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CLOUD STRATEGIES: Proving Key to Personalization, Product Content Enhancement

Retail TouchPoints – The retail cloud business segment is expected to reach more than $28 billion by 2021, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.9%, according to research from MarketsandMarkets. As many as 70% of retailers say cloud will be a major factor in their business by 2020, according to a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit. But as more retailers jump aboard the cloud bandwagon, they should strive to gain a competitive edge with the technology that goes beyond the basic benefits of a cloud implementation.

This Retail TouchPoints Special Report will spotlight innovative strategies facilitated by cloud solutions that can help retailers achieve new business goals with speed and efficiency.

Many retailers already are leveraging cloud servers for business basics like POS processes, order management and fulfillment and communications across the enterprise. More advanced cloud offerings can help them:

  • Personalize offers even before the purchase journey begins;
  • Improve delivery and quality of product content offerings, especially as the number of SKUs they carry increases;
  • Unlock and unify customer data from disparate sources; and
  • Assist with in-store, mobile-powered guided selling.

ELIMINATING THE ‘SAFETY STOCK’ PROBLEM

Despite the introduction of cloud services, many merchants still haven’t taken the proper steps to give shoppers true “real-time” access to their inventory across channels. Many retailers still struggle with “safety stock” — additional quantities of an item held in inventory to reduce the risk that the item will be out of stock, according to Ken Morris, Principal of BRP.

“Let’s say I’m selling Tag Heuer watches — I must have a safety stock of two to account for this lag,”
said Morris. “If I have two or less items in a store, I have to tell corporate I have no items, because I have to account for the lag in updates to inventories between all the distribution centers and all of the stores. Although I may have two each in every store of 1,000 stores, it’s going to read as zero to someone trying to buy online and pick up in store.”

With a cloud service that incorporates data from all stores and distribution centers, retailers would be able to generate more accurate real-time stock numbers throughout the enterprise, without worrying about products going out-of-stock. Additionally, associates would be able to access this information quicker within the store, so they could assist consumers with real-time inventory data.

MOBILE APPS GUIDE IN-STORE SALES VIA SHOPPER DATA

Cloud platforms also can help retailers match products within the store to shoppers via guided selling. Morris described how an app recently designed for a BRP retail client offers guided selling in-store based on prior shopper behavior.

“Whatever they visited or put on their wish list or basket as they walked into the store, the app would guide them around to look at what they saw online and direct them with a Google map around the store,” Morris said. “This makes retail experiences way more relevant than most are today, especially because stores are changing. Having that data while the customer is in the store is key. To be able to affect the sale before checkout is what Amazon does every day online. They know who I am, they know what I buy, they know what I’m likely to buy and they help me through that sale.”

Read Full Article: CLOUD STRATEGIES: Proving Key to Personalization, Product Content Enhancement

The Future of Retail Requires Transformation

Retail Executive Magazine – “4 key trends are shaping future strategies and tactics to help retailers survive, adapt, and win,” said Brian Brunk, Principal at BRP. The traditional retail model has experienced significant disruption over the last decade. This cycle of disruption is being driven by ever-increasing customer expectations, competitive pressures from new entrants, and the proliferation of new technology like the smartphone. Customers’ journeys are varied and much more complicated than in the past.

Consumers now start and stop their shopping journey in various channels, including social media, and frequently shop for a product across different retailers, online and in the store. The path to purchase also varies by consumer and by the type of product they are purchasing. Consumers expect their experiences to be seamless and to have their “shopping cart” follow them throughout their journey. They perceive one experience across the entire brand, not broken into individual channels or locations.

As retailers adapt, customer engagement models must transform. Traditional retail lines are rapidly evolving. There is a blurring between the physical and digital environments but also an evolution of retail formats to include virtual showrooms, retail “theatre,” pop-ups, stores within stores, and more. As retailers find it more difficult to compete with commodity products, we expect to see more private-label brands as a key differentiator. In some cases, wholesale will become the new retail.

