Why Should Retailers use Augmented or Virtual Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual (VR) offer new and enhanced ways for customers to experience products, like visualizing how a product would look in their home or even on their body.

Consumers see the benefit of VR and AR, as nearly half of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer utilizing virtual or augmented reality, according to a recent study by Incisiv, sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise.[1]As consumers shop for a new couch or bedroom set, it is very helpful to see what the furniture will look like in their house or browse a virtual array of options like colors and fabrics, rather than just viewing in a catalog or on a website – and VR and AR apps can make it happen.

Many retailers have already introduced AR apps and testing and deployment of VR apps is increasing. VR and AR offer interesting applications and opportunities, as the ability to mix virtual and real elements can be game changing – especially for furniture, home décor and apparel retailers. According to BRP’s 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, retailers understand the impact that VR and AR can have on the customer experience and 32% of retailers plan to use virtual and augmented reality within three years.

Macy’s is a recent example, as they’re currently rolling out a new virtual reality experience across 70 locations, combined with an AR app for home use, to offer an immersive furniture shopping experience that allows browsing and visualization of a much larger assortment of furniture than a typical store. Sephora’s “Virtual Artist” app uses AR to scan your face, figure out where your lips and eyes are, and lets you try different looks on your smartphone. Foot Locker’s “The Hunt” AR scavenger hunt inspired smartphone-toting sneakerheads to venture across Los Angeles to unlock geo-targeted AR clues throughout the city earning the chance to be among the first to acquire new limited-edition LeBron 16 King “Court Purple” sneakers. As more and more retailers adopt VR or AR technology over the next few years, this will increase customers’ expectations for the same from other retailers that they shop.

Immersive technology like VR and AR is redefining the way consumers can experience and buy products, leveraging the advantages of physical space, like the store or the customer’s home, without being constrained by the space. Traditional retail lines continue to blur as retail realities are rapidly evolving and the stage where the theater of retail takes place can be dictated by the customer.

I encourage you to read the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey for more insights:

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As always, I appreciate your thoughts and opinions on this topic.  Please share your feedback below.

Brian

[1]Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations, July 24, 2018. https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-retail-research-report/

A Personalized Brand Experience Across Digital Channels is Imperative

Consumers now start and stop their shopping journey in different channels, including online marketplaces and social media, and frequently shop for the same product across different retailers, both online and in the store. Consumers don’t think in terms of channels, they think in terms of brands and experiences.

According to the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, 51% of consumers feel it is important to get a personalized experience across all digital channels within a brand.

The good news is that retailers recognize the importance of the cross-channel, personalized customer experience, as their top digital customer experience priorities are creating a consistent brand experience across channels (57%) and improving personalization (38%).

The challenge for retailers is to “keep up” with continually evolving customer expectations. The growth of mobile is driving demand for increased digital capabilities bundled with personalization in the store. The gap between consumer demand for digital experiences and retailers’ current capabilities is what we call the “great digital divide,” and is driving additional changes in the industry.

The new retail model requires retailers to transform their business and reinvent themselves to create a successful blend of the physical and digital worlds to maintain their customers’ loyalty. New and innovative methods of shopping – driven by mobile technology, artificial intelligence and rapidly changing fulfillment methods – are elevating customer expectations. The speed of these changes requires organizational agility to quickly and easily react to increasing customer expectations and changing consumer behavior.

I encourage you to download and read the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey for more insights on the cross channel digital experience:

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As always, I appreciate your insights on this topic.  Please share your feedback and opinions below.

 

Jeffrey

Turn Anonymous Customers into Loyal Customers

At what point in the shopping journey do you identify your customers? If it is not until they reach the checkout, you might be in the majority, but that is too late to influence their purchase decisions.

Creating a more personalized shopping experience is one of the highest priorities retailers are facing, and the first step towards that personalization is customer identification.  However, an inability to identify customers early means that most in-store shoppers are essentially anonymous until they check out. According to BRP’s 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, only 13% of retailers identify customers when they walk in the store and another 10% identify customers pre-checkout. Retailers fare better online, as 30% identify customers when they enter the website and another 30% identify customers pre-checkout.

While most online retailers are able to identify customers early in the browsing process in order to create a more personalized experience, identifying customers in the store continues to be a challenge for most brick-and-mortar retailers. Those online experiences have heightened customer expectations for personalization and they now expect the same level of service while shopping in a store. This is a tremendous opportunity for retailers to improve the customer experience – turning anonymous shoppers into loyal customers.

