Engaging & Empowering the Modern Workforce: How Retailers can Harness the Power of their People

Retail TouchPoints – The day-to-day life of the modern store associate is more demanding than ever. In the past, employees were tasked with stocking shelves, assisting customers and completing transactions at the cash wrap. But as retailers build out their omnichannel operations and engagement strategies, associates’ to-do lists and necessary skill sets are growing dramatically.

This Special Report delves into what savvy retailers are doing to engage and motivate their employees and includes several comments from Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners.

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However, retailers are encountering a predicament: While they’re in dire need of friendly, skilled and tech-savvy employees, the average turnover rate in retail remains especially high, according to Ken Morris, Principal at Boston Retail Partners. “There is an increased number of available retail positions and a reduction in the number of people interested in them,” Morris said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “To acquire and engage the right employees, retailers need to invest in tools, technologies and learning tactics that empower their workforce and make them feel more connected to the brand.”

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40% of retailers say empowering associates with mobile tools is one of their top three priorities through 2016, according to Boston Retail Partners’ 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey. Top capabilities include guided selling tools for associates (73%), clienteling (63%), and suggested selling based on what is in a customer’s closet (51%). With real-time access to pertinent customer data, associates can get a 360-degree view of the customer they’re serving, including his or her personal tastes, brand preferences, favorite colors, styles, preferred sizes and more. Not only does this create a great experience for customers, but it also makes associates feel more confident in their selling and service skills. A variety of retailers, such as Nordstrom, Design Within Reach and True Religion have improved customer engagement and overall sales since implementing mobile POS and clienteling tools in-store.

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Video: “YouTube videos are one of the most effective training tools,” Morris of Boston Retail Partners said. “They can be accessed from anywhere you have Internet access and the combination of audio and visual is the clearest way to communicate new processes.”

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“Recognize and reward associates who effectively engage the customer and enhance the customer experience across channels — those are the customers who will keep coming back and help sell your brand.” — KEN MORRIS, BOSTON RETAIL PARTNERS

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Many retailers (55%) also do not offer employees incentives for fulfilling omnichannel orders, according to the 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey from Boston Retail Partners. Other rewards vary:

  • Offering partial sales credit or commission for orders fulfilled from a store (27%);
  • Having dedicated employees handle fulfillment (16%);
  • Adjusting store labor costs/ credits to compensate for orders fulfilled from a store (16%);
  • Providing incentives or bonuses to pull inventory and fulfill orders promptly (7%); and
  • Rewarding associates with complete credit for a sale (2%).

Morris added: “When retailers fail to motivate and compensate sales associates, they risk lackluster adoption of processes at the floor level, and subpar customer experiences.”

Read Full Report: Engaging & Empowering the Modern Workforce: How Retailers can Harness the Power of their People

Sephora borrows from Tinder’s playbook with swipeable mobile shopping tools

Mobile Commerce Daily – Sephora is bookending its recent sales-driving initiatives with two new mobile-first platforms, which enable consumers to use a fill-in-the-blank model to discover their ideal beauty product and leverage a Tinder-like interface to purchase items featured in favorite looks.

The retailer is tapping into the popularity of dating application Tinder – which enables users to swipe through individuals’ profiles to pass or complete a match – to showcase its Sephora Collection products in a more millennial-friendly light and simplify the shopping experience. Sephora is also introducing the Beauty Uncomplicator platform to allow customers to whittle down their preferences in a bid to find the product best-suited for their needs.

“Leveraging Tinder’s popular ‘swipe it’ feature is a fun, interactive way for consumers to shop for the [Sephora] products that appeal to them – right from their phones,” said David Naumann, vice president of marketing at Boston Retail Partners.

“Sephora’s three-step questionnaire, the Beauty Uncomplicator, helps people find the right makeup and tools, which is a creative gamification strategy to boost engagement. According to BRP’s surveys, gamification is becoming a common strategy to engage customers, as 85 percent of retailers indicate that they plan to use gamification within five years.”

