agree on — the associate's ability to engage the customer. The Associate 2.0: Back To Basics At the NRF BIG Show in January, I at- tended an informative session called Turning New Customers Into Repeat Consumers. Richard Shapiro, president of the Center for Client Retention, spoke for 30 minutes about how associates need to treat customers like people. He stressed the importance of the human-to-human interaction that only brick-and-mortar retailing can offer authentically. By de- sign, Shapiro made minimal mention of technology during his session. Instead, he delivered thoughtful anecdotes about his father's retail business from back in the day. By paying strict attention to customer engagement via easy-to- implement tactics — all of which are still relevant today — his father was able to generate repeat business. He stated associates should uncover how the customer learned about the business and determine the story behind the purchase. He recommended using the telephone as an opportunity to invest in your customers. It's a great opportunity for the associate to tell the caller when he'll be in the store and that he will keep an eye for out her when she arrives. The main idea is to turn associates into brand influencers by leveraging a customer's personal data, which is shared during the in-store shop- ping experience, to drive repeat visits. Shapiro's message reminded retail- ers that while artificial intelligence will always be smarter than the company's workforce, it can't beat human interac- tion. His purpose wasn't to wax poetic about the good old days of retailing; rather, he stressed that requiring your associates to connect with your custom- ers is a differentiator in today's evolved retail landscape. And in the age of digital transformation, that differentiator is a key component to brick-and-mortar success. Give 'Em Tech I agree with Shapiro that well-trained, knowledgeable associates move the sales needle and generate loyalty. Hiring the right associate and training them on a regular, recurring basis remain table stakes in retailing. But the numerous tasks associates need to accomplish in a given shift on top of engaging the customer is a recipe for unsatisfied customers. That's why the fundamental components of an associate's role go hand-in-hand with technology. Enabling associates with technology that will automate certain tasks (think Nordstrom Rack's associate- facing two-way radios for staff commu- nication or mobile devices for clienteling, checkout, etc.) ultimately helps associ- ates focus solely on the sale and service. Investing in and leveraging service tools, such as assisted selling solutions, help store associates offer better service and create meaningful customer experiences. The more retailers can automate their associates' basic tasks, the more useful the associates become and the more the customer's basket grows. Here's the deal. The time for brick- and-mortar stores to improve the store is right now. In the age of data, informa- tion, and mobile technology, there's little to no excuse for disinterested and uninformed associates. Stores need to differentiate on experiences not prod- ucts. There are many ways to differenti- ate on experience, and the primary way is to invest in the associate. BY ERIN HARRIS EDITOR IN CHIEF @ErinOnRetail linkedin.com/in/erinharris The more retailers can automate their associates' basic tasks, the more useful the associates become, and the more the customer's basket grows. Mar-Apr 2017 24

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