The logical question is: How can I identify customers before they get to the checkout? As with most challenges in 2018, there are both technology and business process solutions to address this gap.  From a technology perspective, the most effective solution lies with your customers themselves – the fact that nearly all of them will be walking into your stores with mobile devices. Many retailers are taking advantage of this by using in-store WiFi as a way to capture customer sign-on information, while others are using their mobile app log-ins, or identifying customers by their MAC addresses on those devices. From a process perspective, forward-thinking retailers are providing their associates with mobile devices and placing them on the sales floor in order to increase their engagement with customers and to capture information early in the shopping visit to provide suggestive sell recommendations or other purchase incentives.

Without early identification of the customer, retailers miss critical engagement opportunities, such as clienteling and guided selling, which can increase sales and deliver an enhanced customer experience. Even more concerning is that 20% of retailers still have no ability to identify their customers in the store, even at checkout, which eliminates any opportunities for improving the post-purchase experience or customer loyalty.

Are you identifying your customers early and personalizing their shopping experience? What ways have you found most effective for capturing customer information?

As always, I am interested in your opinions on this topic.  Please share your comments below.

Ryan

Why are you Ignoring Current Customers to go after New Ones?

It’s not a secret that returning customers are better for your business than new customers. Studies have shown that a returning customer is less expensive to convert and has a higher average order value than a new customer. Yet, many retailers are focused on utilizing total sales and comp sales to measure company performance instead of measuring customer loyalty and retention.

According to BRP’s soon-to-be-released Digital Commerce Survey, most online retailers have key performance indicators (KPIs) for sales, average order value, comparative sales and conversion rates; however, less than 50% of retailers measure customer loyalty through customer satisfaction (net promoter score), customer retention and post-purchase customer survey results.

After a customer clicks “buy,” they enter a phase of uncertainty, where they are unsure whether their product will arrive on time or whether it will appear in one piece. Retailers who communicate regular updates and reassurances on the order and delivery status to customers can turn this period into a powerful moment of trust for the brand. Customers who shop without a sense of risk will feel more comfortable making repeat purchases in the future. This breeds customer loyalty.

According to the recent Best Practices for Enhancing the Post-Purchase Experience report your customers’ most recent experience with your company impacts the feelings they share with friends and family and the relationship they have with your brand. The satisfaction level during the post-purchase experience has a direct correlation on a customer’s decision to buy again, or not. Retailers that meet or exceed post-purchase customer experience expectations create a unique brand experience that customers will “share” with others personally and on social media. Exceptional post-purchase customer experiences inspire customers to build long-term relationship with brands.

Understanding the value of loyal customers and repeat purchases is critical to fostering higher lifetime customer values. Focus on making your current customers happy with your brand and see how that benefits your business.

As always, I am interested in your opinions on this topic.  Please share your comments below.

Jeffrey

Offering a Digital Dining Experience is Now Table Stakes for Restaurants

It certainly is no secret that people across all demographic categories have transformed their day-to-day activities through the use of digital technologies, especially via the smartphone.  For those of us keeping tabs on the restaurant industry, we have further validation of just how impactful this digitalization, especially the mobile-centric variety, is on the consumer and their overall dining journey.

According to our most recent survey-based research report, Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations, an ever increasing number of restaurant guests, especially Millennials, are using their mobile devices at each and every point of their dining experience.

Similar to our friends in the broader retail industry, restaurant operators are witnessing rapid growth in the digital expectations of their customers, who don’t just want, but expect, a broad range of digital-driven capabilities as part of their guest experience.  As guest expectations for digital-driven dining continue to rise, all those responsible for delivering a successful guest experience – whether they are a restaurant brand, a franchisee, or independent operator – must rapidly adopt new digital technologies to enhance the entire dining journey.

The ENTIRE digital journey?  Absolutely. The role of digital engagement is now firmly implanted in every single step of that journey, starting well before and ending well after the actual restaurant visit.  Pre-meal research is a habit across all generations and demographics, especially for discovering new restaurant choices and selecting fine dining options. Digital ordering (whether from home, by app or at the restaurant) is a growing expectation while sharing results of dining experiences with friends via social media is a new form of entertainment. These expanded engagement areas shine a light on how restaurant operators need to think about the entire lifecycle of a guest’s dining experience – including how the intersection of restaurant operations, existing processes and legacy IT platforms need to quickly transform to support these new data-driven demands and influence needs.

