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How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience?

Shop.org Recap Cover ImageAt the Shop.org Digital Summit 2015, I moderated a retail executive panel on mobile technology and below is a summary of the topics we discussed. For more details, here is a link to the complete recap of the session:

2015 Shop.org Recap – How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience?

Here are some of the key points discussed during the session…

There has been a huge technology shift in the past few years and mobile technology in the hands of consumers and retail associates has been the driver. Mobile capabilities allow a retailer to break down the barrier between the online digital environment and the physical store. Mobile is driving retailers to upgrade and replace technology to keep ahead of their competitors’ customer experience offerings and to try to keep up with their very informed and technology-savvy customers.

Mobile Technology is an Enabler

MobileEnablerConsumers now use mobile devices to research products, compare prices, complete purchases online and increasingly to pay for in-store purchases. The proliferation of tablets and mobile phones has also created new opportunities for retailers to enhance customer service. Putting mobile devices in the hands of store associates enables inventory look-up (enterprise-wide) even for products not immediately available, supports the associate providing assistance to the customer on the selling floor, supports transaction processing anywhere in the store and anywhere in their supply chain.

Mobile is the Future

According to Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, many retailers are focused on expanding their mobile capabilities.

  • 286% more retailers plan to deploy mobile POS in the next two years
  • 165% more retailers plan to offer personalized recommendations via customer-facing mobile in 3 years
  • 56% of retailers plan to accept Apple Pay within 3 years

“The mobile device is the cash register of the future, the sales associate of the future and the wallet of the future – or rather the now!”

 

Mobile for Customer Identification and Personalization

BeaconsCustomers and their shopping behavior remain anonymous without some type of customer identification. One of the keys to influencing a customer’s purchase and offering a personalized experience is to identify the customer early, as soon as they enter the store. In BRP’s 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, 90% of the retailers surveyed said they were able to identify their customer in the store, which is up significantly from 73% in the 2014 survey. However, in many cases, customer identification is happening at the point of checkout or later, which is too late to influence the current purchase decision.

In BRP’s CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, very few retailers (6%) indicated they have the ability to identify customers when they walk in the store via their smartphone. The bigger story is the 53% who plan to implement this within five years – that’s an 883% increase

Keys to Mobile Success

As discussed in our panel session, here are a few things retailers need to do to successfully deploy mobile capabilities:

  • Create a consistent experience across all channels
  • Know everything about your customer:Customer Information
    • Personal preferences
    • Purchase history
    • Key dates (anniversary, bithdays,etc.)
    • What’s in their closet?
    • Where did they browse?
    • Did they abandon an online cart?
  • Be as connected as your customers
  • Train sales associates on using mobile technology (change management)
  • Have the right infrastructure: network, middleware, order management
  • Have visibility and access to customer and product information across the enterprise – in real-time!

Mobile Challenges

She is Moving FasterHere are a few challenges our retail panelist discussed:

  • Keeping up with Customers and Technology
  • Privacy and Security
  • Inventory Accuracy
  • High-Speed Internet Access In-store with WiFi
  • Choosing the right Technology Partners

Mobile is definitely the future of retail, as consumers demand it and retailers are focused on enhancing their mobile capabilities.  Are you keeping up with your customers’ desires for mobile features?

For more details on mobile technology for retail, download the full report:

2015 Shop.org Recap – How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience?

As always, I appreciate your perspectives on this topic. Please share your comments below.

Ken

The Future Store Manifesto – Real-time Retail Changes Everything!

Boston Retail Partners published “The Future Store Manifesto” today to articulate our vision of the future store and identify the challenges and imperatives retailers face in delivering the experience consumers expect.Store of Future Quote2 This blog post is an executive summary of the Manifesto. I encourage you to read to full The Future Store Manifesto to see what the future holds for retail stores.

Here is an abridged version of the paper…TheFutureStoreManifesto_Cover

With the rapid adoption of smartphones, today’s consumers are always connected and have access to unlimited information at their fingertips. Consumers expect their shopping experience to transcend channels so they can shop anywhere, buy anywhere, pick up anywhere and receive service anywhere.

The digital world is infiltrating the physical store, where consumers are equipped with their smartphones and a new set of expectations. While two-thirds of online transactions occur after a shopper visits the store, 90% of all retail sales transactions still occur within the store.

Over the past twenty years, many in the retail industry have predicted the demise of the physical store. The store is still the foundation of retail; it is where the tactile and sensory experience comes together for the consumer. The store is the theatre for shopping. However, we are on the cusp of a significant and fundamental transformation in the store environment.

Online shoppers are now accustomed to features such as product reviews, extensive assortments, one-click transaction processing and personalized recommendations. Retailers must therefore infuse digital features into the store environment to exceed customer expectations.

The store of the future must be mobile, relevant, personal, ubiquitous and secure.

MobileFutureStore_Mobile

There’s no question that mobile devices are pervasive, and have changed shopping behavior and elevated expectations. Wearables, a form of mobile, are now available to the masses. The store of the future will allow the shopper to simultaneously browse online through their digital glasses while shopping within the store, and then simply wave their watch to purchase their items. Mobile devices enable associates to enhance customer service through mobile point of sale which enables the completion of a customer’s purchase on the sales floor at the moment a buying decision is made.

