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Retailers: How Well Are You Using the Most Powerful Tool in Your Arsenal?

LinkedIn – One of the greatest tools for driving connected commerce is probably sitting within five feet of you right now – in fact, you might even be reading this blog on it.

Of course, I’m talking about smartphones – one of the most accessible, ubiquitous methods retailers have to connect with their customers digitally and physically. Here’s the thing: While it may seem like a purely digital tool, the reality is that mobile accessibility can drive better engagement with customers in the store as well.

One of the greatest tools for driving connected commerce is probably sitting within five feet of you right now – in fact, you might even be reading this blog on it.

Of course, I’m talking about smartphones – one of the most accessible, ubiquitous methods retailers have to connect with their customers digitally and physically. Here’s the thing: While it may seem like a purely digital tool, the reality is that mobile accessibility can drive better engagement with customers in the store as well.

A new special report from BRP, “The Mobile World of Retail,” explores the growing trend of mobile in the brick-and-mortar retail experience. “Retailers now have opportunities to guide customers to areas of the store that should be of interest to them based on their preferences, purchase history, and environmental factors such as weather and store location,” the authors explain. “If a customer normally shops at a store in the Northeast but is in Florida, the software may assume they are on vacation and offer them a coupon targeting relevant merchandise.”

Connecting with customers through mobile devices is paramount. The study, which polled major North American retailers, found that their top three customer engagement priorities utilize mobile devices in some form.

“If a customer normally shops at a store in the Northeast but is in Florida, the software may assume they are on vacation and offer them a coupon targeting relevant merchandise.”

Connecting with customers through mobile devices is paramount. The study, which polled major North American retailers, found that their top three customer engagement priorities utilize mobile devices in some form.

Read Full Article: Retailers: How Well Are You Using the Most Powerful Tool in Your Arsenal?

Mobile can lead luxury brands to more personalized customer experiences: report

Luxury Daily – Mobile can help luxury retailers identify customers and personalize their experiences accordingly. One of the top priorities for retailers this year will be identifying customers and delivering unique, personalized experiences based on that identification, according to a new report from Boston Retail Partners.

BRP’s “The Mobile World of Retail” report stresses the importance of how the retail experience needs to be unique and personalized for each consumer, and how mobile devices can help. Offering personalized experiences is something that will especially benefit luxury brands who rely on offering their customers an experience suited specifically to them beyond a standard retail trip.

“Luxury retailers have been much more aggressive than other retailers in enabling their store level teams with mobile devices for engaging the customer,” said Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead for BRP, Boston.  “Some savvy luxury retailers have even supplied each store associate with their own mobile device.

“For the most part, these devices are focused on giving the sales associate the ability to e-mail the customer, (before and after the sale), schedule appointments, inform the customer of new products and, most importantly, providing access to real-time inventory so that they can stay at the customer’s side when they check on something or see if the product is in the backroom. This is the high-end experience that consumers are expecting.”

Read Full Article: Mobile can lead luxury brands to more personalized customer experiences: report

Study: Most retail associates will use mobile solutions within three years

Chain Store Age – More retailers are putting mobile devices into their associates’ hands. Momentum is so strong that within three years, 89% of retailers will give their associates access to mobile solutions, according to “The Mobile World of Retail,” a report from Boston Retail Partners. BRP surveyed the top North American retailers to explore the current state of how mobile technology is shaping retail capabilities, priorities and processes.

As the proliferation of tablets and mobile phones creates new opportunities for retailers to enhance customer service, there are five key areas that retailers are focusing on: customer identification, customer engagement, associate training and task management, mobile point-of-sale (POS) and mobile payments.

Identifying the customer and then delivering a personalized experience is a top priority among 70% of respondents. Connecting with shoppers at the first stages of their journey enables store associates to leverage real-time visibility to inventory, purchase history and loyalty program activity — the foundation needed to make personalized recommendations. Mobile technology also engages shoppers prior to checkout, sometimes even before they enter the store, enabling associates to assist and influence purchase decisions.