“The real disruptor on the horizon is self-driving vehicles, which will disrupt traditional supply chain models, consumer expectations, and the retail world.”

IT’S JUST RETAIL

Is this disruption new to retail? No — retail has gone through many periods of disruption over the years. The introduction of catalogs, the move to suburban malls, the rise of Walmart, and the advent of e-commerce are all examples of retail disruption cycles. However, the current rate of disruption and the subsequent transformation are probably the greatest many of us have seen or will ever see.

With the flurry of retail bankruptcies and store closure announcements, “Retail Apocalypse” has been the pervasive topic of the last 12 months. Mentions of “apocalypse” might work well when trying to grab headlines; however, the reality is something much subtler and far more interesting — the ever-evolving nature of retail and consumers. Retail is simply transforming. Overall, retail is growing, with many retailers opening new locations, increasing sales, and investing in the future. Retail is changing and, as always, there will be winners and losers.

Focusing on the “Retail Apocalypse” is liking hitting the pause button and ignoring what is really happening. Call it the “Great Retail Transformation”; it doesn’t matter. It’s the future, and it’s just retail.

Read Full Article: The Future of Retail Requires Transformation

The Executive's Handbook to Modern Digital Commerce

Oracle E-Book – How to get the most out of your technology investment and provide a superior shopping experience.

Ten short years ago, brands relied upon a handful of point solutions for their digital commerce needs. The mobile frontier loomed, the Internet of Things hadn’t been born, and arti cial intelligence was still a Hollywood fantasy. Nearly every brand sold more products in-store than online. In what felt like an instant, everything changed.

Mobile exploded.Technology evolved. Innovative organizations created extraordinary digital commerce experiences, which in turn heightened customer expectations across the board.

The pace of digital change left many in the dust. For the rst time in digital commerce history, key digital commerce solution providers began developing integrated cloud suites.These early offerings forced brands to choose between site performance and an ideal customer experience. Inef ciency and legacy challenges ensued.

Fortunately, today’s digital commerce teams, from marketers to developers, no longer need to choose between speed, scale, functionality, or innovative site experiences.

We created this handbook to help digital commerce leaders make a compelling case for having it all.

KEN MORRIS ON REAL-TIME CLOUD AGILITY (EXCERPT FROM PAGE 22)

“Real-time retail, through unified commerce, enables retailers to identify the customer and gather, analyze, and disseminate customer, product, pricing, and inventory data across all channels—instantly. Consumers expect a seamless experience in the store, on the web, and via their mobile device— making real-time retail the new industry imperative.

Retailers are increasingly turning to a common, unified platform to deliver consistent, relevant shopping experiences across all channels. This centralizes data storage and application integration and allows easier real-time access to information across the ecosystem (stores, distribution centers, suppliers, etc.).  According to BRP’s 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey, 9% of retailers currently offer a single commerce platform, with 62% planning to implement one within three years.

Cloud computing, either off or on premises, offers the quickest and surest path to seamlessly connect all ecommerce, mobile commerce and in-store transactions to order management, inventory, marketing, financials, supply chain, and customer service. Retailers are recognizing the value of centralizing applications in the cloud: speed of deployment, faster software updates, lower software costs, and a real-time, single version of the truth.”

KEN MORRIS ON OBSTACLES TO INNOVATION (EXCERPT FROM PAGE 28)

“Many retailers have started down an omnichannel path by offering services that emulate the seamless holistic shopping experience that the customer expects, but in most cases the method is manual and involves complex integration across multiple systems and processes, and often doesn’t work very well in real time.

There are several bottlenecks or challenges retailers face on the road to implementing a uni ed commerce platform, including: complicated and rigid legacy systems, inadequate network bandwidth, lack of budget/funding, limited time and staff resources, and navigating the complex, rapidly evolving solution landscape.

The first step to overcoming these challenge is to develop a long-term business and IT plan that identi es the roadmap, the strategies, the process, the organization structure, the matching application portfolio, and the mission critical ROI driven implementation sequencing retailers can execute against.”

