What are the Best Location-based Services Technologies to Enhance the Shopping Experience?

Within the last few years, a plethora of new location-based services (LBS) have been created for retail applications, however, selecting the right technology for retail applications can be an overwhelming task. To help retailers navigate the sea of options, BRP published this white paper: Cracking the Code – Deciphering Retail Location-Based Services Technology. 

Why are Location-Based Services Important?LBS_White_Paper_Cover

Location-based services are critical to identifying customers as they enter the store, which creates the best opportunity for retailers to personalize the customer’s shopping experience through clienteling and guided selling. In Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, 53% of retailers plan to have the ability to identify customers when they walk in the store via their smartphones within five years. That’s an 883% increase over the 6% who indicated they could already identify their customer in this way. Understanding the different technologies and how to best utilize them in conjunction with the customers’ smartphone is critical for the future store.

Deciphering the Key Technologies

With the growing interest in LBS technology comes a complicated path for selecting the optimal system. Coupled with the ever-increasing capabilities of LBS, even the savviest ‘techies’ have been left wrestling with the challenges of deciphering this complex technology. This white paper provides an overview of the nuances of the various LBS options and the pros and cons of the respective retail applications. The primary location-based technologies assessed in the white paper include: GPS, Wi-Fi, RFID, NFC and Bluetooth.

I encourage you to download and read the complete white paper to learn more about location-based technologies.


Cracking the Code – Deciphering Retail Location-Based Services Technology

As always, I appreciate your insights and comments on this topic. Please share your comments below.


How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience? Recap Cover ImageAt the Digital Summit 2015, I moderated a retail executive panel on mobile technology and below is a summary of the topics we discussed. For more details, here is a link to the complete recap of the session:

2015 Recap – How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience?

Here are some of the key points discussed during the session…

There has been a huge technology shift in the past few years and mobile technology in the hands of consumers and retail associates has been the driver. Mobile capabilities allow a retailer to break down the barrier between the online digital environment and the physical store. Mobile is driving retailers to upgrade and replace technology to keep ahead of their competitors’ customer experience offerings and to try to keep up with their very informed and technology-savvy customers.

Mobile Technology is an Enabler

MobileEnablerConsumers now use mobile devices to research products, compare prices, complete purchases online and increasingly to pay for in-store purchases. The proliferation of tablets and mobile phones has also created new opportunities for retailers to enhance customer service. Putting mobile devices in the hands of store associates enables inventory look-up (enterprise-wide) even for products not immediately available, supports the associate providing assistance to the customer on the selling floor, supports transaction processing anywhere in the store and anywhere in their supply chain.

Mobile is the Future

According to Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, many retailers are focused on expanding their mobile capabilities.

  • 286% more retailers plan to deploy mobile POS in the next two years
  • 165% more retailers plan to offer personalized recommendations via customer-facing mobile in 3 years
  • 56% of retailers plan to accept Apple Pay within 3 years

“The mobile device is the cash register of the future, the sales associate of the future and the wallet of the future – or rather the now!”


Mobile for Customer Identification and Personalization

BeaconsCustomers and their shopping behavior remain anonymous without some type of customer identification. One of the keys to influencing a customer’s purchase and offering a personalized experience is to identify the customer early, as soon as they enter the store. In BRP’s 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, 90% of the retailers surveyed said they were able to identify their customer in the store, which is up significantly from 73% in the 2014 survey. However, in many cases, customer identification is happening at the point of checkout or later, which is too late to influence the current purchase decision.

In BRP’s CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, very few retailers (6%) indicated they have the ability to identify customers when they walk in the store via their smartphone. The bigger story is the 53% who plan to implement this within five years – that’s an 883% increase

Keys to Mobile Success

As discussed in our panel session, here are a few things retailers need to do to successfully deploy mobile capabilities:

  • Create a consistent experience across all channels
  • Know everything about your customer:Customer Information
    • Personal preferences
    • Purchase history
    • Key dates (anniversary, bithdays,etc.)
    • What’s in their closet?
    • Where did they browse?
    • Did they abandon an online cart?
  • Be as connected as your customers
  • Train sales associates on using mobile technology (change management)
  • Have the right infrastructure: network, middleware, order management
  • Have visibility and access to customer and product information across the enterprise – in real-time!

Mobile Challenges

She is Moving FasterHere are a few challenges our retail panelist discussed:

  • Keeping up with Customers and Technology
  • Privacy and Security
  • Inventory Accuracy
  • High-Speed Internet Access In-store with WiFi
  • Choosing the right Technology Partners

Mobile is definitely the future of retail, as consumers demand it and retailers are focused on enhancing their mobile capabilities.  Are you keeping up with your customers’ desires for mobile features?

