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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

Retailers Want Your Data: Here’s How They Get It

PC Mag – If you’re a business owner, knowing your audience is key. But how best to collect data on customers? According to Boston Retail Partners, 37 percent of retailers use more personalized service as an incentive to have consumers identify themselves, while another 37 percent offer no incentives at all. About 30 percent offer product-based incentives (such as buy one-get one free), while others dangle easy returns or exchanges—if you sign up for an account.

The more a retailer knows about you—from products you’ve purchased to those you’ve browsed, favorited, or put in your cart for later—the easier it is for them to find ways to get more of your dollars. There is a whole industry filled with products, information services, and agencies designed to reconcile and act on much of the anonymous browsing conducted on retailer websites.

Read Full Article: Retailers Want Your Data: Here’s How They Get It

The Retail Firmament: Email And The Customer Experience

MediaPost – Retailers are crawling toward delivering a holistic customer experience. And they have a long way to go, according to The Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, a report by BRP.

Most retailers use personal email — 81% say they do. And 12% expect to use it within three years. But 45% admit their email marketing needs improvement. And not all are succeeding at delivering a unified cross-channel experience to customers.

Of over 500 North American retailers polled, 81% pursue a multichannel or omnichannel program, but only 5% have reached a “true unified commerce model,” the study states.

The result is a “faux” omnichannel model, according to BRP, a retail management consulting firm.

Overall, the top priority of the respondents is to increase customer loyalty — 53% are pursuing this goal. The second objective, cited by 42%, is to optimize the customer experience.

Read full article: The Retail Firmament: Email And The Customer Experience

Study: ‘Seamless shopping’ is still a pipe dream

Chain Store Age – Retailers know it is critical for shopping experiences to be seamless and frictionless, yet these experiences are still few and far between.

While most consumers expect the ability to shop effortlessly across channels, only 7% of retailers currently provide a complete unified commerce experience that allows a customer to “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere,” according to the “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey,” from Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

Knowing that consumers will often stop shopping a brand after just one bad customer moment, retailers are making big plans to converge digital and physical retail environments to facilitate a seamless experience across channels going forward. Within three years, 50% of companies plan to offer a complete unified commerce experience that allows a customer to start and finish the sale anywhere.

To help retailers prepare for this journey, BRP offers the “E5 of Customer Experience”: Educate, Engage, Execute, Enhance and Enabler.

“With customer expectations continuing to rise, it is promising to see how many retailers are focused on adding new capabilities to enhance the shopping experience,” said Perry Kramer, senior VP and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners.

Read Full Article: Study: ‘Seamless shopping’ is still a pipe dream

Denver: Retailers court Hispanic, millennial shoppers

Drug Store News – Two major demographic shifts are happening in Colorado. One is a surging Hispanic population, and the other is the emergence of millennials, who in 2015 became the largest generational group, surpassing baby boomers, resulting in nearly 40% of residents being under the age of 18 years old. These factors are affecting the retail marketplace throughout the state and especially in Denver, the biggest city.

Meanwhile, there isn’t a competitive situation in the drug store channel. ARM Insight reported that Walgreens controls the business with an 86% market share. Rite Aid and CVS Pharmacy are behind at 10% and 4.0% respectively.

Whether it’s the drug or grocery channel, winning retailers are adapting their product mix, promotions and services to appeal to the market demographics that are growing — a health-and-wellness focus for millennials and Latino food and beverages for Hispanic shoppers.

“Adding bilingual signage and packaging will make shopping easier for non-English speaking customers, and will increase brand loyalty,” Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, said. “Retailers are also expanding product offerings to appeal to various ethnic interests, including specialty food items, makeup with broader skin tones, broader clothing sizes and styles, etc.”

Read Full Article: Denver: Retailers court Hispanic, millennial shoppers

Retail and Consumer Goods Analytics Study 2018: May the Best Insights Win

RIS News – Challenged at one end by digital behemoths and at the other by nimble, born-in-the-cloud startups, retailers and consumer goods companies are under tremendous pressure to deliver exceptional, personalized customer experiences that drive revenue and repeat business. The emergence of an analytics arms race has forced companies to find ways to expend their limited resources on technologies and applications they believe will deliver the most bang for the buck.

