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

The Great Retail Digital Divide

The traditional retail model is being disrupted as consumer expectations and shopping behavior rapidly evolve. A customer journey that remains in only one channel, whether online, mobile or in-store, is no longer the norm. Customers expect to move in and out of multiple channels, including in-store, online, mobile, and social media, and they expect a seamless and frictionless transition from one channel to another. This creates a new requirement for retailers to host a single shared shopping cart that moves with the customer.

Customer expectations are only going to continue to rise, fueled by the upsurge in mobile shopping over the past few years. This is driving demand for increased digital capabilities bundled with personalization in the store. Unfortunately, we are seeing that retailers are not always keeping up with customer expectations. This gap between consumer demand for digital capabilities within the store and most retailers’ current ability to support this is what we call the ‘great digital divide.’ Consumers say that digital influences up to 75% of pre-store visits and is leveraged in 46% of their in-store shopping experiences; however, less than half of retailers deliver on the most important digital capabilities that customers desire.[1]

To support this desired experience and increased capabilities, retailers need a robust order management solution that can serve as the anchor for the single shared shopping cart and operate as the brains of a unified commerce platform.

The success of a unified commerce solution requires a common commerce platform leveraged across all customer touchpoints. The centralized order management system is key, as this is the brains of the unified commerce platform.  It provides the needed customer order visibility, order orchestration and routing optimization across channels, allowing retailers to engage their customers however they choose, and meet and exceed customer expectations.

While there are many challenges to implementing an effective unified commerce solution, the cost of doing nothing is steadily increasing and may mean the difference between success and bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the ‘great digital divide’ is likely to only increase as customer expectations grow.  Customers expect a single cart that crosses all touchpoints and using your OMS as the brains of the operation may be the most effective approach to meet these needs.

If you haven’t already moved to a unified commence platform, now is the time to act. We suggest you start by looking at a unified order management system. For more information on how to bridge the ‘great digital divide’ with an order management system, we recommend reading the BRP Special Report: OMS – The Brains of the Operation.

I appreciate your thoughts on this topic.  Please share your opinions and comments below.

Brian

[1]The Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectationsreport conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Wind, stream, 07/24/18, https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-retail-research-report/

Will Department Stores and Specialty Retailers Join the Custom-sized Apparel Bandwagon?

While there hasn’t been a big push for large apparel retailers to offer custom-sized clothing yet, as made-to-measure startups like Indochino, eShakti and Sumissura gain traction, that will likely change. Today’s consumers expect personalized services and products that are one-of-a-kind. With custom-tailored and designed garments now offered at a fraction of historical bespoke clothing prices, it has created a lucrative niche. Department stores may opt to open stores-within-a-store or pop-up shops with some of these custom-made brands or go direct to overseas suppliers and disintermediate the startups.

Customers will accept a couple weeks lead time for most apparel items, especially if it is custom made for them, as it is worth the wait. Obviously, there are exceptions, if a customer needs a dress for a special event this weekend, she will need to buy something off the rack.

Impact on Margins and Inventory

On an individual item perspective, margins are not necessarily better on custom made clothing than mass produced products. However, you can ensure your overall margin rates on custom made apparel, as you won’t have any obsolete inventory or inventory markdowns. These brands can also increase the overall margin by selling complementary accessories. Tailored clothing can move to more casual styles and rather than customize sizes, consumers can customize the fabric or what is printed on the fabric. For example, Nike and Vans are currently offering custom designed sneakers and consumers are willing to wait 2-5 weeks for the shoes. With 3D printers becoming more agile and affordable, one day we may see most products being built to order with markdowns and obsolete inventory becoming a thing of the past.

Check out this story on PBS about the progress being made on 3D printers: How 3D printing is spurring revolutionary advances in manufacturing and design

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

Ken

Is your Post-Purchase Experience Meeting Customer Expectations?

The post-purchase experience is not getting the attention it deserves as retailers focus more on customer acquisition than loyalty. BRP published the Best Practices for Enhancing the Post-Purchase Experience report to address the importance of the time between the customer clicking the buy button and the customer receiving and using the product. This is your customers’ most recent experience with your company and 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 also inspire customers to build long-term relationship with brands.

“Retailers who communicate regular updates and reassurances on order and delivery status to customers create a moment of trust with the brand,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “Customers who shop without a sense of risk will feel more comfortable making repeat purchases in the future.”

By crafting a post-purchase experience to minimize friction and maximize convenience, retailers make an investment in a sustained relationship with their customer. Enhancing your post-purchase customer experience doesn’t necessarily mean investing heavily in the latest technologies – it’s all about making the experience easy and transparent. Best practices that create a welcome and trusting experience for your customers to return time after time include:

  1. Set customer expectations before they click “Buy”
  2. Communicate tirelessly
  3. Set a fair and competitive return policy
  4. Simplify the return process
  5. Deliver your products in professional packaging
  6. Turn a digital experience into an omni-channel experience
  7. Use your stores for something more
  8. Gather customer feedback

I encourage you to download and read the Best Practices for Enhancing the Post-Purchase Experience white paper:

Download Now!