Read Full Article: Study: Most retail associates will use mobile solutions within three years

BRP: Personalization Shaping Retail Outreach

Home World Business – Personalization is a big buzzword in retailing and, while many remain skeptical about how important it will eventually be to marketing and conversion, many companies are driving to incorporate it into their operations.

In fact, 40% of retailers said personalization is a top digital priority, according to the Boston Retail Partners Special Report: Personalizing the Customer Experience.

According to BRP, personalization has evolved beyond simple marketing to demographic groups, customer segments or even personas. The ability of consumers to shop and research the lowest price has made it imperative for retailers, especially those with brick and mortar locations, to find creative ways to entice customers into the selling environment, physical or virtual, and the best and most powerful way to do this is through personalization. As used today, personalization encapsulates all the details that make a customer shopping experience unique, involves knowing customers, understanding past purchases and current interests, and encompasses how the experience itself meets the customer’s needs for a personalized product or service.

However, many retailers still aren’t offering the kind of personalized services consumers increasingly expect both online and in stores. With customization and curation already part of their experience online and through loyalty programs customers can tap digitally whether home or in stores, many consumers today expect retailers to help them improve the satisfaction they get from shopping experiences.

Read Full Article: BRP: Personalization Shaping Retail Outreach

Study: Retailers move to put digital personalization front-and-center

Drug Store News – Personalization is no longer just about marketing to demographic groups, customer segments or even personas. Rather, the concept has evolved into a critical way for retailers to differentiate their brand to compete against companies like Amazon, according to “BRP Special Report: Personalizing the Customer Experience,” a study from Boston Retail Partners.

“Consumers’ constant ability to shop and easily research products and prices has made it imperative for retailers — especially those with brick and mortar locations — to find creative ways to entice customers into the store,” said Jeff Neville, VP, Boston Retail Partners. “The best and most powerful way to do this is through personalization.”

That said, retailers need to infuse digital features into the store environment to exceed customer expectations, compete more effectively and offer a more memorable shopping experience. This experience allows the customer can see, feel and interact with products, plus it extends opportunities for retailers to enhance customer loyalty through interaction with sales associates, according to the report.

Retailers are definitely on board, as 40% of surveyed retailers said that personalization is a top digital priority.

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Are you a speed shopper or browser? New Target stores to accommodate both

The Christian Science Monitor – Years after the start of the e-commerce revolution, American shoppers don’t just want web options – they want it all online and in stores, and all at the same time. Retail giants are racing to keep up.

Whether you are in a pinch for time or have time to kill, Target wants to have a store entrance for you.

The big-box retailer plans to redesign 600 stores to offer two separate entrances, beginning this fall, it announced at an e-commerce conference in Las Vegas on Monday. One entrance will have the time-crunched customer in mind, with groceries, self-checkout aisles, and a counter for online orders all near the front. The other entrance will be built for the browser, with curved center aisles filled with home, apparel, and beauty products.

The billions of dollars Target plans to spend on this ambitious redesign is part of a trend among brick-and-mortar giants to try to keep pace with consumer demands in the age of online shopping. These retailers were slow to adapt during the dot-com era, say analysts. But as they play catch up, they are discovering the customer wants it both ways: in-store pickup when they want a product fast or don’t want to pay extra for shipping, and in-store shopping when they want to linger down aisles in their spare time.

Target, Walmart, and other traditional retailers were slow to catch on to this “omnichannel” trend, wrote Darrell Rigby, a partner at Bain & Company who heads the firm’s Global Retail practice, in a 2011 article for Harvard Business Review. At that time, wrote Mr. Rigby, online revenue accounted for less than 2 percent of revenue at Target and Walmart.

With this redesign announced Monday, it appears Target is looking to especially take advantage of in-store pickup. Click and collect allows customers to order online and pick up in stores, combining the best of both worlds: speed, quick comparisons, and the chance to reconsider an item in person.