As retail and CG executives seek to build their analytics infrastructure, governance and talent pools, they must also rethink internal processes and shift their cultures toward an analytics mindset. And even as they gain capabilities, new market demands emerge that continually raise the bar ever higher.

But the analytics marketplace is also evolving rapidly, offering new capabilities such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, supported by cloud architecture, that carry the potential to turbocharge analytics programs. These not only discern data patterns more quickly, but sometimes even generate their own algorithms to further fine-tune output.

Comments from Ken Morris, Principal, BRP:

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“While advanced analytics are valuable for almost all areas of retail, they are most critical for replenishment and customer personalization,” says Ken Morris, principal at BRP Consulting. “Advanced analytics are necessary to predict inventory levels across channels that are complicated by omnichannel fulfillment.”

Although analytics is important to every aspect of retailing, “You can’t over-emphasize the customer aspect of analytics, as it is imperative,” says Morris. “Understanding what loyal customers like and what makes former loyal customers leave will tell you where you need to focus.”

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“Retailers are recognizing the value of centralizing applications in the cloud: speed of deployment, faster software updates, lower software, hardware and maintenance costs, and a realtime, single version of the truth,” says Morris. “Real-time visibility and access to product and customer information is critical to effectively executing cross-channel fulfillment services. Without real-time data, information provided internally and externally is out-of-date and, therefore, risks being inaccurate and out of context.”

Read Full Article: Retail and Consumer Goods Analytics Study 2018: May the Best Insights Win

Personalization key to retaining valuable clientele: Boston Retail Partners

Luxury Daily – Personalizing consumers’ retail experiences can lead to loyalty and increased spending, according to a new report from Boston Retail Partners.

Today consumers expect more individualized communications and interactions with retailers, with 59 percent saying that personalization impacts their purchasing decisions. Identifying and appealing to shoppers with relevant offers or communications can help to establish a relationship between consumer and brand.

“While many retailers think of Amazon as the enemy, they do many things very well that are worth emulating: offering personalized online experiences, efficient delivery times, reasonable or free shipping for preferred members and an easy checkout process,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “Amazon has made personalization mandatory for most retailers because they have elevated consumers’ expectation for most shopping experiences.”

“Creating a personalized shopping experience is most critical for the luxury retail segment, as it typically has the longest one-on-one customer engagement model and customers expect the highest level of service,” Boston Retail Partners’ Mr. Kramer said. “Successfully engaging with customers on a personal level requires retailers to identify the customer early in the process at any touchpoint, which initiates dialogue and sets the foundation for relationship building and personalized experiences based on customer context.

“Customer context is the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant,” he said. “It enables retailers to personalize the shopping experience based on customer preferences, purchase history, their closet, their most recent online browsing history, time of day, weather and their physical location – all based on real-time information, personalized to create a bond with customers and encourage customer loyalty.

Read the full article: Personalization key to retaining valuable clientele: Boston Retail Partners

The associate is the key to the customer experience

As technology continues to advance and consumers change the way they shop, the customer experience also needs to evolve. The key is that it is all about the customer. Convenience and reducing frustration and aggravation are key priorities for most consumers. Whatever retailers can do to personalize the shopping experience and make it easy will go a long way towards earning loyalty and increasing sales.

While leveraging technology and self-service options are compelling options, I think some retailers are losing focus on customer service. As retailers look to cut costs by reducing staff in stores, it can have a negative impact on the customer experience. The big advantage that physical stores have over online shopping is the ability to provide a truly personalized shopping experience. However, if you don’t have enough sales associates in your store, you risk frustrating customers that are looking for assistance but can’t find an associate.

Consumers continue to spend time in stores because they seek unique experiences and the ability to touch and feel products. Creating the necessary customer experience also relies on well-informed and available sales associates. Today’s information-savvy consumers are not satisfied with just a ‘warm body’ or ‘one size fits all’ experience – they expect retailers to put time and effort into establishing and offering a personalized experience. Associates are a vital component of this effort, which means retailers need to effectively, train, educate, motivate and arm store employees with tools to ensure that they can and will fulfill the customer’s desire for a personalized experience.