For more details on mobile technology for retail, download the full report:

2015 Recap – How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience?

As always, I appreciate your perspectives on this topic. Please share your comments below.


The Future Store Manifesto – Real-time Retail Changes Everything!

Boston Retail Partners published “The Future Store Manifesto” today to articulate our vision of the future store and identify the challenges and imperatives retailers face in delivering the experience consumers expect.Store of Future Quote2 This blog post is an executive summary of the Manifesto. I encourage you to read to full The Future Store Manifesto to see what the future holds for retail stores.

Here is an abridged version of the paper…TheFutureStoreManifesto_Cover

With the rapid adoption of smartphones, today’s consumers are always connected and have access to unlimited information at their fingertips. Consumers expect their shopping experience to transcend channels so they can shop anywhere, buy anywhere, pick up anywhere and receive service anywhere.

The digital world is infiltrating the physical store, where consumers are equipped with their smartphones and a new set of expectations. While two-thirds of online transactions occur after a shopper visits the store, 90% of all retail sales transactions still occur within the store.

Over the past twenty years, many in the retail industry have predicted the demise of the physical store. The store is still the foundation of retail; it is where the tactile and sensory experience comes together for the consumer. The store is the theatre for shopping. However, we are on the cusp of a significant and fundamental transformation in the store environment.

Online shoppers are now accustomed to features such as product reviews, extensive assortments, one-click transaction processing and personalized recommendations. Retailers must therefore infuse digital features into the store environment to exceed customer expectations.

The store of the future must be mobile, relevant, personal, ubiquitous and secure.


There’s no question that mobile devices are pervasive, and have changed shopping behavior and elevated expectations. Wearables, a form of mobile, are now available to the masses. The store of the future will allow the shopper to simultaneously browse online through their digital glasses while shopping within the store, and then simply wave their watch to purchase their items. Mobile devices enable associates to enhance customer service through mobile point of sale which enables the completion of a customer’s purchase on the sales floor at the moment a buying decision is made.


Identifying customers when they walk in the store allows the retailer to understand shopping history and communicate relevant and personalized information to the shopper based on “customer context.” Customer context – the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant – is essential to personalizing the shopping experience. Technologies such as touch screens, virtual mirrors and virtual reality offer possibilities for further interaction and a more immersive environment.


Mobile devices used by store associates to assist customers with clienteling, guided selling, inventory look-up, and even checkout throughout the store are prime examples of ways retailers personalize the customer experience. The future store may also enable customers to videoconference with their favorite sales associate – from home.


“Real-time retail” is the ability to deliver a seamless personalized experience to the shopper whenever, wherever and however they choose to shop. It enables retailers to identify shoppers and gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing and inventory data across all channels – instantly. Without real-time data, information provided internally and externally is out-of-date and risks being inaccurate and out of context.


The store of the future requires a secure environment beyond retailers’ current focus on payments and network security. Retailers need to strike a balance with consumers between gathering information and maintaining trust. As retailers seek new ways to provide relevant information and experiences, like product recommendations via digital screens in the dressing rooms or facial recognition alerting an associate to a shopper’s arrival, they must understand the impact on the customer relationship.

Challenge – Current Environments Can’t Support the Store of the Future

Realizing the store of the future will be a challenge. Retailers have legacy systems, inconsistent customer data, and are generally not organized in a way that supports this transformation.

Outdated Legacy Systems

FutureStore_SilosThe evolution of the store has been constrained by disparate systems built in silos based on old technology and paradigms and a lack of robust networks; all creating today’s architecture and integration challenges.

For decades, retailers added new technology to support channels without integrating the application portfolio. Retailers now often have separate inventories and systems for order management, customer relationship management (CRM) and merchandising for each channel.

Multiple Versions of the Truth

Retailers have struggled to gain consistent, shareable and accurate customer and inventory data across the enterprise, which has hampered their ability to provide personalized, relevant service. As data grows exponentially, organizations grapple with distinct silos where inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent and redundant data resides. It is not surprising that a single version of the truth rarely exists. The ability to more effectively manage and synchronize data throughout the enterprise is an essential requirement for real-time retail. Real-time visibility to customer, product, price, inventory and order information across all channels is critical to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Organizational Change Fatigue

For most retailers, the pace of technology acceleration is confusing, overwhelming and exhausting. This has caused organizational change fatigue. Along with technology architecture and usability, retailers must address organizational change. Store associates must often learn new processes and take on additional responsibilities, often without receiving extra resources or relief from their everyday responsibilities. Retailers need to manage change and embrace a different architectural approach for today’s retail paradigm.

Key Takeaways

While the role of the physical store is changing, it remains the hub of the shopping journey. The digital world offers consumers new ways and “places” to research and shop. These digital possibilities, along with mobility, have raised consumer expectations, and forced retailers to transform and evolve to succeed.