Are you Offering Shoppers the Digital Experience they Expect?

New research identifies gaps between customer expectations and retail execution when it comes to digital experiences.

According to the Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations report, based on research conducted by Incisiv, there is a disconnect between customer expectations and retail execution. The research combines findings from surveys of 1,212 retail consumers and 60 retail executives to understand the effect digital has on the shopping experience.

“The digital divide in retail is growing, as over 75% of retail shopping traverses the digital realm, but less than half of retailers deliver on the most important digital capabilities that customers desire,” said Brian Brunk, principal, BRP. “Further, very few retailers offer the next generation digital technologies, like automated returns and proximity-triggered mobile coupons, that could significantly influence future purchase decisions. Retailers must transform and quickly close the digital gap to remain relevant with their customer.

Consumers are no longer confined to a linear buying journey and expect greater convenience and empowerment to shop the way they want and where they want. Digital sits at the core of that promise and it’s no surprise that most consumers research prices, reviews and product information before they set foot into a store and when they are in the store they perform these actions on their mobile devices.

“Mobile devices and the capabilities they enable are the primary catalyst for the continued evolution of the customer experience,” said Ryan Grogman, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “The majority of today’s consumers research products and brands digitally prior to visiting a physical store and, once they are in the store, about half of them use their mobile devices to perform price comparisons, read product reviews, and even validate inventory.”

Consumers are more likely to shop at retailers that align next-gen technologies to their digital preferences; however, in many cases, retailers don’t offer the capabilities that impact consumers’ shopping preferences.

Proximity-triggered Mobile Coupons – Consumers value digital discounts and promotions on their mobile devices. 

  • 65% of customers would more likely shop at a retail brand that offered this capability
  • 8% of retailers offer this capability

Augmented Reality Experience – Many consumers appreciate the opportunity to see products in a virtual environment.

  • 48% of customers would more likely shop at a retail brand that offered this capability
  • 15% of retailers offer this capability

Automated Returns Process – Consumers expect the returns process to be easy and frictionless.

  • 68% of customers would more likely shop at a retail brand that offered this capability
  • 8% of retailers offer this capability

I encourage you to download and read the complete Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations report:

DOWNLOAD NOW

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

David

New Survey Findings Confirm the Digital Lag between Guest Expectations and Current Restaurant Technology

The team at BRP is excited to have sponsored (along with our parent company Windstream Enterprise) a new report titled The Restaurant Digital Crossroads:  The Race to Meet Guest Expectations.  The report was produced by Incisiv and details the research survey findings from 1,225 restaurant guests and 60 restaurant executives.  The central message derived from the findings was crystal clear to all of us – rapidly evolving guest expectations and digital technologies are driving a major transformation across the whole of the restaurant industry.

Looking deeper into the themes the survey data told us, as guest expectations continue to rise, restaurants must transform their business with new, digital-enabling technologies to make the dining experience more seamless and frictionless – period. Unfortunately, many restaurant brands and franchisees (and you know who you are) have a long way to go to catch up to guest expectations. The good news is that restaurants (both brand owners and their franchisees) are increasingly aware of the gap the report calls out, and their short and long-term future plans include enhancements to key areas that guests deem important for a great experience, including easing the of ordering and payment process, adding or improving guest WiFi availability, and mobile POS capability.

Restaurant guests expect (make that demand) a frictionless dining experience that empowers them with relevant, helpful information, all while making it MORE convenient for them to operate on their own time and at their pace.  This requires restaurant operators to embed a broader spectrum of digital technology across the entire dining journey.

As you would expect, the Millennial and Gen-Z consumer demographics have the highest expectations for digital capabilities. The report identifies significant gaps between what younger generations feel is extremely important and what current capabilities many restaurant operators have in place.  Specific examples of this gap from the Incisiv/BRP survey findings include:

Ease of ordering and payment – Guests expect the ordering and payment process to be easy and frictionless.

  • 74% of guests feel it is extremely important
  • 45% of restaurant operators state this capability is operating excellently

Guest WiFi availability – Guests expect fast and free WiFi in restaurants, especially where cell reception is limited.

  • 60% of guests feel it is extremely important
  • 44% of restaurant operators state this capability is operating excellently

Discounts and promotions – Guests expect to receive digital discounts and promotions on any platform they choose, especially their mobile devices.

  • 60% of guests feel it is extremely important
  • 35% of restaurant operators state this capability is operating excellently

There is a lot more data and strategic insight behind the excellent work Incisiv did on behalf of BRP and Windstream Enterprise.  I encourage you to download and read through the entire Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations survey findings report:

Download Now

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