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Upgraded Technology, Upgraded Experience: Using Mobile Devices In Your Store

Independent Retailer – Technology advancements have abounded this year. From retail robots, to the introduction of shopping through augmented reality, technology has become an essential part of retail development. Throughout the years, as new technology has developed, one thing has remained the same: shoppers want increased convenience. Portable technology, such as mobile devices and tablets greatly increase both customers’ experience in-store as well as your store associates’ training.

Based on research done by Boston Retail Partners, 89% of retailers plan to put mobile solutions in the hands of their store associates and 84% of retailers will use mobile point of sale systems in-store by 2020. The major categories in which mobile devices can be used are customer identification and engagement, associate training, task management, and point of sale.

Registers are anchored to counters, but new technology allows purchases to be made anywhere in the store. Using mobile devices as points of sale eases the checkout process for customers. Rather than waiting in line, an associate can help shoppers find an item and checkout from anywhere in the store. In addition to checking out anywhere, if a customer is looking for a specific product, rather than walking to the back room or the computer to check inventory, having a phone or tablet to quickly search, find, order, and purchase the item makes the entire process seamless. Offer customers the ability to checkout instantly without waiting in line or walking to a cash register.

 

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Two Powerful Acronyms That Will Spur Retail in India

Forbes – Today’s in-store retail technology has the power to connect consumer data to physical goods, deriving actionable insights like never before. In the long run, these tech-support solutions could optimize in-store sales, track buying trends and preferences, and increase operational efficiency, thereby improving store performance and increasing revenues. Early adoption of such technologies would ensure that the customer goes back happy, with a tailored, personalized shopping experience that creates brand loyalty.

According to a recent study by BRP Consulting, 45% of retailers in the U.S. plan to adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2020 to enhance their customer experience. Amazon piloted its Amazon Go app that will eliminate time spent at checkout by using sensors to identify products in the shopping cart in the retail outlet and charging it to their Amazon account.

Another great example is of global denim retailer Levi’s, which has adopted digital technologies in its day-to-day management routines to enhance the in-store retail experience for customers. Equipping clothing items with RFID tags ensures that walk-ins do not have to deal with misplaced pieces or missing sizes. Levi’s managed to improve the visibility of its inventory and the accuracy of its systems, in turn increasing sales staff efficiency and ensuring fewer missed sales.

This especially makes sense in the context that consumers are starting to expect seamless interactions from clicks to bricks and back in their buying cycle. To turn the browsers into buyers, retailers will need to accelerate their use of AI, Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), digital signage, and next-generation point-of-sale technologies to deliver the ideal mix of digital and physical selling.

Read Full Article: Two Powerful Acronyms That Will Spur Retail in India

The Artificial Intelligence Economy: Are You Ready?

RIS News – When they hear the terms artificial intelligence and bots the average person likely envisions the futuristic sci-fi version of the technologies — ― autonomous humanoid machines performing everyday tasks previously done by people. While this technology certainly exists and will only become more pervasive in the coming years, the real-world use of artificial intelligence (AI) is much more subtle and powerful.

AI is the special sauce that powers much of the game-changing technology retailers rely on to fuel new growth and provide a differentiated experience, allowing them to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. In fact, by 2020 artificial intelligence will be a mainstay in almost every new retail solution and will be an investment priority among 30% of CIOs, predicts Gartner in its “AI Technologies Will Be in Almost Every New Software Product by 2020” report.

While the future is undeniably going to be AI powered, the technology is still in its infancy and has yet to reach its full potential. Trailblazing retailers that are investing in the technology today are already reaping the rewards and will be in the driver’s seat when artificial intelligence inevitably dominates the retail landscape.

 

The reluctance of much of the retail community to embrace chatbots makes sense considering many retailers have built their reputations on one-to-one interactions between associates and shoppers and are unlikely to turn over this critical aspect in the path to purchase to a machine.