The physical store will continue to be the heart and soul of retail operations for the foreseeable future; however, a transformation is in process. While the store isn’t going away, it’s about to get a whole lot more connected, mobile, smarter and exciting.


Download the full The Future Store Manifesto paper to get the complete story including the “Future Store Imperatives,” which are not included above.

As allows, I appreciate your opinions and suggestions.  Please leave your comments below.


VIDEO: Personalization – The “Amazon Experience” in the store

Retailers can now deliver the “Amazon Experience” in the store.

Retailers can identify who you are (if you opt-in), know what’s in your closet, your online footprint and your online cart abandonment all while you are standing in front of the sales associate. This is “real-time” retail!

Pricing is also going to evolve to a more granular, individual pricing level.

Watch this video blog post to learn more.

Visit our BRP Videos page to watch videos on other topics.

For more information on real-time retail, check out this report:

BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Real-time Retail – The New Retail Imperative

As always, I appreciate you thoughts on this topic. Please enter your thoughts and comments below.


What is “Customer Context” and why you need to know…

Retailers who understand their customer at the most granular and intimate level will increase the relevance of interactions and improve customer retention and loyalty and increase sales. Do you really know your customers and can you deliver the experience they expect? Customer context is the answer.

Customer Context Defined

CustomerContextImageBRP defines customer context as “the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant.”

With advances in technology (networks, WiFi, mobile, NFC, Beacons, etc.) retailers have the ability to access more customer information than ever before and in real-time. Retailers have the ability to know what a customer has in her closet, what she previously purchased, what she browsed on the Web site and abandoned in her online cart, when she is near your store and even exactly what she is browsing and where within the store.

In addition to customer insights, customer context considers environmental conditions such as current and forecasted weather, time of day, time of year, media (news), social media, traffic, holidays, events, and other conditions that impact a consumer’s purchase decision.

Delivering on Customer Context

Retailers must integrate the customer insight and environmental factors with real-time transactions and inventory data to enable and support real-time retail capabilities that leverage “customer context.”

To be successful, information must be instantly accessible to store associates. Without real-time data, information provided internally and externally is out-of-date and risks being inaccurate and out of context. Retailers must collect, analyze and respond, in real-time, to their customer’s interactions across all touch points.

With real-time customer context, sales associates can offer customer intimacy and enhanced services like guided selling and personalized offers that are relevant to the individual customer.

Real-time Retail is a Top Priority

According to the 2015 POS Benchmarking Survey, nearly 50% of the retailers indicated that real-time retail was one of their top three priorities.

BRP Special Report COVER - Real-time RetailAs reported in BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Real-time Retail – The New Retail Imperative, retailers are focused on leveraging “customer context” to provide customers enhanced experiences:

  • 280% more retailers plan to provide suggested selling based on a customer’s previous purchases within three years
  • 361% more retailers plan to offer promotions based on the customer’s geographic proximity within five years
  • 107% more retailers plan to have real-time inventory available at the POS within three years
  • 157% more retailers plan to implement real-time analytics within five years

Is your organization ready to leverage customer context?

As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this topic.  Please enter your comments and ideas below.


Seeking Retailers’ Opinions – BRP E-Commerce Benchmark Survey

Nearly all retailers have an e-commerce presence and consumers expect it. Consumers typically visit a retailer’s Website for product research and comparison before they ultimately make their purchase either online, in the store or on their phone. E-Commerce and m-commerce continues to be a high growth opportunity for retailers and we are keen to learn how retailers are approaching e-commerce in their organization.

Boston Retail Partners (BRP) is pleased to announce that our E-Commerce Benchmark Survey is now available and we need your help!

This survey seeks to understand retailers’ current e-commerce and digital commerce priorities and initiatives as the retail industry continues its transformation into the digital world. The survey is now open to all qualified retailers, please take a few moments and share your thoughts on this important topic.

This brief survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete and covers the following e-commerce topics:Suvey Checkboxes with Computer Mouse 01

  • E-Commerce priorities and initiatives
  • E-commerce technology
  • Website strategies
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Unified commerce capabilities
  • Mobile
  • Payments

Please share your opinions:

Our E-Commerce Benchmark Survey is open now so please take a few minutes and give us your thoughts today:


As a bonus, all qualified retailers completing the survey receive the survey report before it is released to the public and are eligible for a 30-minute complimentary post-survey briefing with Boston Retail Partners!

The results of the survey will be compiled and analyzed and we will release the final report in late August.

We appreciate your input!


Is Real-time Retail the New Retail Imperative?

According to the BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Real-time Retail – The New Retail Imperative, nearly 50% of retailers indicate that real-time retail is one of their top three priorities!

