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Why achieving unified commerce should be a priority

TheRecord – If unified commerce is high on your priority list this year, you’re not alone. Citing a recent survey by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), Retail TouchPoints reported that 81% of retailers will be using unified commerce platforms by the end of 2020.

And BRP “identifies cloud-based unified commerce — the use of a single platform to support commerce for stores, mobile and the web — as the linchpin to competing in a fast-changing, omnichannel environment.”

Increasingly, a unified experience is also defined as a personalised experience. “Consumers no longer ‘need’ to go shopping — if a consumer wants an item she can pull out her smartphone, click a button, and the item will be at her door within a day or two. The advent of online shopping has made us constant consumers,” said BRP in a 2017 report, Personalising the Customer Experience. “Because of this constant ability to shop and easily research the lowest price, retailers — especially those with brick and mortar locations — need to further differentiate themselves to entice customers into the store. Providing a more personalised experience and offering value-add services can help even small retailers differentiate and compete successfully against companies like Amazon. The best and most powerful way to succeed is through personalisation.”

BRP’s report cited these findings from other studies, 84% of consumers choose to interact with sales associates when at a physical retailer (Salesfloor), 87% base purchasing decisions from the advice of a retail employee (Salesfloor) and 46% of shoppers will buy more from a retailer that personalises the shopping experience (eMarketer).

Read Full Article: Why achieving unified commerce should be a priority

Fashion aggregators duke it out in a crowded market

Glossy – Google “Balenciaga sock boots,” and a line up of different retailers arrange themselves on the results page, all offering the same item for the same price. If you have the $995 needed to actually make the purchase, you’d be faced with options to buy from Nordstrom, Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, Ssense, Bergdorf Goodman, Matches Fashion, or Balenciaga’s own e-commerce site, in that order. Tweak the search — remove “sock,” for instance — and the same retailers show up again, this time in a new order.

Who ends up making that sale, and why, is a question marketers at emerging luxury marketplaces like Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and LVMH’s 24 Sèvres are fighting to solve. It’s crucial, since they’re largely competing on the same inventory, save a few brand or collection exclusives here and there.

Paid search drives business, but for these companies to move away from the expensive acquisition strategy, there’s more at work in the path to purchase than who appears first in a Google search.

“For this industry, it’s more nuanced than who can buy up the most SEO,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners. “Luxury customers need to be taken care of and catered to, and there’s an different playbook to follow when it comes to both getting them in the door and keeping them there.”

“The luxury customer is not the average customer thanks to exclusivity,” said Morris. “There are savvy digital strategies behind sourcing potential customers by linking together lifestyles — people in certain clubs, yacht owners, travelers. You can sift through purchase histories across other industries and zero in, if you know how to use that data properly. It’s a matter of keeping track of these people, and then making sure the value of acquiring them is greater than the cost of doing so.”

“Taking care of the luxury customers you have isn’t a simple business. They need concierge, white-glove treatment and the people who provide it are the people who win,” said Morris. “This is incredibly important when you’re in a field where 20 percent of your customers drive 80 percent of your business.”

Read Full Article: Fashion aggregators duke it out in a crowded market

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

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

Think Tank: Fixated on Data? OK, but Don’t Forget the Customer

WWD – Sam Kliger, founder and chief executive officer of KWI, explains. I love shopping. Yes, it’s my business, but personally it’s my passion, too. For example, I recently felt the need to write a letter to the owner of a high-profile fashion brand. I walked into the store, expecting to come out with a few new things as I enjoy the clothes — the quality, the minimalist look. Instead, I walked out with conviction for what companies such as KWI are doing for the retail business.

There’s a lot of talk about unified commerce, the move toward omnichannel retail that integrates your online and in-store platforms (and full disclosure, we’re talking a lot about it, too). Boston Retail Partners estimate that 81 percent of retailers plan to have unified commerce within three years. There’s a lot of talk about unified commerce, the move toward omnichannel retail that integrates your online and in-store platforms (and full disclosure, we’re talking a lot about it, too). Boston Retail Partners estimate that 81 percent of retailers plan to have unified commerce within three years. In its 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, BRP noted that retailers are putting a laser focus on these priorities:

  • Customer identification/personalization of the customer experience (62 percent)
  • Alignment of the customer experience across mobile apps and the web (54 percent)
  • Empowering associates with mobile tools (51 percent)

By unifying your retail systems, you’re actually building a state-of-the art customer service vehicle. Yes, the data may indicate that customers in St. Louis buy jeans at 4 p.m. on Fridays. And that’s great for your inventory. But how can you better service your customer and build brand loyalty? The real ROI here is a repeat customer. Retailers agree: According to the BRP study, 62 percent of retailers indicate customer identification is their top customer engagement priority and 83 percent will use suggestive selling based on previous purchases within three years.