“For some retailers, human interaction may be too critical to move completely to AI,” Boston Retail Partners reports in its “2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey.” “However, as consumers become more comfortable with Siri and Alexa, and we see chatbots increasingly replace traditional customer service, we may see human interaction perceived as less efficient than artificial intelligence.”

Read Full Article: The Artificial Intelligence Economy: Are You Ready?

UNDER ATTACK!

Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer – From Amazon to Walmart, everyone’s looking to take a bite out of traditional supermarket sales. How does frozen fit into the mix? We asked a panel of experts what to expect in 2018.

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“The biggest opportunities outside traditional POS and e-commerce are almost all data oriented, including better use of business intelligence, increased leverage of promotional planning and demand forecasting to drive product-by-product pricing decisions,” says vp and practice lead Scott Langdoc of Boston-based Boston Retail Partners. “The more automation and analytics that can be applied to assessing past performance and projecting future demand, the better a retailer can ‘dial in’ the proper blend of projected margin and volume,” he explains. But the technology that appears to hold the most promise is using transactional/loyalty card data to create more personalized pricing to drive specific behaviors. “Retailers that continue to use loyalty programs with simple two-tier pricing can’t win against competitors, including Amazon, that have this kind of analytic DNA in their blood,” he remarks.

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At the other end of the spectrum, Langdoc says premium private label is a particular interest. “Changes in buying behaviors and advertising influence give grocers further opportunities to better position their own brand product offerings, especially when they emphasize quality and taste along with value.” He adds that near instant customer feedback via social media is helping retailers make rapid adjustments to both individual products and whole categories. “Being more agile than competitors or national brands gives grocers the ability to optimize product offerings to a broader customer base.”

And they’ve got technology that makes the task even easier. “The rapid advancement of mobile ordering and location/GPS intelligence is giving QSR and fast casual brands in particular more opportunities to capture customer demand that would typically be directed toward traditional grocery shopping,” says Langdoc. “If dinner is only a single click away and it’s ready at the exact time you arrive for pick up because you gave the restaurant permission to track your location via GPS, that will appeal to consumers — especially millennials — and is a real threat to grocers.” But supermarket chains can do it, too!

Read Full Article: UNDER ATTACK!

Retailers Anticipate Merging of Physical and Mobile Retail: Report

Mobile ID World – A majority of retailers are planning to use new technologies to identify customers via their mobile devices and “other emerging technologies,” according to a recent report from BRP Consulting.

The finding comes from a synopsis of BRP’s “2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey”, which found that within three years, 63 percent of retailers “plan to use mobile apps to identify customers in their stores.” With the continuing ascent of mobile commerce through services like Apple Pay and PayPal, and the rising use of mobile devices in general, the survey results suggest that retailers are racing to keep up with consumers who are increasingly glued to their phones.

Elaborating on the findings, BRP suggests that stores need to find a way to bridge the online and physical worlds for customers, such as by enabling interaction with knowledgeable associates, who may be “simply human or a combination of AI and human characteristics”.

Accordingly, technological infrastructure appears to also be a key concern within the survey’s paradigm, with 76 percent of retailers planning “to enhance or replace their network within the next three years.” Commerce is going digital, even in physical stores.

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How AI Can Improve The Customer Experience

Forbes – Retailers’ No. 1 priority is providing customers with a good experience. And to do so, they’re constantly finding new ways to communicate with customers. These channels — from social to email to chatbots — are what ensure e-commerce remains more convenient, accessible and inspirational than traditional, in-store shopping. However, the technological aspect also removes face-to-face interactions, making it harder for brands to build deeper customer relationships upon which many well-known retailers were built. To adapt to changing shopping behaviors and customer expectations, retailers should seek new ways to not only engage their customers but ensure a positive experience that might earn more brand loyalty than the rising generations seem to have.

One way retailers are improving online customer experience is by leveraging emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. A recent survey by retail management firm BRP Consulting found that 45% of retailers are expected to increase the use of artificial intelligence for customer experience in the next three years, and 55% of retailers are focused on optimizing the customer experience to increase customer loyalty. This means that if retailers want to keep their customers happy (or keep them at all), then they need to remain on the front lines of technology adoption.

