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2017 Holiday Guide – Navigating the Modern World of Channel-agnostic Retail

Retail TouchPoints – Even in a “normal” year, holiday predictions are challenging — and 2017 is not a normal year. Retail experts are struggling to make sense out of political news, combined with uncertainty about health care, trade policies, a host of laws and regulations, and the debatable demise of brick-and-mortar retail.

Despite all the challenges, consumers remain upbeat — to a point. While consumers have a largely optimistic view of the macro environment, they also are taking a cautious approach to near-term spending. Additionally, retailers continue to struggle to adapt to the fast growth of mobile shopping. The “commerce” and “fulfillment” elements of purchases are now separate, meaning that a shopper may buy something in one place (or channel) but take possession of it at a totally di erent time or location.

The Retail TouchPoints 2017 Holiday Guide explores several topics within two distinct sections:

• How channel-agnostic retail is reshaping many of the big-picture aspects of holiday planning, including marketing, experiential retail and business intelligence and analytics; and

• The Nuts & Bolts that contribute to a successful holiday season: inventory, price and workforce optimization as
well as the latest innovations in shipping (such as partnering with Uber or Deliv) and customer service (such as AI-powered chatbots).

Throughout the Guide, look for practical advice, retail success stories and provocative ideas for making holiday 2017 both pleasant and profitable.



Training And Education Are Critical

Retailers can’t assume that just because everyone has their own mobile device that they automatically will know how to use them in a business setting. Everyone — associates and customers — needs education to get the most out of mobile technology.

“Retailers need to train both associates and customers on new mobile processes,” said Marty Whitmore, Vice President, BRP in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “With the addition of many temporary or seasonal associates during the holidays, thorough training is even more critical.”

The need for education is particularly acute with mobile payment: “We have found repeatedly that not only are consumers unsure of how and when mobile payments can be used, but even more telling, associates are unsure,” said Whitmore. Additionally, retailers need to ensure “that a transaction using a mobile device is not longer or more complicated than a traditional payment method for either the customer or the associate,” he added.

How REI And CVS Tackle Holiday Mobile Challenges

A number of retailers have been able to successfully combine multiple mobile functionalities to improve the customer experience. BRP’s Whitmore mentioned REI as a good example: “Each associate in their stores is equipped with a mobile device that allows them to access deep product information so they have just as much information as their customers who have done research before the shopping visit,” he said. “They even take it one step further and use the same devices for line-busting at the front-end checkout area or to complete the transaction at the point of purchase.”

Other retailers have focused on enhancing the utility of their mobile apps for shoppers: “CVS has done an excellent job within their mobile application by integrating their loyalty system, promotional system and pharmacy system into their application, which makes it more compelling for the customer to download and use,” said Whit- more. Making a mobile app “sticky” is vital: “Unless a consumer is a very frequent shopper, they need strong incentives to download another retailer loyalty app, as many consumers are reaching the point of ‘app fatigue.’”

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To Optimize Inventory, Factor In Fulfillment Destinations

“Retailers have large amounts of customer data,” said Gene Bornac, VP at Boston Retail Partners. “To prepare for holiday and better understand customer anticipation, retailers should be using their data to track buying and shopping patterns as well as look at their customer’s sentiment on social media.”

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4 Tips To Minimize Seasonal Workforce Security Risks

Make hiring plans now and communicate them to stores and DCs: “Seasonal help is often a reactionary action at the store level instead of a well-planned and communicated strategy,” said Perry Kramer, VP and Practice Lead, BRP. Providing plenty of lead time enables stores to be more proactive in hiring, “which facilitates a more effective new-hire processing and training time frame,” said Kramer.

“This allows stores to be more selective, including performing background checks on associates in higher risk areas.”

Spend sufficient time on training: “Retailers should spend the time necessary to train seasonal workers on how to use the tools available, or at a minimum what tools are available, before the worker is exposed to any customers said Kramer.


Don’t Break The Bank Competing With Amazon On The Last Mile

“A cost-effective shipping and delivery strategy is critical for every retailer,” said Perry Kramer, VP and Practice Lead at BRP in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “This is extremely relevant for retailers since delivery and shipping fees often are the difference between making money and losing money on e-Commerce transactions. Retailers need to focus on finding the right product mix and understanding the customer’s need for same-day or next-day delivery, and then minimize the costs associated with these services.”


Read Full Article: 2017 Holiday Guide – Navigating the Modern World of Channel-agnostic Retail

Interview: Perry Kramer, VP at the retail consulting firm BRP

Customer Insight Blog – “We are living in a good time!” says Perry Kramer Vice President & Practice Lead at the retail consulting firm BRP. While Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods reinforces BRP’s intimate belief that “the physical and digital worlds are forever intertwined as we look into the future” we asked Perry Kramer how he sees the future in retail. Very enthusiastic!