Read Full Article: The Executive’s Handbook to Modern Digital Commerce

All CIOs Want For 2017…Is Unified Commerce

Retail TouchPoints – November 25, 2016 lived up to its name for many retailers, signaling the start of holiday shopping and revenue generation. Unfortunately, for some unprepared retailers these results were disappointing.

Black Friday, along with its digital cousin Cyber Monday, signaled the official launch to holiday commerce and kicked off a season to be jolly for those retailers with a robust technology infrastructure. But it was a Blue Holiday Season for those who did not sufficiently invest in the infrastructure and processes that lay the foundation for a true omni-channel shopping experience.

This holistic and interconnected approach – unified commerce – is increasingly the conduit for delivering a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels and touch points.
Unified commerce goes beyond omnichannel by enabling a single, holistic platform, combining in-store, mobile, e-Commerce and every other function throughout the enterprise. As such, it is quickly becoming the new retail imperative. While just 18% of retailers have implemented a unified commerce platform, another 57% plan to do so within three years.

Clearly, the presence (or absence) of unified commerce can make (or break) the customer experience – especially during the holiday season.

With the dust having settled from the holiday 2016, here are some insights into what retail CIOs and IT managers have on their wish lists for 2017…and beyond.

  • Unified Commerce Environment
  • Enhanced Mobile Capabilities
  • Virtual POS
  • Robust Network

Like water flowing out of a spigot, customer traffic – whether in-store, online or in-app – is a precious commodity that can pass through a business, never to return, if the resources aren’t there to capture it. Shoppers are in control, and their loyalty is only as strong as their next shopping experience.

Those retailers who remain slow in delivering a unified commerce experience will likely see the impact by the 2017 holiday shopping season – in the form of sluggish sales.

And those who are willing and able to effectively execute on omni-channel services are destined to have Happy Holidays, indeed.

Read Full Article: All CIOs Want For 2017…Is Unified Commerce

Unified Commerce is Changing POS Forever

RIS News – Retailers are in the midst of an arduous but essential transition from siloed channels to unified commerce. Much of that work entails transforming the underlying infrastructure that controls the way merchandise is planned, orders are managed, inventory is distributed and customer data is accessed.

But the unified commerce transformation also changes the end points that feed off that foundation. POS, long considered the heart of a retailer’s store systems, is now disrupted. At the same time retailers are shifting their cultures and infrastructure, they must reconsider how POS functions in this new world.

“Traditional in-store POS capabilities are becoming modularized and are being migrated to a single commerce platform,” says Brian Brunk, principal, Boston Retail Partners (BRP). “With the increasing sophistication of today’s network technology, we will see a more rapid movement of these capabilities to the cloud. POS as we know it today will be changed forever.”

Why Unified Commerce
Eight-five percent of retailers consider unified commerce a top priority, according to BRP’s “17th Annual POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey,” but 37% also report their POS software is more than five years old. So at the same time they are working to integrate or replace disparate backend systems, those retailers need to revisit the role of POS in the customer experience, and consider how they can align new solutions with both where they are now and where they want to go. That’s a lot to take on.

In the company’s benchmarking survey, BRP’s Bunk, called this singular approach “the game changer, as it fundamentally changes how retailers think about POS and is driving much of the activity we are seeing in the solution marketplace.”

Read Full Article: Unified Commerce is Changing POS Forever

How are Retailers Progressing on the Journey to the “Future Store?”

One year after The Future Store Manifesto was published, BRP issued a scorecard to evaluate how retailers are progressing along the road to the “future store.” The Future Store Manifesto – 2016 Scorecard, sponsored by Salesforce Commerce Cloud, highlights how retailers are changing their initiatives to align with the key future store imperatives: mobile, relevant, personal, ubiquitous and secure.

“It is impressive to see how many retailers are making the five critical elements of the future store a top priority, however, many retailers have a long way to go. 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 already starting to get a whole lot more connected, mobile and smarter.” – Ken Morris, principal at BRP.

