Innovative Retail Technologies

MAY-JUN 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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7 Ways To Optimize Omni-Channel Engagement I t's no secret: The retail landscape is a rocky one of late, with announcements of store closures occurring on a regular basis. With mall stalwarts such as Macy's, JCPenney, and Sears continuing to shrink this year, and furthermore others such as The Limited shut- ting down completely, retailers left standing are looking for a lifeline. Forward-thinking retailers are investing in the technologies and strategies to enable seamless and tailored omni-channel engage- ment with their customers that will help them to compete, survive, and evolve with consumers' rapidly changing expectations. Here are six ways that retailers can optimize omni-channel engagement: 1. Create Unique Customer IDs The ability to recognize the customer hinges on properly identifying, authenticating, and matching him to a personal profile. Without a single data stream that merges behaviors from both traditional and digital channels, retailers can't truly anticipate and respond to custom- ers' needs along their journeys. Such compre- hensive understanding requires complete cross-channel (traditional and digital) and cross-device integration, as well as the merg- ing of key pieces of unstructured data from those channels. In a perfect world, customer engagement leaders can tap a one-size-fits-all solution to integrate Big Data into their strategies. But because each customer journey is unique and engagement has been siloed, such a solution has yet to exist. The most effective means of delivering seamless cross-channel communica- tion comes from first understanding customers' behaviors as they move across traditional and digital channels. Enterprises that successfully create unique customer profiles that contain consolidated data based on all interactions from offline and online touch points, devices, and from existing systems — including CRM, content management, marketing automation, and e-commerce — gain an accurate represen- tation of customers' journeys and therefore a holistic understanding of customers' behaviors. Such unique profiles build the foundation for unique IDs to cross-reference attributes and tie them to individuals. They will help to paint a clear picture of how customers interact with a business before, during, and after they make purchases, as well as help leaders understand their individual needs. 2. Turn Stores Into Distribution Centers As the need to bridge the physical and digital divide becomes more urgent, a growing number of retailers are offering the option for customers to buy online and pick up in-store, a process often referred to as "click-and-collect." An increasing number of stores are jumping on board with this trend. Target announced in February that it would invest more than $7 bil- lion over the next three years to better position the company for the "new era" of retail. One of the goals in the plan is to reimagine the loca- tions as distribution centers for online orders. On paper this growing trend seems ap- pealing, but as frustrated shoppers from the 2016 holiday shopping season demonstrated, the process is still currently aspirational. Those who took to social media to complain about the inability of associates to locate the inven- tory, long lines, and confusion over where to pick up items in stores, revealed overarching flaws in this process. The potential opportunities to drive more traffic to stores and leverage in-store inventory will increase if retailers work out the kinks. They must improve inventory, close the knowledge gaps that seem to exist with in-store associates and the supply chain, and alert customers in real time through the channel of their choice, as well as with the help of beacons and sensors when they arrive in the stores. Mapping out the customer journey to better understand the steps a customer takes from order placement to in-store pickup, and removing any ob- stacles in that path, will help retailers create a seamless and natural click-to-collect path and ultimately earn their loyalty. 3. Get Creative With Beacons Beacons, devices that send messages to smartphones and track customers in stores through Bluetooth low-energy technology, provide ample opportunities for retailers to better understand the context in the steps along the nonlinear customer journey and then bridge the gap between a person's digi- Technology plays a strategic role in a retailer's ongoing effort to engage the customer. BY MILA D'ANTONIO I PRINCIPAL ANALYST, CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT OVUM May-June 2017 30 What's Next In insights-driven organizations, IT collaborates with nontechnical key decision makers to ensure they have the capabilities and access to data to make knowledge-based decisions anytime and anywhere.

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