Retailers like it because they are finding customers don’t leave their wallets in their pockets when they go to the pickup counter. During the 2015 holiday season, for instance, 69 percent of shoppers who used click and collect purchased additional items while picking it up in store, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Holiday Consumer Purchasing Trends, as CNBC reported.

While 41 percent of retailers offered in-store pickup in 2015, 78 percent planned then to implement it within the next three years, according to a survey by Boston Retail Partners.

Read Full Article: Are you a speed shopper or browser? New Target stores to accommodate both

All CIOs Want For 2017…Is Unified Commerce

Retail TouchPoints – November 25, 2016 lived up to its name for many retailers, signaling the start of holiday shopping and revenue generation. Unfortunately, for some unprepared retailers these results were disappointing.

Black Friday, along with its digital cousin Cyber Monday, signaled the official launch to holiday commerce and kicked off a season to be jolly for those retailers with a robust technology infrastructure. But it was a Blue Holiday Season for those who did not sufficiently invest in the infrastructure and processes that lay the foundation for a true omni-channel shopping experience.

This holistic and interconnected approach – unified commerce – is increasingly the conduit for delivering a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels and touch points.
Unified commerce goes beyond omnichannel by enabling a single, holistic platform, combining in-store, mobile, e-Commerce and every other function throughout the enterprise. As such, it is quickly becoming the new retail imperative. While just 18% of retailers have implemented a unified commerce platform, another 57% plan to do so within three years.

Clearly, the presence (or absence) of unified commerce can make (or break) the customer experience – especially during the holiday season.

With the dust having settled from the holiday 2016, here are some insights into what retail CIOs and IT managers have on their wish lists for 2017…and beyond.

  • Unified Commerce Environment
  • Enhanced Mobile Capabilities
  • Virtual POS
  • Robust Network

Like water flowing out of a spigot, customer traffic – whether in-store, online or in-app – is a precious commodity that can pass through a business, never to return, if the resources aren’t there to capture it. Shoppers are in control, and their loyalty is only as strong as their next shopping experience.

Those retailers who remain slow in delivering a unified commerce experience will likely see the impact by the 2017 holiday shopping season – in the form of sluggish sales.

And those who are willing and able to effectively execute on omni-channel services are destined to have Happy Holidays, indeed.

Read Full Article: All CIOs Want For 2017…Is Unified Commerce

Retailers Accelerate Toward ‘Unified Commerce’

HFN – The growing importance of mobile devices to retailing, along with customer centricity is accelerating retailers’ move to “unified commerce,” according to a research report by Boston Retail Partners.

Unified commerce breaks down the barriers between a retailer’s internal channel platforms (brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce and mobile commerce) to create a common commerce platform, as defined by the retail consulting firm. “Unified commerce goes beyond omnichannel, putting the customer experience first,” said Brian Bunk, principal at BRP. “Retailers are moving in this direction, with 71 percent planning to have a unified commerce platform within three years.” Sixty percent plan to have centralized POS within two years.

Based on a survey of North American retailers, the report identified “four key pillars” that are critical to unified commerce: personal, mobile, seamless and secure. Regarding the personal aspect, consumers research products and shop anywhere and anytime, and thus expect a personalized experience wherever they shop. Seventy-five percent of the responding retailers said they plan to use Wi-Fi to identify customers with their mobile devices in the store by the end of 2019, and 80 percent said that within three years they will suggest products for customers to buy based on previous purchases.

BRP noted that mobile devices have given consumers a constant and virtually unlimited supply of information, which has changed the shopping experience and elevated shoppers’ expectations for customer service. Eighty-nine percent of the surveyed retailers said they will offer mobile solutions to store associates within three years, and 84 percent will use mobile point-of-sale within that same time frame.
Security is another pillar of the shopper experience, and this goes beyond providing security for payments and networks. Ninety-six percent of respondents said they will have end-to-end encryption (in which data is encrypted so that only the message’s recipient can open it and read it) by the end of 2019. Also, 73 percent said that within three years they will offer a single-token solution (which uses tokens containing biometric data in place of passwords to verify one’s identity).