The digital world is infiltrating brick and mortar stores, where consumers are equipped with smartphones and a new set of expectations. Over the past twenty years, many in the retail industry have predicted the demise of the physical store. But the reality is, the store is still the foundation of retailing. It is where the tactile and sensory experience comes together for the consumer. To succeed, retailers are infusing digital features into the store environment to personalize the shopping experience, compete more effectively with online pure-play retailers and exceed customer expectations. The store is not dead, it’s digitized!

“The unified consumer experience is table stakes today, and retailers know it. They don’t question  why they should do unified commerce. They question how – as in, how to break down the silos between digital and store systems to get to the omni-channel use cases. It all starts with a move to a single, real-time view of the consumer, prices and inventory availability across all channels.” –  Eric Olafson, SVP Stores, Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

future_store_manifest_2016_coverHere are a few of the key findings in this special report:

  • Mobile – 78% of retailers plan to use mobile POS to enable associates to complete a customer’s purchase on the sales floor by the end of 2018
  • Relevant – 58% of retailers plan to utilize geolocation within two years
  • Personal – 51% of retailers plan to offer suggested selling based on what is in the customer’s closet by mid-2019 
  • Ubiquitous – 50% of retailers will allow a customer transaction to start anywhere, finish anywhere within five years 
  • Secure – 88% of retailers plan to have end-to-end encryption (E2EE) implemented to ensure data security by 2019

I encourage you to download and read The Future Store Manifesto – 2016 Scorecard:

https://brpconsulting.com/future-store-manifesto-2016-scorecard/

I hope you enjoy the report. As always, I appreciate your insights and opinions on this topic. Please share your thoughts below.

David

Transform the Customer Experience – Keys to Mobile Success

This is a recap of an article I wrote for the RIS New Special Report: 2016 Mobile Products & Solutions Guide (see page 6 – Transform the Experience).

Transform the Experience

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-12-39-pmThere has been a huge technology shift in the past few years and mobile technology is the driver. Mobile capabilities enable retailers to break down the barrier between the online digital environment and the physical store. The proliferation of tablets and smartphones has created new opportunities for retailers to enhance the customer experience to meet the expectations of their very informed and technology-savvy customers.

Retailers are increasingly using mobile devices to transform the customer experience in three key areas:

POS

Mobile POS frees associates from the checkout desk to enable more personal interaction and it simplifies the customer’s experience. According to BRP’s “2016 POS Survey,” 20% of retailers have implemented mobile POS and 78% plan to utilize within three years. We are seeing a growing trend of retailers implementing a flexible mobile POS option where a tablet inserted in a docking station can be a replacement for traditional POS. Mobile POS offers a lower initial upfront cost and is disposable, enabling retailers to eliminate annual maintenance costs.

Guided Selling

Retailers can leverage the knowledge and skills of an “A” associate through mobile apps, ostensibly turning their “B” and “C” associates into “A” associates. According to the 2016 POS Survey, only 14% of retailers currently offer suggested selling based on a customer’s previous purchase, however, 72% of retailers plan to offer this service within three years.

Customer Engagementscreen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-00-13-pm

Leveraging consumers’ mobile devices to identify them as they walk into the store enables retailers to enhance the shopping experience through more personalized services. Once customers are identified, retailers can send personalized offers and recommendations to their smartphones and provide interactive product suggestions. According to the same survey, only 10% of retailers can identify customers via near field communications (NFC) today, however, within three years 50% of retailers plan to have this capability.

Keys to Mobile Success

There is no debate that mobile is a key component to enhancing the customer experience. Below are a few best practices to ensure your mobile deployment is a success:

  • Identify customers as they enter the store and know everything about them and their environment: personal preferences, purchase history, key dates, browsing history, and cart abandonment information.
  • Train sales associates and educate customers on using mobile technology.
  • Have the right infrastructure: network, WiFi, middleware and order management.
  • Ensure real-time visibility and access to product information across the enterprise.