Read full article: Sephora borrows from Tinder’s playbook with swipeable mobile shopping tools

2016 Holiday Guide

Retail TouchPoints – The stage is set for a profitable holiday season, but to achieve it retailers will need to go where the shoppers are, rather than count on consumers coming to them. Increasingly, that means having a smart, aggressive digital strategy in place, with mobile front and center.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has forecast a 3.1% growth rate for retail sales in 2016, exceeding the 10-year average of 2.7%. The February 2016 NRF economic forecast also noted that nonstore sales would outpace overall retail sales growth, increasing from 6% to 9% for the year. To help retailers both compete and succeed in a tough but opportunity-rich environment, we’ve produced the Retail TouchPoints 2016 Holiday Guide.

Our editors explore 10 key topics in this year’s guide, supplemented with insights from the retail industry’s leading experts and illustrated with a range of real-world examples. In the pages that follow you’ll discover:

• The increasing value of User Generated Content (UGC) in boosting customer engagement;

• 5 best practices for handling those inevitable out-of-stock situations;

• Where to focus mobile investments for maximum ROI;

• The “Three R’s” of holiday personalization; and

• Tips for hiring smart for the holidays.

Retailers can use this report as their go-to guide for holiday preparations, and as a toolkit for profitability and smooth operations throughout the season.

This report includes comments from executives from Boston Retail Partners:

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Omnichannel retailers can also leverage gamification to build store traffic during the holiday season. “We are seeing a lot of savvy retailers infuse quizzes, contests and games into their mobile apps with a component to make it compelling or necessary to visit a store or redeem offers, or to complete a stage of the game,” said Gene Bornac, VP at Boston Retail Partners, adding that a BRP survey revealed that “87% of retailers plan to use gamification for customer engagement within five years.”

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Another “secret ingredient” in the holiday mix is user-generated content (UGC), particularly useful as people shop for others rather than for themselves. “UGC that is shared on social media is like free advertising that serves as an endorsement from someone people know and trust — their friends!” said Bornac.

The holidays are times when hopes are high, which also means the possibility of disappointment is equally high. “Last holiday season, 40% of retailers reported problems with their process for buy online/pick-up in the store, and it was probably actually worse than that,” said Bornac. “Retailers realize this needs to improve. Successful retailers will make sure they are better prepared and staffed for cross-channel services, and avoid over-promising and under-delivering on these services.”

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“Retailers are trying to avoid going down [the deep discount] path because it’s a huge margin erosion,” said Robert Cuthbertson, VP at Boston Retail Partners. “The bottom line is, if retailers are competing on like products and they are going into the race to the bottom, that’s going to be a very tough race to win and it’s detrimental to everyone.”

“Given that it’s an election year, people are definitely paying attention to what is going on from a political basis,” Cuthbertson said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Knowing that it affects the economy one way or another, I think people are going to be cautious. With that said, it definitely comes down to how the economy is doing as a whole and how confident they feel about the future.”

Read full white paper: 2016 Holiday Guide

What does the Success of Pokémon Go mean for the Future of Retail?

Pokemon Painting by Joe Lawlor

Pokemon Painting by Joe Lawlor

Has augmented reality (AR) hit the tipping point of user engagement through the success of Pokémon Go leading fans through a virtual journey of capturing digital monsters that navigates through streets and parks of our cities? In a few short weeks, the app has virally spread getting young and old to play along. Hordes of people are descending on parks to capture that rare Pokémon. People are interacting and sharing tips and tricks while walking in search of their next conquest. It is truly amazing how this app has permeated our culture so quickly. While this may baffle some, taking a closer look at the game and the technology offers us a peak into the future of retailing.