Read full article: Think Tank: Fixated on Data? OK, but Don’t Forget the Customer

The Future of Smart Packaging in the Retail Industry

TotalRetail – Nowadays, 90 percent of smartphone owners use their devices in-store to research products, meaning brand owners and retailers face tough competition. Shoppers can be tempted not only by other retail store competitors, but by online stores as well. It’s not enough to offer a good in-store experience or competitive price; consumers are looking for detailed information and personalized offers at their fingertips. Younger generations especially want active engagements with brand owners.

A number of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands are exploring NFC-enabled smart packaging as an innovative way to connect directly with customers, improve engagement and understand purchase decisions. There was an early buzz around this, and now Markets and Marketing predict that the smart packaging industry will reach $39.7 billion by 2020. So, what’s driving this resurgence in interest and how will it help brand owners and retailers connect with customers in fresh, engaging and creative ways?

NFC tags can contain unique identifiers by item, not just product type, allowing retailers to connect with shoppers personally. Brands can build customer loyalty by delivering exclusive content such as relevant cross-sell and upsell opportunities and discounts for regular purchases. In fact, 4info research shows that campaigns offering a promotion outperform others by up to 80 percent. If customers can access that discount while next to the item, they’re more likely to make a purchase.

To enable this personalized experience, customer identification is critical, as noted by BRP Consulting in its 2018 POS Survey. By using NFC to engage directly with customers and build information on their behavior and likes, the brand owner or retailer can be sure that in the future specific offers are perfectly targeted to increase the chances for conversion.

Read Full Article: The Future of Smart Packaging in the Retail Industry

Retailers Must Become More Customer-Centric

CRM Magazine – Although customer-centricity is the top strategic initiative for 47 percent of retailers, customer demand is making it essential for all retailers to become more customer-centric, Boston Retail Partners (BRP) concludes in a recent report.

The report then lays out five key practices for retailers to become more customer-centric: align the organization, integrate planning processes, implement the right technology, prioritize customer insight, and take action.

This first step, which involves shifting internal culture and organizational mind-sets to a view of the enterprise as a whole rather than as a collection of separate divisions, is one of the major challenges facing retailers because most of them still operate within functional siloes, the report notes. With this in mind, BRP analysts urge companies to establish cross-functional teams equipped to work collaboratively to plan, manage, and execute the functions necessary to run omnichannel organizations and deliver seamless customer experiences.

“For retailers to start making profits, especially with the increase in demand for omnichannel, buy-anywhere-sell-anywhere-pick-it-up-anywhere [mind-sets], retailers really have to get the right product in the place where the customer wants it so that they only have to touch it once,” says Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “The challenge for retailers is that quite often they break even at best on omnichannel sales. When you put in the labor, transportation cost, shipping fees, and all of that, they generally have a much more profitable sale when they have it in the store. If they actually have to touch the product more than once to move it to a place to get it shipped, it really becomes very unprofitable.”

Good customer service today means having the right product in the right place, “and to do that, you have to understand your customer and you have to anticipate where they’re going to be, where they’re going to want it, and you have to have that right product mix close,” Kramer says.

Read Full Article: Retailers Must Become More Customer-Centric

Unified Commerce Solutions Booming; A Third of Smartphone Users Will Pay via Mobile by 2018

ExchangeWire – RetailTechNews’ weekly roundup brings you up-to-date research findings from around the world. In this week’s edition: Unified commerce solutions booming; A third of smartphone users will pay via mobile by 2018; and Mobile email marketing draws level with desktop as m-commerce grows.

Unified commerce solutions booming

By the end of 2020, 81% of retailers will deploy unified commerce platforms, to support commerce across the enterprise’s stores, mobile users and the web, according to a survey by Boston Retail Partners (BRP). This is seen as essential to competing in the omnichannel environment.