Boston Retail Partners is a true management consulting firm that always approaches problems from a management perspective first. Has your consulting services changed as the retail industry has changed dramatically in the past few years?

Perry Kramer: We work in all areas of retail – specialty, grocery, hospitality and quick service – and our consulting services include strategy, vendor selection and project implementation.

We break retail management projects down into three phases: (1) we think strategically about the issues and pain points of our clients to help identify the best strategy, (2) we then help them map the organizational changes, develop a roadmap, and select the appropriate software and hardware to support their strategy, and (3) we also help implement the solution. After the project is completed, retailers often come back to BRP for help with the next phase of their road map or a refresh of their strategy project.

In the last few years, many retailers have taken a more strategic approach to selecting a product. Before they start evaluating solutions, they embark on a customer journey mapping exercise to learn how customers interact at each touch point during the customer journey. We help retailers understand their customers’ points of view: what they want to buy online, what services they use, and expectations for customer service. This stage is very important, and much more critical than it used to be. Once they understand the current and ideal shopping journey for their customers, they are in a much better position to address their needs and select the best solution.

To stay ahead of customer’s expectations and retail trends, we field four retailer surveys a year. The last one, available to download free, is the « 2017 Customer Experience / Unified Commerce Survey ».

Amazon to buy Whole Foods: does it show how brick and mortar business is fragile ?

The Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods can be analyzed from several angles. There is no doubt that brick and mortar is changing very rapidly. What Amazon is doing is very interesting. They had great success online because in the online environment it is easier to engage the customer, build his or her profile and personalize the experience. Trying to achieve the same success rate in brick and mortar environment will be more difficult for Amazon. It is much more difficult to bring the same level of personal experience to the physical store which often has limited customer profile information or anonymous customers. An additional challenge for Amazon will be that they picked one of the most difficult retail segment, as the grocery segment has one of the lowest margins.

Amazon won’t expect to be profitable right away – giving it several years to perfect their customer experience as they have done online. They have the luxury of experimenting and losing money while other retailers can’t afford to do that. This will create a very challenging time for the competition. While Amazon will eventually succeed, other retailers will also be able to expand the localized programs they already have in process. With Amazon’s impact not being widespread immediately, other retailers will have time to mature and lessen the overall impact of Amazon’s brick and mortar invasion. Amazon can lose money for four, five years figuring out the recipe in grocery and then expand in other brick and mortar segments!

In the « 2017 customer experience/unified commerce survey » you just published, you mention that 45 % of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) within three years to enhance the customer experience. How have your clients start to integrate AI capabilities?

A lot of retailers are using artificial intelligence for product recommendations, especially in fashion and cosmetic areas. For example, if a customer purchases a certain tone of blush in the spring, artificial intelligence can be used to recommend a complementary product that goes perfectly well with that color palette and the season.

There are also an significant number of pilot projects by retailers to improve the online authorization process and sales that are driven by the need to do next day delivery and sometimes even same-day delivery. This is a customer expectation – they want their products the same day – and the old order manual approval process for exception and questionable transactions doesn’t work anymore. Artificial intelligence is the next generation answer to this challenge.

We also see artificial intelligence integrated with virtual reality. For example, retailers can show customers what their kitchen will look like when remodeled based on their current interior or what a dress or shoes will look like in any color on an actual image of the consumer (not a mannequin or model).

In a mobile application, what features do you recommend to your clients in order to increase the frequency of use?

Source : 2017 BRP Special Report: Mobile. To download free here

Successful mobile applications depend on several key factors. First, it is imperative to make sure the mobile application works 100% of the time. If not, people will walk away. In the US, the average person has 27 apps and use only about six per month. So if something is not working perfectly, they will not use the app.

Second, it is recommended that you link your mobile app to your store Wi-Fi. If customers “opt in” when they sign into your mobile app, when they are in the parking lot or they are walking in the street or the mall and are close to your store, you can ping them with a coupon or a message to remind them they have your app on their phone. This enables retailers to communicate with their customers at a relevant time – when they are likely to make a purchase decision. Drugstores like Walgreen’s and CVS are very good at this.

Also, if a customer is in your store and wants to access to your Wi-Fi, you can offer them this service if they download your app.

Lastly, retailers should make a major refreshment of their mobile app every six months. While most retailers are doing bad job budgeting for this, to be successful, you have to have something new or cool in your mobile app on a regular basis.

Personally, where do you find inspiration?

I have about five daily retail blogs or retail specific newsletters that I read every day (they cover different verticals and topic areas such as grocery, apparel, payments, CRM, etc). When we see something interesting and intriguing, we ask our analysts to research this deeper to see the value of it. And I love to shop! I started my career in retail and I love to come back in the stores to see innovations. We are living in a good time!

