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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

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

Aldo’s bricks-and-mortar connected store experience laces up mobile-inspired sales

Mobile Commerce Daily – Footwear and accessories retailer Aldo is the latest brand to integrate mobile with the bricks-and-mortar landscape, enabling shoppers at its new Westfield World Trade Center location to use its application and self-serve tablets to enjoy a more personalized shopping experience.

Aldo’s connected store opened its doors at the Westfield World Trade Center in New York this week. Shoppers can leverage the brand’s mobile app to unlock various features, such as product wish lists, and purchase items that may not be physically present in a desired size or style, showcasing how retailers can use smartphone-led technology to expand consumer-facing inventory and revamp traditional bricks-and-mortar browsing experiences.

“The enhanced personalized features driven by mobile apps and more meaningful interactions between the customer and sales associate will help customer find and buy the right products based on customer context,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners. “With customer context, retailers can guide the shopping journey based on what a customer has in her closet, what she previously purchased, what she browsed on the Web site and abandoned in her online cart, when she is near your store and even exactly what she is browsing and where within the store.

“In addition to customer insights, customer context considers environmental conditions such as current and forecasted weather, time of day, time of year, media, social media, traffic, holidays, events, and other conditions that impact a consumer’s purchase decision,” he said.

“The main reason customers leave empty-handed is because they are not helped by an associate or can’t find what they are looking for. The new features of Aldo’s new connected store, which leverages customer context, will help eliminate this problem.”

Read Full Article: Aldo’s bricks-and-mortar connected store experience laces up mobile-inspired sales

The Customer Journey is not a Linear Process

However difficult it may be to attain, a great customer experience is only achieved through delivered excellence across all interactions throughout the customer’s chosen journey.

What makes this challenging for retailer is the fact that the customer journey is never a linear process – customers want to quickly and easily move across channels to research, shop, and interact with your brand and they expect their journey to be personalized. To complicate this further, the mobilization of retail has created a paradigm shift towards the convergence of the retail digital and physical experiences, which creates a need for real-time retail.

The customer journey can be simple or complex, and is different for each customer and individual purchase. The journey may begin or end in the store or online, and along that path it often has tie-ins to social media activity. It’s not important that we have specific labels for these scenarios, like webrooming or showrooming, but simply that we understand the customer journey is very dynamic. As retailers we have the opportunity to optimize and enhance this experience to drive increased customer loyalty. This is why ‘start anywhere, end anywhere’ cross-channel capabilities are so important, like enabling a unified or shared shopping cart across channels. Delivering on that experience requires a different approach and this sets the stage for unified commerce.

The-Customer-Journey-BaseTo better understand and analyze the customer journey, BRP segments the customer experience into the five E’s or E5.

The E5 of Customer Experience:
  • Educate – Offer customers the tools to research your brand and products
  • Engage – Interact with the customer wherever, whenever, and however they want to shop and engage with the brand
  • Execute – Ensure the organization offers the services and options that the customer wants and expects when they make a purchase
  • Enhance – Understand what you are doing right and what you need to do better so you can continually improve the customer experience
  • Enablers – Leverage the right technology, system, and tools to deliver the desired customer experience

Our recent Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey delves deeper into what retailers are doing, or plan to do, to deliver the seamless cross-channel experience customers want.

I encourage you to download the read the survey report:

DOWNLOAD: 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey

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

David

Why are Retailers Laser Focused on Unified Commerce?

Retail Partners (BRP) conducted the 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of top North American retailers to understand what retailers are currently undertaking to enhance the customer experience and the current state and future plans of unified commerce. This blog post highlights the key findings.

Retail is more complicated than ever! The customer journey is never a linear process – customers want to quickly and easily move across channels to research, shop, and interact with your brand and they expect their journey to be personalized. To complicate this further, the mobilization of retail has spurred the convergence of the digital and physical experience – creating the need for real-time retail. The key to meeting elevated customer expectations is to create a consistent, personalized and satisfying shopping experience wherever, whenever and however they shop. Delivering on that experience requires a different approach that sets the stage for unified commerce.