As we noted (and not unexpectedly), Millennials are leading and driving this charge by using digital devices to enhance their dining experience over half the time (53%).  Specific measures of their digital activities include:

  • 60% research where and what to eat
  • 51% check ratings/reviews while in a restaurant
  • 23% share pictures and content during and after the visit.

It’s not a secret that the dining journey has radically changed, as have guest expectations of what makes a great dining experience. Digital-driven influences are no longer at the periphery of the dining experience, as they influence 40% of all dining visits.

Simply said, they are required tickets to entry.

Therefore, embedding a wide array of full digital dining capabilities – everything from social engagement to guest WiFi to flexible ordering options, and real-time and personalized guest promotions – should be part of every restaurant’s strategic DNA.

To download the complete Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectationsreport, visit:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-restaurant-research-report/.

As always, I appreciate your opinions – both on the insight from the report and across the broader restaurant and hospitality space.  Please share your thoughts and opinions below.

Scott

 

AGILE IN ACTION: Achieving 50% Faster Implementation Times

With traditional IT projects, requirements are typically defined up front (sometimes 12-18 months before go-live), and are rarely revisited during the project implementation. However, by adopting an Agile mindset, organizations can quickly respond to changing customer demands, which is essential for today’s retailers.   An Agile approach allows organizations to easily revisit their requirements during the entire project implementation in order to keep up with a dynamic set of business drivers. In addition, by employing an Agile methodology, retailers are able to greatly reduce the disconnect between business unit expectations and project delivery, as there are constant iterations of incremental delivery which can be reviewed and accepted by project sponsors. As retailers are pressured to do more with less and quickly adapt to new retail realities, and an agile approach makes this possible.

I recently participated in a large and complex point of sale (POS) software implementation project using BRP’s Agile Approach for Retail, and the benefits of this approach really are remarkable. Our team successfully launched the POS solution in a pilot store in less than six months, which is about 50% faster than a standard implementation. The successful launch of this minimally viable product (MVP) approach was instrumental in not only obtaining store feedback as quickly as possible, but also in building credibility for the project team around the overall approach and efforts.

This retailer was now able to recognize the many business benefits of this POS solution much quicker than they would have with a traditional waterfall project approach. For example, the retailer can now offer personalized customer service by providing its associates easy access to information required to satisfy shopper expectations, from product and promotion data to customer purchase history. The store managers and sales associates now have instant, on-the-go access to the tools they need to enhance service and productivity by completing end-to-end POS transactions, looking up items, locating stock and much more, without ever leaving the customer’s side.

And we were able to help deliver these benefits in less than six months.

With the swift pace of disruption occurring in the industry, retailers need to accelerate the transformation of their organization, business processes and technology to align with customer demands, and an Agile approach to technology and operations can mean the difference between successful operations and bankruptcy.

If you have not already explored an Agile Approach for your implementation projects, I suggest you consider this option – the benefits are too great to ignore.  BRP’s Agile Approach for Retail offers forward-thinking retailers an accelerated and flexible method for tackling enterprise projects, and if you would like some help understanding and implementing an Agile Approach, BRP can help assess your Agile readiness and accelerate your implementation time.

I welcome your thoughts on Agile and any insights from projects where you had success with an Agile Approach.  Please share your comments below.

Ryan

Amazon’s New 4-star Store Concept – Thoughts from BRP

Today, Amazon extended its physical store presence with a totally new concept. Amazon 4-star is a new physical store where everything for sale is rated 4 stars and above, is a top seller, or is new and trend

Photo: Jordan Stead, Amazon

ing on Amazon.com. The first store is located in one of New York’s most vibrant neighborhoods—SoHo—on Spring Street between Crosby and Lafayette Streets.

Here is my take on this new venture from Amazon…

First and foremost, the physical store is not dead! It is great to see the renewed interest in brick-and-mortar stores and Amazon is making a full court press. As Amazon continues to expand its store presence from book, to grocery and convenience and now to stores focus on trending/hot products from its online commerce nearly all retail segments should be on high alert.

I believe they will rollout this concept across all metro areas. It isn’t a gimmick, but a sustainable concept based on localized assortment. The question is how localized will Amazon make the assortments? Will they add these to their Whole Foods locations?

For a few years, there have been rumors of Amazon expanding into gas stations and they have been focused on expanding their presence in apparel, furniture, pharmacy, which might evolve into physical stores in these categories. With more than 100 million Amazon Prime members, Amazon already has a loyal customer base for virtually any category they enter. That’s 40 percent of the adult population in the U.S.