“A unified commerce platform is not simply the future in-store or web platform, but combines in-store POS, mobile, web, order management, call center and clienteling into one integrated platform,” according to the report. “It has become the new retail imperative.”

Read Full Article: Retailers Accelerate Toward ‘Unified Commerce’

73% Of Retailers Plan To Have Unified Commerce Platforms By 2019

Retail TouchPoints – Retailers have ambitious plans to move toward the goal of “unified commerce.” While only 22% of retailers currently have a unified commerce platform in place, 73% plan to have a unified commerce platform implemented by the end of 2019, with order management capabilities at the center, according to a survey report from Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

Additionally, 56% indicate that creating a consistent brand experience across channels is a top digital priority. Given the tremendous growth of e-Commerce and mobile retailing, it may not be enough to simply optimize these channels; retailers must ensure that the offerings on every channel reflect the brand value.

The BRP report, titled: 2016 Digital Commerce Survey, emphasizes three digital commerce phrases that drive retailer’s priorities: personal, ubiquitous and unified. In implementing a platform that takes on all three priorities, the retailer gains a single consolidation point for all transactions, inventory management, pricing, order management, CRM and call center interactions.

READ FULL ARTICLE: 73% Of Retailers Plan To Have Unified Commerce Platforms By 2019

Bargain chains lead list of fastest-growing retailers

Chicago Tribune – Not all retailers are trimming back their brick-and-mortar footprints. Dollar stores and off-price chains, taking advantage of solid sales and bargain-hunting shoppers, are on an expansion kick, claiming half the spots on a list of 10 retailers adding the most new store square footage, according to commercial real estate and analytics firm CoStar.

Dollar General, second overall, led a trio of dollar stores in CoStar’s top 10, based on retailers’ announced U.S. store openings as of the second quarter of 2016. Dollar General, which started the year with nearly 12,500 stores, has announced plans to open 900 more this year and another 1,000 in 2017. Last week, the chain said it’s looking to hire 10,000 new employees by mid-October.

About 80 of this year’s new Dollar Generals will be roughly 20 percent smaller than typical locations, designed for urban areas where larger stores would be too costly or rural areas with fewer potential customers, spokeswoman Crystal Ghassemi said earlier this year. Family Dollar will add about 4.3 million square feet of retail space, and Dollar Tree — which acquired Family Dollar last year — is adding about 3.2 million, according to CoStar. Part of the appeal is convenience, which makes a big network of stores important.

Dollar stores also tend to drive growth with new locations, not big growth in sales at existing stores, said Hunter Harris, vice president at consulting firm Boston Retail Partners. Dollar General’s comparable store sales were up 0.7 percent in the second quarter of 2016 over the same period last year, while Dollar Tree’s grew by 1.2 percent. Big-box chains could start trying to match their prices, so keeping that growth going is “not going to be an easy task,” Harris said.

If more people begin purchasing basic consumer goods and personal care products online, a big retail footprint could become a liability if stores can’t find ways to stand out, said Steven Barr, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ U.S. retail and consumer sector leader.

But the price point “clearly has resonated,” even with higher-income customers and deal-hungry millennials, Harris said. Chicago has a Logan Square Dollar General and a Dollar Tree in Lakeview. “We see them popping up in neighborhoods and regions you wouldn’t have expected to find them 10 years ago.”

Similarly, off-price chains Marshalls and T.J. Maxx — sixth and seventh on CoStar’s list, with plans to add 3 million and about 2.9 million square feet, respectively — draw customers with the “treasure hunt” of finding a deal, Harris said.

Read Full Article: Bargain chains lead list of fastest-growing retailers