“The customer journey can be simple or complex and can be different for each customer and each individual purchase. It’s not important that what we have specific labels for these scenarios, like webrooming or showrooming, but simply that we understand that the customer journey is one that is very dynamic and as retailers we have the opportunity to optimize and enhance this experience to drive increased customer loyalty. This is why “start anywhere, end anywhere” cross-channel capabilities are so important, like enabling a unified or shared shopping cart across channels,” said Brian Brunk, principal, Boston Retail Partners.

“Over the last several months we have read stories that indicate malls and traditional in-store retail are dead; however, in reality, retailers like ZARA and Apple are thriving in many of the same mall locations,” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “The key difference between retail ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ is the customer experience. Going forward, retail success will be dependent on delivering an exceptional customer experience and without it, retailers will fail.”

 

2016 Unified Commerce Report CoverKey findings in the 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey include:

  • 51% of retailers indicate that creating a seamless and optimized experience across channels is a top priority this year
  • 44% of retailers state that increasing customer loyalty is a focus for the next 12 months
  • 75% of retailers plan to have a single commerce platform within 3 years
  • Nearly 90% of retailers plan to have as part of their unified commerce platform, centralized inventory management, order management system and integrated CRM
  • 89% of retailers indicate that within three years social media will be the predominant forum for interaction with the brand
  • At least 75% of retailers plan to have mobile apps for associates and customers within three years

Download the complete survey report:  2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey

A special thanks goes out to all of the sponsors of the 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey: Aptos (platinum), Experian Data Quality (gold), Fujitsu (gold), Manhattan Associates (gold), NCR (gold), PCMS (gold), Radial (gold), and Enactor (silver).

As always, I appreciate your feedback on the this survey report.  I hope you enjoy it!

David

How do we get from faux omni-channel to unified commerce? – RetailTechCon 2016 Workshop Recap

Boston Retail Partners conducted the “How do we get from faux omni-channel to unified commerce? ” workshop at RetailTechCon in Orlando on March 31, 2016. The workshop brought together leading retailers for a discussion on how retailers can fix the problems associated with “faux” omni-channel and achieve a unified commerce environment.

This interactive workshop included audience participation and an artist summarizing the discussion with graphic images in real-time (see below).

RetailTechCon 2016 Unified Commerce Image

RetailTechCon 2016 Workshop DiscussionThe retail executives attending this session debated the benefits and challenges of implementing a unified commerce system as well as several key implications to consider. It was a lively debate with some very interesting points from a pragmatic retail perspective.

Many retailers have taken the “just get something done” approach to deliver a seamless customer experience that transcends channels. The unfortunate result of this quick fix approach is a “faux” omni-channel model that doesn’t execute as promised and has the risk of disappointing customers.

Retailers can no longer afford to operate within channel silos. Now is the time for retailers to transform the organization, business processes and technology to align with the new shopping behaviors and expectations of today’s customers. A unified commerce platform is the new imperative for handling orders, fulfillment and inventory across channels in real-time. Retailers still have a long road ahead to achieve a successful unified commerce platform, but increased customer satisfaction and profits will make it worth the effort.2016 RetailTechCon Recap_Cover

Here is a link to download the document that recaps this workshop discussion:

DOWNLOAD: 2016 RetailTechCon Workshop Recap – How do we get from faux omni-channel to unified commerce?

As always, I am interested in your feedback on this topic. Please share your opinions and comments below.

Ken

 

 

What are the Best Location-based Services Technologies to Enhance the Shopping Experience?

Within the last few years, a plethora of new location-based services (LBS) have been created for retail applications, however, selecting the right technology for retail applications can be an overwhelming task. To help retailers navigate the sea of options, BRP published this white paper: Cracking the Code – Deciphering Retail Location-Based Services Technology. 