Customer engagement through gamification has been a tried and true strategy for retailers to entice customers to engage with the brand. In the past, it was as simple as bumper stickers on a car, scratch off tickets, or being the 100th customer. Now, with AR, retailers can enhance the game, offer a richer customer experience, and learn something about the customer in a fun and engaging way. Instead of flicking virtual Poké balls at digital cartoon characters, AR can be used to help customers learn about products and promotions. In fact, several brands are already leveraging AR. For example, Lego uses AR to show customers what a completed kit would look like, Converse helps customers try on new shoes and Ikea helps customers envision the placement of furniture in their house. While interesting, this is just scratching the surface of the power of AR.

Provided the right format of interaction, augmented reality can provide retailers with a wealth of information about customers’ preferences and behaviors. Retailers will have the ability to see what items are considered in the purchase cycle, see how the customer shops, and gain additional insight on what drives the final purchase. Conversely, AR can help customers by offering product features and benefits, promotions, and even shop the Internet for the best price. In the end, it helps both customers and retailers.

AR has been around for several years, and until now it has been sparsely used by retailers to engage customers. With the success of Pokémon Go, expect retailers to invest in ways to leverage this technology to engage the customer. Instead of Pokémons hatching as you walk your favorite store, you might see a 70% off coupon hatch down the aisle you rarely visit or a discount bubble appear when you scan a technical backpack to learn about its features and benefits. Regardless of what comes next, it is an exciting time for customers and retailers to continue to engage and interact. There is a lot of work to be done from a content and interaction perspective, but the power of AR is now proven as it has a massive appeal among consumers.

Augmented reality is a form of gamification and retailers are realizing the value of gamification to engage their customers. In fact, according to BRP’s 2015 CRM Survey, 87% of retailers plan to use gamification to engage the customer within five years.

With that said, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to catch Pikachu at the local mall.

I appreciate you insights on this topic.  Please share your comments below.


Tech-Savvy Shoppers Are Transforming Retail

WSJ Logistics Report – Shopping is going digital, and digital is moving to smartphones. “That’s the big story in retail,” says Brian Brunk, principal at consulting firm Boston Retail Partners (BRP). “Mobile devices are driving what we call the anywhere, anytime, anyhow customer shopping.”

“Customers expect things online like product recommendations, customer reviews, comparison shopping — rich product content available at their fingertips,” BRP’s Brunk says. “This sets up a scenario where the average consumer walks into a store with more information than the average salesperson who is there to help. It sets up a scenario where retail realizes that it has to transform.”

Read Full Article: Tech-Savvy Shoppers Are Transforming Retail

INTERVIEW : Perry Kramer, VP Boston Retail Partners

Customer Insight – Laurence Faguer, President, Customer Insight Consulting, interviews Perry Kramer, Vice President and Practice Lead at Boston Retail Partners, at the  Mcommerce Summit in New York. This article highlight Perry’s viewpoints on several retail topics.

Here is an excerpt form the the article with a link to the full article below.

Beginning in May, Aeropostale files for bankruptcy, following other bad news in the retail field. What should retailers do better?

Perry Kramer – There are a couple of things retailers can do to improve their performance. First, they need to continuously improve the way they interact with customers and create a better customer experience. Just like the way they refresh their merchandise, retailers need to continue improving the customer experience. They need to adapt and offer something new or different every six to seven months, in order to surprise and engage their customers. Some of that can be done with social media or the in-store and online experiences.

To do this successfully, retailers need to create a flexible infrastructure comprised of a unified commerce environment and philosophy.

With a unified commerce environment, you don’t have to maintain six or seven applications or versions of code for the same functions in different channels. A Unified Commerce platform, as described in BRP’s 2016 Special Report on Unified Commerce, will simplify their infrastructure and also make it affordable for them to continually refresh this customer experience.

Second, retailers need to improve their understanding of each customer. To truly personalize the customer experience, retailers need to know what their preferences are, what they have purchased, what’s in their closet and what they have recently browsed online. With this customer insight, store associates can customize the shopping on an individual basis.

Read Full Article: INTERVIEW : Perry Kramer, VP Boston Retail Partners

Gamification – The Fun Referral Program

Referral Rock – There are many ways to grow customer engagement in your referral program. You may already have a few ideas of how to increase customer involvement. But have you ever considered gamification?