Read full article: Interview: Perry Kramer, VP at the retail consulting firm BRP

Personalization in luxury retail stores should precede checkout: BRP

Luxury Daily – Luxury retailers who are continuing to put stock in the bricks-and-mortar space need to implement some form of customer identification technology that recognizes individuals right away instead of waiting until checkout.

Now that online shopping has become so prevalent, consumers are no longer propelled by necessity to visit bricks-and-mortar locations. Retailers in the physical space need to make sure they are offering an experience that entices consumers to come in to the store, according to Boston Retail Partners.

“With the advent of mobile technology enabling instant access to products, information plus the ability to immediately purchase an item, the act of shopping has changed,” said Jeffrey Neville, vice president at BRP. “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 all constant consumers,” he said. “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 personalized 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 a broad portfolio of personalization techniques.”

Personalization in retail
While about half of retailers that were a part of BRP’s “Digital Commerce Survey” said they would likely be implementing some form of customer recognition technology within two years, currently most bricks-and-mortar stores cannot identify a customer until checkout.

The point of checkout is too late in identifying a customer and retailers are missing on ideal marketing moments that could take place if they knew the individual as soon as they walked in the door.

Through the use of beacons, mobile devices and other technology, retailers should be able to recognize a customer when he or she walks through the door. Valuable details regarding spending habits and interests can be tapped to tailor a shopping experience to their specific needs.

Personalization is key in connecting with the digital-savvy consumer of today. The personalization of online shopping can be, and needs to be, recreated in stores.

About 40 percent of retailers are considering personalization improvements as a top priority in digital strategy.

Twenty-two percent of retailers have introduced a system that will take environmental factors into context, but unfortunately most of these platforms need improvement.

Customer personalization in retail is still greatly rooted in rewards, with 34 percent of retailer claiming that is how they implement personalization. A rewards program is the top way in which retailers introduce personalization.

Retailers are becoming more interested in suggested selling based off past purchases, with half of respondents planning to do so in the next year.

Read Full Article: Personalization in luxury retail stores should precede checkout: BRP

Retailers Move Toward Mobile to Help Consumers Avoid Lines

Response Magazine – Retailers are moving toward mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems and putting mobile capabilities in the hands of sales associates to help consumers avoid checkout lines, says a new study by Boston Retail Partners.

Almost half (49 percent) of retailers now use mobile solutions for sales staff, up from 31 percent last year.

The study adds that mobile POS systems are not yet a substitute for traditional fixed checkout systems, with mobile devices acting as supplements. But retailers are adding customer-facing mobile services, such as product information, shopping list capabilities, and personalized recommendations. Yet, there still are issues with how well those processes work.

For example, while 57 percent of retailers offer product information by mobile, 34 percent say the approach needs improvement.

The study adds that 27 percent of retailers plan to add mobile wallet capabilities within the next 12 months.

More than half (58 percent) of retailers will be able to accept Apple Pay during the next 12 months. Payments by PayPal are close behind at 55 percent, followed by Android Pay (42 percent) and MasterCard PayPass (39 percent).

The study surveyed 500 North American retailers, 76 percent of which have revenue of $100 million or more, and 50 percent with revenue of $500 million or more.

Read Full Article: Retailers Move Toward Mobile to Help Consumers Avoid Lines

Report: Mobility driving unified commerce

Chain Store Age – Retailers finally understand that the always-connected consumer expects a personalized, seamless experience wherever, whenever and however she shops.

This, coupled with the proliferation of mobile devices, are the catalysts driving the new retail paradigm called unified commerce, according to “2017 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey,” from Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

A concept that goes beyond omnichannel, “unified commerce puts 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.”

There are four key pillars that define the required customer experience in unified commerce:

Personal. Today’s informed consumer researches products and shops anywhere and anytime, and she expects a personalized experience wherever she shops. That’s why 75% of companies plan to use Wi-Fi to identify customers with their mobile devices in the store by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, 80% will suggestive sell based on previous purchases within three years, the report said.

Mobile. Having a constant, virtually unlimited array of information available through mobile devices has changed the shopping experience and elevated customer expectations for customer service. That said, 89% will offer mobile solutions for associates within three years, and 84% of companies will use mobile POS within three years, data revealed.

Seamless. Real-time retail is the ability to deliver a seamless and person-alized experience to the customer whenever, wherever and however she chooses to shop. To achieve this goal, 71% of retailers plan to have a uni-fied commerce platform by the end of 2019, and 60% plan to have centralized POS within two years, data showed.

Secure. Today’s retail environment requires security beyond retailers’ current focus on payments and networks. Thus, 96% of merchants will have end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by the end of 2019, and 73% will of-fer a single token solution across the enterprise within three years, the report said.