 

The bottom line is that it’s harder than it used to be to deliver experiences that meet or exceed customer expectations. But fortunately, we have technology on our side to not only improve these experiences but to also give brands the opportunity to provide a truly differentiated experience. If a brand is willing to shy away from using technology to streamline its customer experiences, then it’s only going to lose in the end. Technology is part of our world, and it isn’t going anywhere. It only makes sense that we use it to our advantage.

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AI/BOTS: Consumer Behavior Transformation Via AI

PYMNTS – Gone are the days of mom-and-pop stores where the owner behind the counter knew what the customer wanted before he or she even spoke. Rather than having one-on-one relationships with regular customers at standard brick-and-mortar locations, eCommerce has globally widened the sales interaction.

With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), retailers and merchants have the capability to reach a much larger array of consumers on an extremely tailored and personal level. As such, it should come as no surprise that many retailers are using AI to help boost both their products and services.

In an effort to raise the bar on the consumer experience, many in the retail industry have slowly begun integrating more aspects of AI, including machine learning and natural language processing. What AI essentially does for retailers is help them to improve customer service. AI enables retailers to learn more about consumer preferences by having technology perform tasks that would typically require some level of human intelligence.

While retailers and merchants began using AI to help deal with the massive scale of global consumers — and to help stay competitive with others in the space — consumer behavior, and subsequently consumer expectations, have started to see a shift toward a true digital transformation. In the past two years alone, there have been 650 venture capital investments for artificial intelligence technologies — totaling more than $5 billion — and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is predicting that figure will reach a market value of $70 billion by the year 2020.

From the way consumers shop for groceries to clothes, books and almost any other conceivable item, there does not seem to be an area of retail unimpacted by AI in some fashion. With PwC’s projected significant increase in the AI market over the next two-and-a-half years — alongside Boston Retail Partners’ research showing 45 percent of retailers ramping up AI use in the next three years — it’s no wonder consumer behaviors have begun to change as well.

Read Full Article: AI/BOTS: Consumer Behavior Transformation Via AI

Marketers are swimming in data but lack the right questions

Luxury Daily – As technology becomes more pervasive and essentially consumers’ entire worlds are becoming computers, there is endless data at luxury marketers’ fingertips, but it is how they use it that will matter.

During the session “Mindful Luxury and the Future” at Condé Nast International’s Luxury Conference on April 5, a futurist emphasized that eventually marketers will be able to tell everything they ever wanted to know about consumers, if they are not able to already. The real value lies within how these retailers and marketers put all this data to use, rather than the data itself.

“I think that our behavior will all be categorized all the time – where we shop, where we live, where we stay, how brief,” said Sophie Hackford, Futurist. “Everything will be completely observed and categorized by AI.

“So the question becomes what would you do if you had all the data of the world, because basically that is what is going to happen,” she said. “We will have information or answers will come cheat, questions are what becomes valuable.

“We are swimming in data but we do not have the right questions.”

Future of retail
In the near future, companies will be able to ascertain almost everything about a consumer’s life through technology and satellite CCTV. Retailers and marketers will be able to know everything about what a customer does, where they live and shop, for how long and so much more.

While the concept of this does borderline an idea of ethics, the truth is this technology will be reality pushed by major tech companies such as Google and Uber.

Currently, the space is more or less unregulated, as the technology is moving faster than the law can.

However, consumers are becoming more comfortable with sharing their data with companies and marketers will need to know how to discern the data.

As data collection technologies progress, retailers are finding more reason to expand their analytics abilities, something in which luxury retailers can benefit.

According to a report from Boston Retail Partners, 44 percent of retailers think that analytics is a major priority in the future. Additionally, more than 82 percent identified the need to improve their planning systems to act on data analytics as something that they need to focus on in the future.