Nothing is off limits for Amazon and they continue to surprise us with new ventures.

What do you think of Amazon’s new concept store – 4-Star? Please share your opinions on this topic below.

Ken

Embracing and Applying the Agile Mindset (Part 3 of Agile Blog Series)

As mentioned in Part 2 of our Agile blog series – Surviving the Retail Apocalypse with an Agile Approach post, we can implement as many Agile processes and tools as we want, but if an Agile mindset is not also adapted it will be extremely difficult to achieve a successful Agile implementation. According to the 12thAnnual State of Agile Reportconducted by VersionOne, 53% of respondents cited “company philosophy or culture at odds with core Agile values” as the biggest challenge when it comes to adopting and scaling Agile. This challenge is especially prevalent in the retail industry where waterfall methodology has dominated the scene for as long as we can remember.

By definition, a mindset is “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” Therefore, implementing an Agile mindset involves establishing a company culture that embraces and applies the 4 guiding values of the Agile Manifesto. Implementing an Agile mindset allows individual team members to understand why an Agile transformation is taking place as well as the benefits from implementing this drastic, but necessary change.

Here are 5 tips to help retailers embrace and apply the Agile mindset:

  1. Hire an Agile coach

The best way for organizations to successful implement an Agile mindset is to hire an Agile coach. It’s no secret that people are reluctant to change, so having an experienced Agile coach who has the ability to analyze the current company culture and design an iterative strategy will help the organization take the right steps towards a successful Agile implementation. The Agile coach should ideally be someone who has worked in your domain and thus understands the nuances of the industry. They should be able to guide the team to quickly develop an Agile mindset by helping them understand the why behind the Agile values and principles.

  1. Begin with implementing an Agile mindset at the executive level

Top-down support at the executive level is an essential component to a successful Agile implementation. C-level executives should have a deep understanding of how Agile projects are tracked and budgeted, what metrics are used, and what the metrics mean. They should understand that Agile projects focus on delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) followed by small incremental deliveries. This means that the initial product is limited in scope, but then grows organically through added features and enhancements every couple weeks. Breaking down the work like this helps the organization respond to changes in customer needs as well as the direction of the market and helps keep customers engaged. They also need to understand that roadmaps will replace project plans and that team velocity and releases will replace traditional performance metrics such as percentage complete. Upper management should provide an environment where team members feel empowered, trusted, and free to make (and learn) from their mistakes.

  1. Pick an Agile framework

One of the benefits of using Agile is that your team is constantly inspecting and adapting. This means that if a couple of months down the road your team realizes that the selected Agile framework isn’t working for them; Agile is flexible enough to allow you to change an aspect of the framework or try a completely new framework. Since there are many different Agile frameworks (such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, Scrumban, Scrum/XP hybrid, etc.), it’s important for organizations to analyze the scope/complexity of the project, the level of uncertainty of the project, and the skills of your team members to determine which framework will work best for your team. Just because you choose one framework over another doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with it for the rest of the project.

  1. Set up Agile workshops for the team

Agile workshops ensure that everyone on your team understands the core concepts, implementation strategy and terminology that will be used by your organization. If possible, it’s best to train all of your team members at once to make sure that everyone receives the same message and is aligned on expectations. Agile workshops also allow your team to be exposed to different frameworks, tools, and techniques commonly used by Agile teams. Even though you probably won’t be utilizing all of them, it’s important that your team is familiarized with them in case they need to be utilized in the future.

  1. Inspect and adapt!

If at any point you see that your team is struggling to embrace an Agile mindset with the selected framework, tools, and/or techniques; take a moment, as a team, to reflect on how you can improve and come up with an action plan to make any necessary adjustments. Although it may take months, or even years for your team to successfully “be Agile,” by ensuring that your organization understands, applies, and embraces an Agile mindset you will reap the benefits of Agile from the start.

Please feel free to share any comments, questions, or concerns you may have below. We’d love to hear from you.

Best,

Hellen

Surviving the Retail Apocalypse with an Agile Approach (Part 2 of Agile Blog Series)

There’s no denying that adding “Retail Apocalypse” to any news headline (or blog post title) certainly provides an extra dash of sensationalism. Add the word “Agile” to the mix and things start to really get interesting. According to a survey conducted by HP, 67% of companies now describe themselves as being “pure Agile” or “leaning towards being Agile.” Although the Agile movement was originally created with the end goal of “uncovering better ways of developing software,” companies are now starting to realize that Agile isn’t just a set of methods and methodologies used to develop software – it’s a philosophy.