Mobile is clearly the new frontier changing retailers’ customer engagement model, operational budgets, in-store procedures and layouts. Mobile is definitely the future of retail, consumers demand it and retailers are focused on meeting consumer expectations by enhancing their mobile capabilities.

Are you keeping up with your customers’ desires for mobile features?

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

Ken

Transform the Experience

RIS News – There has been a huge technology shift in the past few years and mobile technology is the driver. Mobile capabilities enable retailers to break down the barrier between the online digital environment and the physical store. The proliferation of tablets and smartphones has created new opportunities for retailers to enhance the customer experience to meet the expectations of their very informed and technology-savvy customers.

This is an excerpt from a byline article by Ken Morris, principal at BRP, that was published in the RIS New Special Report: 2016 Mobile Products & Solutions Guide.

Retailers are increasingly using mobile devices to transform the customer experience in three key areas:

transform-the-experiencePOS. Mobile POS frees associates from the checkout desk to enable more personal interaction and it simplifies the customer’s experience. According to BRP’s “2016 POS Survey,” 20% of retailers have implemented mobile POS and 78% plan to utilize within three years. We are seeing a growing trend of retailers implementing a flexible mobile POS option where a tablet inserted in a docking station can be a replacement for traditional POS. Mobile POS offers a lower initial upfront cost and is disposable, enabling retailers to eliminate annual maintenance costs.

Guided Selling. Retailers can leverage the knowledge and skills of an “A” associate through mobile apps, ostensibly turning their “B” and “C” associates into “A” associates. According to the 2016 POS Survey, only 14% of retailers currently offer suggested selling based on a customer’s previous purchase, however, 72% of retailers plan to offer this service within three years.

Customer Engagement. Leveraging consumers’ mobile devices to identify them as they walk into the store enables retailers to enhance the shopping experience through more personalized services. Once customers are identified, retailers can send personalized offers and recommendations to their smartphones and provide interactive product suggestions. According to the same survey, only 10% of retailers can identify customers via near field communications (NFC) today, however, within three years 50% of retailers plan to have this capability.

Read full report (Transform the Experience – Page 6):

2016 Mobile Product & Solution Guide: Mobile Customers, Mobile Retailing, Mobile Generation

The Future POS

RIS News – Tomorrow’s POS will be mobile, virtual and unified. Point-of-sale (POS) devices have advanced tremendously over the past 30 years, but during the next five years this evolution will really accelerate. With the pervasive adoption of mobile devices among retailers and consumers and fast, reliable and secure networks, it is the perfect storm to truly revolutionize POS. The traditional fixed POS device will be augmented, and in many cases totally replaced, with a combination of new technologies that are mobile, virtual and unified.

Read the complete POS Special Report: Sparking POS Innovation

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Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 11.53.52 AM

Connected vehicle commerce must prove its functionality to prevail

Mobile Marketer – As vehicle manufacturers compete for innovation leadership in connected cars, commerce is playing a big part, but not all new features are likely to be deemed practical by users.

Toyota, Ford and Honda are among the multitude of manufacturers partnering with commerce companies and software developers to bring payment features to connected vehicles for a broader stance in mobile. While all brands are focusing on creating solutions for vehicle-based retail such as parking and gas, Visa is broadening its capabilities through a Pizza Hut partnership, but some speculate on its necessity.

“Consumers love convenience and the initial reaction of using their car to pay for services may be intriguing,” said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. “However, there are a lot of challenges that may make mass adoption less interesting or attainable.”

“How is this different and better than using apps on mobile devices to accomplish the same objectives, with the exception that drivers will be touching the monitor on the dashboard instead of their phone and is this really that much safer,” he said. “Some challenges with separate connectivity from the auto’s dashboard monitor include, does it require an additional monthly fee for access and internet connection, how long will it take manufacturers to build it into their traditional 5-year production roadmap, will it be more difficult to update systems than for mobile apps?”

Read Full Article: Connected vehicle commerce must prove its functionality to prevail