The survey finds that 28% of respondents have implemented unified commerce, compared to 9% the previous year. Retailers are making progress on implementing unified commerce platforms. Last year, BRP predicted 73% of retailers would have such a platform in place by 2019, and 22% already had one deployed.

Moving forward, the top three priorities of retailers for the year ahead are:

– Customer identification and personalisation of the customer experience (62%)

– Alignment of the customer experience across mobile apps the web (54%)

– Empowering associates with mobile tools (51%)

Retailers are modifying the technology used to identify customers in their stores by decreasing their use of mobile websites, which declined from 40% in 2017 to 28% in 2018, and increasing the use of Media Access Control (MAC) addresses as unique identifiers by 26%. Also on the rise are beacons (19%), and Bluetooth (16%).

Read full article: Unified Commerce Solutions Booming; A Third of Smartphone Users Will Pay via Mobile by 2018

Retail shows power of personalisation

Bangkok Post – Most retailers are looking for ways to improve the consumer  experience with their brand, but few are equipped to apply one of the most obvious and powerful approaches available, which is personalisation, says Diebold Nixdorf, a multinational provider of comnected commerce and cash-handling products and services.

In a survey to gauge retailers’ customer experience priorities last year, the US-based retail and restaurant specialists BRP Consulting found 55% of respondents said that optimising the customer experience was their top priority. Increasing customer loyalty was a close second (50%) and improving the mobile shopping experience (45%) came third.

However, only 24% of respondents indicated that providing personalised promotions, recommendations and/or offerings was a top priority.

How to get personal?

Mr Holterman offers some advice from Jeffrey Neville, a BRP vice-president who once said: “Personalisation may be the most powerful way for retailers to differentiate their brand and enhance the customer experience. The challenge is to identify the best method to customise the experience for each customer.”

Read Full Article: Retail shows power of personalisation

Retail Industry Adapts To Rapid Change

Retail TouchPoints – Headlines screamed about a “Retail Apocalypse” in 2017, but what was really happening was a highly accelerated period of retail transformation. The 17 retail industry experts contributing to the Retail TouchPoints 2018 Outlook Guide paint a collective portrait of an industry undergoing seismic shifts in multiple areas:

  • Stores are emphatically not dead
  • Voice could radically alter the existing product search paradigm, giving a huge first mention advantage to the top result;
  • Mobile devices for store associates will become the new must-have business accessory;
  • Technologies including AIIoTbots, AR and even connected carswill start to prove their worth; and
  • Customer engagement, via advanced analytics and what one contributor called “right-sized personalization,” will continue to be the ultimate competitive battleground.

 “While it might be an “apocalyptic” outlook for some, the reality is that it is just the ever-evolving nature of retail and consumers.” said Brian Brunk Principal, BRP.

To Download the full report visit: 2018 Outlook Guide: Retail Industry Adapts To Rapid Change

 

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Personalization is Key to Customer Loyalty

Personalization is Needed to Compete Against Amazon

As consumers become more technologically savvy and have access to better information, there is a widening gap as retailers struggle to meet consumers’ escalating expectations. Personalization is one of the best ways to create and maintain a connection with the brand’s most valuable and loyal customers. The 2018 Special Report – Personalization is Key to Customer Loyalty identifies how retailers are personalizing the shopping experience for their most valuable customers.

“Personalization is the best way for retailers to enhance the customer experience, especially for those customers who are already invested in your brand,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “Identifying and rewarding your most valuable customers with personalized offers and services is imperative to cultivating loyal, brand enthusiasts.”

The key customer loyalty trends identified in the study include:

Customer Identification and Incentives – To engage with customers on a personal level requires retailers to identify the customer early in the process at any touch-point.

• 53% of retailers extend specialized offers to encourage customers to identify themselves with personal information

Most Valuable Customers – With 80% of a retailer’s business typically coming from 20% of its customers, identifying your most valuable customers and understanding their shopping habits is critical to cultivating loyal, brand enthusiasts.

• 77% of retailers identify their most valuable customers, however, 69% of those feel the process needs improvement

Personalizing the Experience – Retailers that identify customers when they enter the store and equip their associates with the proper mobile tools can personalize the shopping experience based on customer context.

• 69% of retailers that identify their most valuable customers share this information with their associates, which represents missed opportunities for the 31% who don’t share customer information with associates.