Gamification can make referral programs fun. Gamified referral programs are a win for everyone. Customers will be intrigued while sending referrals your way. SimplePay discusses how people are competitive by nature. By creating a referral program that feels like a game, customers will stay interested in your product. When a customer is having fun while earning rewards they will probably mention it to their friends.

The idea of using gamification in referral programs is not a new concept. M2 has mentioned that gamification started surfacing around 2010. Since then gamification has gained a lot of traction. M2 also explained how they expected gamification to increase referral traffic, by as much as 250% between the years 2011-2016. Gamification is still growing in popularity. A survey by Boston Retail Partners said that 87 percent of retailers plan to use gamification to gain more engagement from customers over the next 5 years.

Read Full Article: Gamification – The Fun Referral Program

Eileen Fisher plants discount in mobile-optimized Earth Day style quiz

Mobile Commerce Daily – Eileen Fisher is digging up sales this weekend by rolling out an Earth Day-inspired style quiz via Instagram, enabling consumers to answer several questions to receive a discount toward a future purchase and a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree.

The apparel brand is sponsoring posts on Instagram and encouraging its current followers to click the link in its bio to take the mobile-optimized quiz, which asks users to answer five questions to discover what type of environmentally-conscious clothing best suits their style. Participants will receive a limited-time promotional code accompanying their results, allowing them to receive $25 off a purchase made at an Eileen Fisher store or online.

“Tying marketing campaigns to a national holiday, such as Earth Day, adds relevancy and timeliness to the campaign, which may spur greater participation,” said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. “Consumers are bombarded with information overload and anything that helps a marketing campaign cut through the clutter is a good thing.

“The Earth Day holiday is a perfect fit for Eileen Fisher’s social consciousness and mission to embrace simplicity, sustainability and great design.”

Read Full Article: Eileen Fisher plants discount in mobile-optimized Earth Day style quiz

SOCIAL ANALYTICS INTELLIGENCE: From Passive Measurement To Active Engagement

Retail TouchPoints – Today’s retailers and brands must be active on social media because that’s where shoppers are spending significant amounts of time. But it’s not enough to just have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, or even to simply monitor likes, shares and retweets.

Increasingly, it takes interactive activities such as contests, quizzes and polls, gamification and user-generated content. This Retail TouchPoints special report will reveal four proactive social media strategies, showing how they boost sales and raise brand profiles for companies as diverse as Starbucks, Casper, Frito-Lay and Forever 21. Success stories and key strategies include:

Starbucks: Incorporate mobile at every step
Casper: Emphasize customers’ shared experiences
Frito-Lay: Draw on consumers’ own creativity
Forever 21: Simplify purchasing processes via social media

This article includes several comments from Gene Bornac, vice president, Boston Retail Partners.

Read full report: SOCIAL ANALYTICS INTELLIGENCE: From Passive Measurement To Active Engagement

Blimpie slices up customer engagement with social-heavy match-and-win contest

Mobile Commerce Daily – Submarine sandwich chain Blimpie is hosting a mobile-optimized match-and-win contest featuring a plethora of cash prizes and enabling consumers to earn additional entries by sharing the game with social media followers and interacting with the brand’s official accounts.

The Combo Craze Promotion, which runs through June 5, was designed to augment brand awareness among consumers and bolster fan engagement through an easily-playable game. Although individuals can collect the most contest entries by purchasing a Blimpie sandwich at one of its stores, they can also follow the food marketer’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts to retrieve codes corresponding to additional chances to win.

“Offering consumers an incentive via gamification is a great way to accelerate the addition of new followers on social media,” said Paul Valle, vice president at Boston Retail Partners. “Consumers like to be entertained and retailers that can get, and keep, them engaged will increase loyalty and sales.

“Gamification is a growing trend as according to BRP’s 2015 CRM Survey, 87 percent of retailers plan to use gamification to engage the customer within five years.”

Read full article: Blimpie slices up customer engagement with social-heavy match-and-win contest