Retailers can enhance their customer service offerings by empowering associates with mobile tools to access customer information based on providing associate-facing and customer-facing applications on their phones that leverage customer information. Knowing what is in the customer’s closet, what they have previously purchased, or even what other customers with similar profiles are mixing and matching together offers associates valuable data that can be used to tailor the shopping experience. In BRP’s 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Survey we found that 51% of retailers agree that empowering associates with mobile tools is a top customer engagement priority.

Providing associates with the tools needed will go a long way towards making the customer’s shopping experience personal and convenient without any added aggravation. The key is to remember the customer is the center of the universe.  Do your customers feel this way?

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

Ken

Is Alexa the Future of Customer Service?

Is Alexa the Future of Customer Service?

45% of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) within three years to enhance the customer experience, according to the 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey.

According to the report from BRP, 55% of retailers are focused on optimizing the customer experience to increase customer loyalty by improving the mobile shopping experience and creating a unified experience across all channels.

“The customer experience in a unified commerce world is much more complex than it is in a pure play e-commerce or brick-and-mortar retail environment and we are seeing retailers map out the entire customer journey to design the optimal customer experience,” said Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead at BRP. “This complexity expands exponentially as the proliferation of social media, the Internet of Things, (IoT), artificial intelligence and machine learning influence the retail world and more specifically, the customer journey.”

Stores must now encompass both worlds – the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, such as touching and feeling merchandise and personally interacting with a knowledgeable associate – whether simply human or a combination of AI and human characteristics – married with the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world. The physical and digital worlds are forever intertwined as we look to the future.

BRP conducted the 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey to understand retailers’ customer experience priorities today and for the future, and how the evolution of unified commerce helps provide retailers with the right people, processes and technology to enable retailers to enhance the customer experience.

The key customer experience capabilities are:

Educate – One of the areas of greatest improvement is the offering of social media as a research option for customers to learn more about the brand and products. Overall utilization is up from 73% of retailers utilizing it last year to 92% this year, however, many retailers indicate that their current social media offerings need improvement.

Engage – Most retailers have plans to implement new technologies to identify customers via their smartphones, mobile applications and other emerging technologies. Within three years, 59% of retailers plan to use Wi-Fi and 63% plan to use mobile apps to identify customers in their stores.

Execute – 67% of retailers are offering a consistent product assortment across channels; however, many retailers are still struggling with manual processes as 43% indicate the processes need improvement.

Enhance – Retailers realize the importance of utilizing customer insights gathered from social media as 89% of retailers are now using social media comments as a critical customer satisfaction measurement, up from 59% last year.

Enablers – Enhanced networks are a critical requirement for a unified commerce environment and 76% of retailers plan to enhance or replace their network within the next three years.

A special thanks goes to the survey sponsors: the platinum sponsor is Aptos and the gold sponsors are Cayan, ECRS, Experian Data Quality, Fujitsu, Manhattan Associates, Mi9 Retail, NCR, Netsuite, PCMS, Radial, Tyco Retail Solutions.

I encourage you to download and read the complete report:

2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey

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

David

 

Mobile Devices are Accelerating the move to Unified Commerce

According to the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, retailers understand that the always-connected consumer expects a personalized, seamless experience wherever, whenever and however she shops and they are focused on delivering a unified customer experience.

“Unified commerce goes beyond omni-channel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform,” said Brian Brunk, principal at BRP. “Retailers are moving in this direction with 71% planning to have a unified commerce platform within three years.”

Critical to unified commerce are the four key pillars that define the required customer experience: personal, mobile, seamless and secure. Personalization of the customer experience is key and offering more mobile options and real-time retail are necessary to make the experience seamless across channels. To ensure the trust and loyalty of the customer, data security is also critical.

BRP’s 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current priorities and initiatives as the digital and physical worlds converge to facilitate a seamless experience across channels.

The key customer experience trends driving today’s initiatives are:

I encourage you to read the full report.  Download the free report here:

2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey

A special thanks goes out to the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey sponsors: platinum sponsor is Manhattan Associates and the gold sponsors are Aptos, Diebold Nixdorf, EarthLink, Experian Data Quality, Fujitsu, PCMS, Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Tata Consultancy Services.

I hope you enjoy the report.

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

David