Relevant

Identifying customers when they walk in the store allows the retailer to understand shopping history and communicate relevant and personalized information to the shopper based on “customer context.” Customer context – the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant – is essential to personalizing the shopping experience. Technologies such as touch screens, virtual mirrors and virtual reality offer possibilities for further interaction and a more immersive environment.

FutureStore_PersonalPersonal

Mobile devices used by store associates to assist customers with clienteling, guided selling, inventory look-up, and even checkout throughout the store are prime examples of ways retailers personalize the customer experience. The future store may also enable customers to videoconference with their favorite sales associate – from home.

Ubiquitous

“Real-time retail” is the ability to deliver a seamless personalized experience to the shopper whenever, wherever and however they choose to shop. It enables retailers to identify shoppers and gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing and inventory data across all channels – instantly. Without real-time data, information provided internally and externally is out-of-date and risks being inaccurate and out of context.

FutureStore_SecuritySecure

The store of the future requires a secure environment beyond retailers’ current focus on payments and network security. Retailers need to strike a balance with consumers between gathering information and maintaining trust. As retailers seek new ways to provide relevant information and experiences, like product recommendations via digital screens in the dressing rooms or facial recognition alerting an associate to a shopper’s arrival, they must understand the impact on the customer relationship.

Challenge – Current Environments Can’t Support the Store of the Future

Realizing the store of the future will be a challenge. Retailers have legacy systems, inconsistent customer data, and are generally not organized in a way that supports this transformation.

Outdated Legacy Systems

FutureStore_SilosThe evolution of the store has been constrained by disparate systems built in silos based on old technology and paradigms and a lack of robust networks; all creating today’s architecture and integration challenges.

For decades, retailers added new technology to support channels without integrating the application portfolio. Retailers now often have separate inventories and systems for order management, customer relationship management (CRM) and merchandising for each channel.

Multiple Versions of the Truth

Retailers have struggled to gain consistent, shareable and accurate customer and inventory data across the enterprise, which has hampered their ability to provide personalized, relevant service. As data grows exponentially, organizations grapple with distinct silos where inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent and redundant data resides. It is not surprising that a single version of the truth rarely exists. The ability to more effectively manage and synchronize data throughout the enterprise is an essential requirement for real-time retail. Real-time visibility to customer, product, price, inventory and order information across all channels is critical to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Organizational Change Fatigue

For most retailers, the pace of technology acceleration is confusing, overwhelming and exhausting. This has caused organizational change fatigue. Along with technology architecture and usability, retailers must address organizational change. Store associates must often learn new processes and take on additional responsibilities, often without receiving extra resources or relief from their everyday responsibilities. Retailers need to manage change and embrace a different architectural approach for today’s retail paradigm.

Key Takeaways

While the role of the physical store is changing, it remains the hub of the shopping journey. The digital world offers consumers new ways and “places” to research and shop. These digital possibilities, along with mobility, have raised consumer expectations, and forced retailers to transform and evolve to succeed.

The physical store will continue to be the heart and soul of retail operations for the foreseeable future; however, a transformation is in process. While the store isn’t going away, it’s about to get a whole lot more connected, mobile, smarter and exciting.


 

Download the full The Future Store Manifesto paper to get the complete story including the “Future Store Imperatives,” which are not included above.

As allows, I appreciate your opinions and suggestions.  Please leave your comments below.

Ken

Omnichannel Retailers Risk Survival Without Replacing Obsolete Planning Systems

Spend Matters – Despite consumers’ increasing preference for multichannel shopping options, retailers are still using decades-old merchandise planning systems that fail to address new challenges associated with omnichannel retailing, according to a recent survey by Boston Retail Partners.

Fewer than half (47%) of the retailers polled in BRP’s 2015 Merchandise Planning Survey said they plan to upgrade or replace their omnichannel planning systems in the next two years. An additional 15% said they would do so in the next three to five years, and 24% said they have no plans to upgrade or replace these outdated systems.

“Stores are under siege from other channels and unfortunately dealing with outdated and ineffective systems to address the complex planning process that is required in an omnichannel environment,” Ken Morris, principal at BRP, said in a press release. “All of this negatively impacts the customer experience and ultimately sales.”

The laggards should be a cause of concern for the industry. Having the proper technologies in place to support the rising omnichannel is key to survival for retailers. Without proper technologies, retailers will miss opportunities to forecast demand, better manage pricing and inventory levels and improve other facets of their businesses, the report said.

Read full article: Omnichannel Retailers Risk Survival Without Replacing Obsolete Planning Systems

Interview: Ken Morris, Boston Retail Partners

Customer Insights Blog – Last month at Shop.org Digital Summit in Philadelphia, after the panel “How Mobile Devices are Transforming In-Store and Customer Experiences” he moderate​d, I had the opportunity to talk with Ken Morris, Principal at Boston Retail Partners. Here is our conversation​:

Many retailers are using mobile for line-busting, which has a positive impact on revenues. However, there are many other mobile opportunities for retailers to enhance the customer experience and drive incremental sales. Having customer-facing WiFi is the first step, as many retailers currently do not offer this service. With WiFi in place, retailers can offer customers the opportunity to opt-in to your store WiFi which enables you to connect with your customers and personalize the shopping experience.