Read Full Article: Marketers are swimming in data but lack the right questions

Improved analytics a priority for 44% of retailers

Fierce Retail – Improved real-time data and analytics are a priority for 44% of all retailers, according to a report from Boston Retail Partners (BRP). However, data is not necessarily helping retailers’ performance due to lack of corporate alignment and inconsistent processes.

In order for a retail organization to have a unified approach to the implementation of data, there must be alignment across all business segments—by channel, by assortment, even by item. In order to do that, 82% of those surveyed said they need to either implement new processes or improve their existing planning systems across channels.

According to the report, real-time analytics are a key part of understanding the customer across channels and creating the right assortment for those customers. This means prioritizing investments in systems architecture that can handle collection and utilization of data across the entire organization.

“One of the most surprising findings from the BRP Special Report is that retailers are focusing on analytics above many other issues. Retailers have identified analytics as a silver bullet to their problems,” Gene Bornac, vice president at BRP, told FierceRetail. “Many retailers understand that learning more about their business and customers at a detailed and aggregate level helps them make better decisions, based on real-time data, which may help them succeed.”

Retailers have been slow to implement tools needed to track real-time analytics. In fact, only 17% of those surveyed receive real-time data.

According to Bornac, in order for retailers to better harness analytics, they first need to decide what problem they are looking to solve. This enables them to focus on relevant data that can be acted upon in a timely matter.

“Many retailers set out to analyze mass quantities of data. The hope is that they will find a revelation in the large volumes of information,” Bornac said. “Unfortunately, they are really looking for a needle in a haystack. Focusing on key pieces of data, especially around customers and inventory, can reap instant rewards and it is analogous to looking for a horse in a haystack.”
Read Full Article: Improved analytics a priority for 44% of retailers

Data analytics is paramount for retailers, but luxury faces challenges: report

Luxury Daily – As data collection technologies progress, retailers are finding more reason to expand their analytics abilities, something in which luxury retailers can benefit.

According to a report from Boston Retail Partners, 44 percent of retailers think that analytics is a major priority in the future. Additionally, more than 82 percent identified the need to improve their planning systems to act on data analytics as something that they need to focus on in the future.

“Luxury brands face a few unique challenges around analytics,” said Gene Bornac, vice president at BRP, Boston. “The main challenge is the smaller data set.

“Luxury brands sell to fewer customers at higher prices,” he said. “Unfortunately, analytics work better with larger numbers.

“That being said, luxury retailers generally tend to know their customers better and can utilize that information to improve their results from data analysis.”

For larger retailers such as Walmart or Best Buy, collecting this data is not a problem as they got thousands of customers each day at many of their locations.

Luxury on the other hand has a more difficult obstacle to surmount: the low sample size.

Retailers that sell luxury products, by definition, serve a smaller segment of the population. This means that with fewer people coming in, there is less data to collect as well as a higher propensity to have the data skewed by outliers.

But luxury retailers can alleviate these pressures in a few ways. For one, they can work on making the data that they do collect as comprehensive as possible. One solution is to use WiFi, which is more reliable than beacons, for mobile data collection in-store.

WiFi, once the dominant in-store location technology, has seen its role come under attack from newer, less-expensive solutions such as beacons. However, WiFi’s broader reach along with recent advancements that make it more cost efficient and accurate, underscore its ongoing relevance.

Accurately tracking traffic and determining how it relates to conversions is a key to sustaining in-store revenue, yet many retailers have not equipped themselves or their employees with the tools to determine and act upon these relationships. In-store remains a crucial part of a retailer’s strategy even as numbers fall, but brands must first make use of the data they already have before they can improve.

Luxury brands that make the most of the data they can collect should be able to circumvent the problems presented by a small sample size.

“Like all brands, luxury brands benefit the most from pulling all of their data together,” BRP’s Mr. Bornac said. “Using the advantage that they have with their customer relationships, they can create a real-time view of their customers’ needs and business opportunities.”

Read Full Article: Data analytics is paramount for retailers, but luxury faces challenges: report