The Agile philosophy focuses on delivering the highest value in the shortest time possible by taking an incremental delivery approach based on the four guiding values of the Agile Manifesto with emphasis placed on:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The authors of the Agile Manifesto don’t deny the value of the items on the right, but they recognize that the value of the items on the left significantly surpass those on the right. These four guiding values serve as the foundation for the various Agile frameworks, such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, etc., that have been developed over the years. These Agile frameworks provide teams with the techniques and tools needed to begin their Agile transformation. However, a successful Agile implementation depends heavily on an organization’s ability to embrace and apply the Agile mindset which requires a complete organizational shift in the way team members and management work and communicate with one another.

Some may argue that it’s impossible to successfully implement Agile within a retail environment due to the complexity of integrating antiquated legacy systems with complex cloud-based solutions requiring massive infrastructural, architectural, and operational changes.  However, we at BRP have successfully applied Agile methodologies to implementations resulting in accelerated implementation times. While unsettling news stories about the death of malls, store closures, and bankruptcies will undoubtedly continue to flood our newsfeed, BRP is here to provide retailers with the tools and resources needed to survive the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” via our Agile Blog series. Please feel free to share any comments, questions, or concerns you may have below. We’d love to hear from you.

Best,

Hellen

Using Agile to Drive your Retail Transformation (Part 1 of Agile Blog Series)

With store closures, bankruptcies, and acquisitions still big news; it’s not surprising that the media continues to paint a dark and gloomy future for traditional retail. However, in reality, the retail industry isn’t headed towards a so-called “retail apocalypse.” Instead, we are undergoing the most exciting technologically fueled transformation in history! In a true survival of the fittest fashion, only those retailers who are ready to optimize their technology to meet the ever-increasing customer demands will survive and thrive during today’s “Retail Transformation.”

What exactly is this “Retail Transformation?”

According to the Business Dictionary, transformation is “in an organizational context, a process of profound and radical change that orients an organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness.” Therefore, Retail Transformation can best be described as a disruptive collection of technologically driven changes that are redefining the retail industry. In the past, the storefront was the main interaction customers had with a brand. So, their primary goal was to develop strategies to increase foot traffic in stores which would then increase profits. However, technological advances have completely redesigned the retail environment; shifting the main goal of increasing customer count to a by-product of their new goal – enhancing the customer’s shopping experience.

Thanks to mobile devices, the customer shopping experience now begins before the customer even enters a physical store. E-commerce platforms accessed via internet browsers on computers, tablets, and mobile devices provide consumers with the ability to view product details, reviews, compare prices and check item availability before stepping foot in a store. According to Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations report, digital interactions influence 75% of consumers’ pre-store visits and are leveraged in 46% of in-store shopping experiences.

Consumers not only want to be able to easily view information on demand, they expect the information to be accurate. Consumers now want the ability to buy anywhere, ship anywhere, pick up anywhere, and return anywhere. Buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) is now just table stakes with customers. Thus, it’s no surprise that those retailers who fail to upgrade/optimize their enterprise systems to support the ever-increasing list of customer demands will mostly likely not survive.

Agile to the Rescue

Although Agile has been around for more than 15 years, many people still don’t fully understand what it means to be Agile. For starters, Agile is an approach to project management that focuses on incrementally delivering small chunks of working software to end users, so that they can evaluate if the new functionality is both useful and desired. By delivering small chunks at a time, Agile allows organizations to be better prepared to quickly respond to changing customer demands. Agile’s emphasis on continuously gathering customer feedback for inclusion in upcoming functionality allows retailers to ensure that they’re always working on the most valuable functionality for the business. Retailers can also benefit from Agile’s “fail fast” approach where the idea is to test out an initiative (whether it be new product, strategy or functionality) as quickly as possible, so that if the initiative doesn’t go very well, it’s easy for the organization to swiftly course correct. Retailers who wish to transform their business must be prepared to invest in revamping their technology with the end goal of enhancing the customer experience.

Stay tuned to our Agile blog series to find out how retailers can start utilizing Agile to help them optimize their Retail Transformation. Please feel free to share any comments, questions, or concerns you may have below. We’d love to hear from you.

Best,

Hellen