The next step for mobile is to engage with consumers via consumer-facing and associate-facing mobile apps.

For consumer apps, it’s great to offer item information, store locations/hours, and current specials/promos. However, the real differentiator is an app which can provide specific in-store data based on customer context. « Customer context” – the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant – is essential to personalizing the experience.

Read Full Article: Interview: Ken Morris, Boston Retail Partners

Survey: 63 percent of omnichannel retailers plan to upgrade merchandise planning software

DC Velocity – In an effort to upgrade their software platforms to keep up with the demands of omnichannel fulfillment, 63 percent of about 500 North American retailers plan to upgrade or replace their merchandise planning systems within two years, a new survey shows.

Most companies are changing their retail planning software systems because they aren’t aligned with the rapidly changing omnichannel planning environment, according to the 2015 Merchandise Planning Survey conducted by Massachusetts-based Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

About 58 percent of respondents said that improving their data analytics capabilities is the main reason for the upgrades. This would represent a significant boost over their legacy planning applications that were installed during the late 1990s or early 2000s to manage retail business models that are nearing obsolescence, BRP said.

In the long term, 78 percent of retailers plan to have a unified commerce platform within five years. That achievement could mark a big change in the way e-commerce retailers do business, because 49 percent of respondents said they still maintain separate product inventories for each channel. These investments could also yield new opportunities for merchandise-planning software providers such as JDA Software Group Inc., Logility Inc., and SAS.

Read full article: Survey: 63 percent of omnichannel retailers plan to upgrade merchandise planning software

Survey: Merchandisers plan for omnichannel complexity

Chain Store Age – Current retail planning systems may be out-of-date and not effectively addressing requirements for an omnichannel planning environment.

According to the new Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey, many retailers are using planning applications designed for old retail business models. Results show a large percentage of these systems were installed in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

For example, 63% of retailers plan to upgrade or replace their merchandise planning systems within two years. Fifty-eight percent of respondents indicated that improving analytics is their top priority for 2016. While 50% of retailers have implemented integrated merchandising plans (such as financial plans, promotional calendars, planning teams and assortment plans), most of these retailers indicate they need improvement. Forty-nine percent still maintain separate inventories for each channel.

Read full article: Survey: Merchandisers plan for omnichannel complexity

Why are 63% of retailers upgrading their merchandise planning systems within 2 years?

Current retail planning systems are out-of-date and don’t effectively address today’s requirements for an omni-channel planning environment, according to Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey. Many retailers are using planning applications designed for old retail business models with a large percentage of these systems installed in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Fast-forward to today, and many retailers are attempting to meet the needs of a 21st century customer while constrained by 20th century technology.

63PercentThe good news is that retailers realize the issue and 63% of our survey respondents plan to upgrade or replace their merchandise planning systems within two years. This is just one of the many insights identified in the 2015 Merchandise Planning Survey of top North American retailers. The survey results offer insights into retailers’ current planning initiatives, priorities, and future trends as the retail industry continues its omni-channel transformation.

Key findings in the 2015 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey include:2015 Merchandise Planning Survey Cover2

  • Planning systems are outdated – 63% of retailers plan to upgrade or replace their merchandise planning systems within two years
  • Analytics is the top priority – 58% of retailers indicated that improving analytics is their top priority for the next year
  • Advanced analytics are gaining traction – 75% of retailers use advanced analytics for merchandise planning, however, fewer use advanced analytics for store planning (45%), assortment planning (40%) and omni-channel planning (20%)
  • Integrated merchandising plans are not working well – While 50% of retailers have implemented integrated merchandising plans (financial plans, promotional calendars, planning teams and assortment plans), most of these retailers indicate they need improvement
  • Separate inventory across channels – 49% of retailers still maintain separate inventories for each channel
  • Social media use for merchandise planning is opportunistic – While 71% of retailers indicated that they capture customer feedback via social media, only 23% are using social media for product planning

I encourage you to read the report to learn about other key merchandise planning initiatives and priorities for retailers.

Download the complete report: 2015 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey

I hope you enjoy the report and welcome any comments or feedback.  Please share your comments below.

David

2 in 3 Retailers to Replace Outdated Merchandise Planning: Survey

Progressive Grocer – Two of three retailers plan to upgrade or replace their merchandise planning systems within two years because they are out-of-date and don’t effectively address current requirements for an omni-channel environment, says a new survey from Boston Retail Partners.

Many retailers are using planning applications designed for old retail business models, many of which were installed in the late 1990s or early 2000s, according to the consulting firm. As a result, many retailers today are trying to meet the needs of a 21st century customer while constrained by 20th century technology.

“Stores are under siege from other channels and unfortunately are dealing with outdated and ineffective systems to address the complex planning process that is required in an omni-channel environment,” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “All of this negatively impacts the customer experience and, ultimately, sales.”

Read full article: 2 in 3 Retailers to Replace Outdated Merchandise Planning: Survey