Why are Location-Based Services Important?LBS_White_Paper_Cover

Location-based services are critical to identifying customers as they enter the store, which creates the best opportunity for retailers to personalize the customer’s shopping experience through clienteling and guided selling. In Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, 53% of retailers plan to have the ability to identify customers when they walk in the store via their smartphones within five years. That’s an 883% increase over the 6% who indicated they could already identify their customer in this way. Understanding the different technologies and how to best utilize them in conjunction with the customers’ smartphone is critical for the future store.

Deciphering the Key Technologies

With the growing interest in LBS technology comes a complicated path for selecting the optimal system. Coupled with the ever-increasing capabilities of LBS, even the savviest ‘techies’ have been left wrestling with the challenges of deciphering this complex technology. This white paper provides an overview of the nuances of the various LBS options and the pros and cons of the respective retail applications. The primary location-based technologies assessed in the white paper include: GPS, Wi-Fi, RFID, NFC and Bluetooth.

I encourage you to download and read the complete white paper to learn more about location-based technologies.

DOWNLOAD NOW:

Cracking the Code – Deciphering Retail Location-Based Services Technology

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

David

VIDEO: The Future Store – Real-time Retail Changes Everything

We are on the cusp of a significant and fundamental transformation within the store environment. The future store must encompass both worlds – the sensory experience of the physical store combined with the personalization and convenience of online shopping. The most successful retailers will seamlessly blend the physical with the digital in the future store. Retailers can no longer afford to operate from within silos and must transform their technology, business processes, and organization to align with their customers’ expectations.

Watch this video blog post to hear Ken Morris, Principal, Boston Retail Partners & Eric Olafson, SVP Store Solutions, Demandware, discuss how the store has changed and will continue to change.


Boston Retail Partners & Demandware Talk Stores 2.0 at NRF Big Show

For more information on the transformation of the store, read this white paper:

The Future Store Manifesto

Visit our BRP Videos page to watch videos on other topics.

As always, I appreciate you thoughts on this topic. Please enter your thoughts and comments below.

David

Houston, We have a Problem! – 2016 POS Survey Identifies Issues with Retail’s Faux Omni-Channel

Retailers recognize the need to create a holistic customer experience that transcends channels, but most attempts are falling short.

85percentAccording to the 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey, 85% of the respondents indicate that unified commerce is their top priority. Many retailers have taken the “just get something done” approach to deliver a seamless customer experience that transcends channels. The unfortunate result of this quick fix approach is a “faux” omni-channel model that doesn’t execute as promised and has the risk of disappointing customers. While 60% of retailers indicate they have implemented “inventory visibility across channels,” 80% of those retailers indicate that the system “needs improvement.” According to another recent study, this is a real issue, as 60% of click-and-collect orders placed on Cyber Monday had problems.[i]

“Saddled with legacy systems that are not designed to accommodate today’s retail environment, retailers have scrambled to cobble things together in attempts to deliver the omni-channel capabilities customers expect. Retailers need to invest in infrastructure, networks and service oriented architecture (SOA) layer and do it right. The risk of losing customers due to disappointing shopping experiences caused by a flawed omni-channel architecture is deadly and that is why “real” unified commerce is retailers’ top priority for 2016.” – Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners

The 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current point of sale and customer engagement initiatives, priorities, and future trends as the physical and digital worlds converge within the store.2016 POS Survey Cover

Key findings in the 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey include:

  • Creating a true unified commerce environment is the top priority – 85% of retailers indicated this was a top priority for 2016
  • Improving customer engagement and the customer experience is critical – 68% of retailers indicated this was a focus for the upcoming year
  • Retailers are still occupied with payment/data security – 38% of retailers stated this was a top priority

I encourage you to download and read the complete 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey: https://brpconsulting.com/2016-pos-survey/.

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

David

[i] “Buy online, pick-up in the Store. Simple, right? Not this Christmas,” Washington Post, December 20, 2015.