Read Full Article: Report: Mobility driving unified commerce

Pepsi takes notes from fashion brands with holiday pop-up

Mobile Commerce Daily – PepsiCo is merchandising out its emoji campaign for its namesake brand, hoping to get in on the holiday season and tooling together call-to-action mobile marketing techniques such as a White Elephant giveaway on social media.

The Pepsi brand will be joining the numerous fashion and accessories brands who set up pop-up shops for the holiday season for its holiday #SayItWithPepsi campaign, but the shop will not have a bricks-and-mortar presence. will be available for a limited amount of time where users can shop merchandise featuring holiday versions of the Pepsi emojis that have been seen throughout the year, but it is Pepsi’s unique marketing campaign that will give the shop legs.

“Pepsi has taken advantage of the emoji craze to keep the brand front of mind with mobile consumers throughout the holiday season,” said Jonathan Portny, senior manager at BRP. “For a company traditionally bound by the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, the PepsiMoji Holiday Pop Up Shop enables Pepsi to interact with a different market of online shoppers looking for fun and convenient stocking stuffers.

“The Pop Up Shop is a no-frills e-commerce site solely focused on selling their nearly two dozen PepsiMoji-themed holiday products,” he said. “Pepsi’s #SayItWithPepsi campaign and PepsiMojis entice consumers to download the company’s Pepsi Pass mobile app by offering rewards for scanning Pepsi emojis on soda bottles.

“Unique, rarer soda bottle emojis are worth more points and points are redeemable for impressive rewards like concert tickets or travel getaways,” he said. “Pepsi uses gamification to engage and reward consumers looking for something more than the traditional in-store grocery shopping experience.”

READ FULL ARTICLE: Pepsi takes notes from fashion brands with holiday pop-up

All I Want For Christmas Is Big Data

Forbes – We already know that big data is changing finance and that the business of retail is intricately connected with the business of real estate.

As we head into Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season, let’s drill down into one of the ways big data and data analytics can improve retail performance — and by extension, can improve the prospects of commercial real estate in the retail sector.

You may have heard of one of the biggest retail buzzwords in recent years: omni-channel strategy, which refers to a sales approach that cohesively integrates multiple shopping “channels” — physical stores as well as customers’ smartphones or computers — rather than keeping each element separate.

“Getting inventory to the right place at the right time is crucial to optimizing sales,” found a recently released survey by retail management consulting firm Boston Retail Partners, or BRP. “With enterprise-wide inventory visibility and accessibility, retailers will have the flexibility to re-allocate inventory from one store or channel to another where it is most likely to sell.”

In its online survey of more than 500 top North American retailers, BRP found that 71% of retailers do not have formal processes for planning omni-channel demand and 44% indicated that improving analytics is a top priority. (About three-quarters of the respondents in the survey, which was conducted in September and October, are specialty retailers, and the same proportion generated at least $500 million in annual revenue.)

READ FULL ARTICLE: All I Want For Christmas Is Big Data

Tech Bytes: A tale of three ‘experiential’ retailers

Chain Store Age – It doesn’t matter whether shoppers are buying a carton of milk or couture — a memorable in-store shopping experience is what drives loyalty. With a keen eye on personalization and in-store digital solutions, mere store visits can be transformed into sought-after “experiences.”

At a minimum, consumers expect to be engaged the minute they enter their favorite store. The best case scenario is to be recognized throughout their visit. In fact, 62% of retailers reported that customer identification and a personalized store experiences are among their top three engagement priorities, according to “The 17th Annual POS/Engagement Survey 2016,” from Boston Retail Partners.
Yet, the hard truth is that in-store experiences continue to fall short when it comes to engaging shoppers. Consumers are used to receiving personalized offers and service when interacting with their favorite brands through digital touch points, and now demand the same service in-store.

Read full article: Tech Bytes: A tale of three ‘experiential’ retailers

Report: Seamless shopping, mobile commerce are top online priorities

Chain Store Age – Providing shoppers with a consistent brand experience across channels is retailers’ top digital priority. That’s according to a survey from Boston Retail Partners (BRP), in which 56% of surveyed retailers said they were focused on a consistent brand experience across channels as a top digital priority, followed by improving the mobile shopping experience (46%) and personalization (40%).

“Today’s unified commerce imperative moves the heart of the transaction to a centralized platform,” said Jeffrey Neville, VP at BRP. “This allows retailers to become more innovative and agile with their digital commerce offerings to further enable a personalized customer experience. It is promising to see that retailers are laser focused on delivering the seamless, cross-channel experience consumers expect.”

Read Full Article: Report: Seamless shopping, mobile commerce are top online priorities