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.”

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BRP Study Finds Retailers Looking to Incorporate New Technologies

Convenience Store Decisions – Unified commerce helps retailers reach customers. According to a new report from Boston Retail Partners (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.

Read Full Article: BRP Study Finds Retailers Looking to Incorporate New Technologies

Retailers Need a Social Media Makeover

CRM Magazine – Social media provides a wealth of opportunities for retailers to create memorable, highly personalized shopping experiences for customers, but most are not successfully executing their social media strategies, according to a report from retail management consulting firm Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

“There’s a lot of room for improvement in [retailers’] social media presence, social media campaigns, and how they use [social media] to support their overall businesses,” says Brian Brunk, principal at BRP.

Brunk says that many retailers still don’t have the right personnel, technology, processes, or priorities in place to adequately deal with the unique requirements of social media. “There’s an expectation for a quick response, but not all retailers are set up for that, and so they end up with frustrated customers,” he says.

Luckily, retailers are not simply burying their heads in the sand. They, too, see the need for improvement. In fact, in BRP’s research, 81 percent of retailers using social media to engage with customers admitted that they could use help with the channel. Sixty-nine percent see greater opportunities for using social media to improve customer journeys, and 59 percent plan within three years to use brand advocacy and social media endorsements as a way to identify their most valuable customers.

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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

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.”

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Unified Commerce Platform: Common Goal, Uncommon Reality

Retail TouchPoints – While retailers are embracing the concept of unified commerce, with three out of four planning to have a single commerce platform within three years, the majority of organizations have yet to fully commit to this technology in 2016.

Only 23% of North American retailers have implemented a unified commerce platform, according to Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

A unified commerce platform generally consists of these elements:

  • Centralized inventory management;
  • Order management;
  • Integrated CRM capabilities;
  • Real-time data reporting and analysis; and
  • Predictive analytics.

As many as 90% of retailers plan to include the first three elements as part of their unified commerce platform, illustrating that they are aware of the tools necessary to optimize the customer journey.

“The customer journey can be simple or complex and can be different for each customer and each individual purchase,” said Brian Brunk, a Principal at Boston Retail Partners. “It’s not important that we have specific labels for these scenarios such as webrooming or showrooming, but simply that we understand that the customer journey is one that 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.”

Read Full Article: Unified Commerce Platform: Common Goal, Uncommon Reality

Change agents, the democratization of retail

The Green Sheet – Five years ago omnichannel commerce was more an expectation-laden buzzword than reality. Major retailers were the first to jump in, learning through trial and error how to deliver seamless experiences for consumers traversing channel lines. Today the unified commerce journey still has potholes to fill, but progress inches forward.

Soaring smartphone adoption has made these devices an indispensable tool not just for communication but to connect with brands in meaningful ways at any point along the commerce journey. Many are calling it the democratization of retail, driven by the masses who now wield the mobile power to decide instantaneously whether a brand is worthy. Understanding the customer journey and how to optimize it has never been more crucial.

Unifying siloed systems, especially legacy systems, has not been easy. A recent survey of merchants by Boston Retail Partners revealed just 18 percent had implemented a unified commerce platform, and a majority felt system improvements were needed (see accompanying Unified Commerce Services chart, from the BRP Special Report: Unified Commerce is the Goal, “Faux” Omni-channel is the Reality!)

“The customers don’t think about channels,” said Brian Brunk, Principal at BRP. “When we shop with a retailer we’re shopping a brand. We’re looking for products; we’re looking for service. We’re not thinking about interacting with them online or on mobile; we’re just shopping.”

Read full article: Change agents, the democratization of retail

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

The Retail Technology That Millennials Want

BizTech Magazine – Millennials are getting a lot of attention from retailers today, and deservedly so. Customers born between 1982 and 2000 now outnumber baby boomers and represent a key demographic for retail sales and marketing programs. They also represent the future: Their buying power will have an impact for six decades or more.

What does it take to create successful customer engagements for this group?

Fortunately, a host of technologies can help retailers closely engage with millennials, as well as younger and older customers. Industry analysts say several key technologies may help define the future of retailing this year and for the rest of the decade.

Economic realities are positioning beacons for wider deployment this year. “Beacon prices have come down tremendously,” says Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, a research firm.

To successfully adopt beacons, retailers should look for solutions that bundle the devices with centralized management software that shows the status of each unit, including whether the coin-sized battery in a particular device is due for replacement, says Ni.

Retailers may start out with a small-scale deployment that simply presents the same coupon to everyone who enters a store. “This keeps the cost of entry low to get a proof of concept up and running,” Kramer says. “Over time, stores can then add capabilities to make the messaging more targeted for a persona-based experience.”

Read full article: The Retail Technology That Millennials Want

Sophisticated hackers call for refined payment security systems: report

Luxury Daily – As retailers innovate and enhance the omnichannel shopping experience, one of their biggest challenges will be creating an inclusive payment security strategy, according to a new report by Boston Retail Partners.

Payment security is one of the top concerns for retailers today, with hackers becoming more sophisticated and even high-profile institutions falling victim to data breaches. In order to protect themselves, brands need to update and strengthen their security systems, which may now be out-of-date.

“Hackers and fraudsters are in a constant back and forth with retailers as it relates to payment security,” said Ryan Grogman, vice president at Boston Retail Partners. “As retailers close certain loops, the hackers move on to the next most vulnerable spot in the transaction, and retailers are then forced to develop new measures to address the weakness.

“This cycle has been going on for many years, and the biggest change in payment security today is the sophistication and level of technology available to both sides,” he said. “The advent of PCI standards really moved the needle forward in terms of retailer defenses, but even with these controls in place, we are seeing high-profile retailers subjected to massive data breaches and the associated public relations fallout.

“For the card issuers and banks, they are driven by a need to reduce the amount of fraudulent charges. For retailers, it is the fear of being the next company in the headlines for a breach along with having their valued customers’ sensitive information exposed that is driving many of these changes. EMV is another attempt by the issuers to deflect the fraud liability back to retailers, and that financial liability has driven many retailers to allocate more budget to enhance payment security and implement EMV.”

Boston Retail Partners’ “Payment/Data Security in an Omnichannel World” is based on data from the consultancy’s 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey.

Read Full Article: Sophisticated hackers call for refined payment security systems: report