BRP Special Report COVER - Real-time RetailToday’s consumers expect a seamless experience across channels – in the store, on the Web and via their mobile device – which requires retailers to deliver a “real-time” shopping experience to meet these elevated demands.

Real-time retail is the ability to deliver a holistic experience to consumers whenever, wherever or however they choose to shop by gathering, analyzing and disseminating customer, product, pricing and inventory data across all channels – in real-time. This enables retailers to leverage “customer context,” which we define as the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions, to make the shopping experience relevant.

This special report highlights key findings from recent BRP surveys validating retailers’ commitment to implementing real-time retail by leveraging a unified commerce platform and other innovative technologies, including:

  • 76% of retailers plan to provide suggested selling based on a customer’s previous purchases within three years
  • 83% of the respondents plan to offer promotions based on the customer’s geographic proximity within five years
  • 91% of the respondents plan to have real-time inventory available at the POS within three years
  • 95% of retailers plan to implement real-time analytics within five years

Download the report here: BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Real-time Retail – The New Retail Imperative

I think you will find this report interesting.

You may also like to read this report: 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey

As always, I encourage your opinions and comments on this report.  Please share your comments below.


Real-time Retail Is the New Black

I recently wrote an article about real-time retail for Apparel Magazine and here is a recap of the article.

Woman on phoneIn apparel and fashion retailing, identifying the hottest trends and understanding your customers’ buying habits are critical to your success. Predicting what colors, fabrics, trends and styles will be popular in the upcoming seasons is crucial to maximizing sales and profitability. Buying the wrong colors or styles can be a costly mistake, so having access to your customers’ preferences in colors, sizes, styles and even how they choose to shop is key. Having this customer information in real-time not only allows you to understand your customer but also allows your associates to suggestive sell and enhance the shopping experience.

As you know, customers are becoming more demanding — driven by new technology and the real-time capabilities it enables. A customer can be shopping at a store for a specific purse or sweater design and she can take a photo of it and gain instant access to the best prices from multiple competitors and information on the closest store that carries it in stock — in real-time. Customers expect this seamless experience in the store, on the web or anywhere they choose to shop. “Real-time retail” is the new retail imperative.

What is real-time retail?

When a customer walks in your door, do you know who she is? Do you know what she abandoned in her online shopping cart this morning? Do you know that she looked at your daily specials on her smartphone 30 minutes ago? Can you see current inventory at your store and all other stores and distribution centers in your chain — in real-time? These capabilities are examples of real-time retail in action. Real-time retail is the ability to deliver a seamless experience to consumers whenever, wherever or however they choose to shop by gathering, analyzing and disseminating customer, product, pricing and inventory data across all channels — in real-time.

Imagine some of the following scenarios that are possible through real-time retail:

Woman Scaning Tag• A customer walks into your store and her favorite sales associate is immediately notified on her tablet or smartphone (assuming the customer has opted-in). The associate not only can see the customer’s prior purchases, but also her recent browsing history so the associate can direct her to similar items in the store.

• Your sales associate can see a customer’s holiday purchases from last year and make suggestions for this year’s purchases when she visits the store based on these insights.

• A customer posts an item to Facebook while in the store and gets feedback from friends in real-time on whether to purchase the item.

• As a customer is shopping in the store, she finds an item she likes but it is not available in her size; your associate can access real-time inventory information to find out where the item can be found and ship it directly to the customer.

• A customer is looking at a shirt in two colors and can’t decide which one she wants. Based on current sales and inventory levels, your store can offer the customer a 10 percent off promotion to encourage her to purchase one of the colors instead of the other.

According to the recent survey of North American retailers by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), one of the top priorities for retailers in 2015 is real-time retail. Nearly half of the retail respondents in the BRP 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey indicated that real-time retail is among their top three priorities for 2015.

According to the survey, retailers are focused on expanding their real-time capabilities to deliver the enhanced services their customers now expect.

Tailoring the Customer Experience Chart

Enhancing the shopping experience

Retailers that can provide associates with customer data in real-time before the customer reaches the checkout are able to provide a more personalized experience and can offer suggestions to customers that impact their purchase decisions.  Many retailers are planning to personalize the customer experience by utilizing virtual closets (or room, garage or whatever is appropriate for the retailer). By understanding what is currently in the customer’s closet, a sales associate can easily suggest products that coordinate with the customer’s current wardrobe and even show her how well items can coordinate together.

According to our survey respondents, 510 percent more retailers will know what is in their customers’ closets within three years and provide this information to sales associates in real-time.

Personalized promotions

In the past, retailers’ pricing hierarchy was based on various levels: company, division, channel, zone and store. Now there is a new pricing strategy and structure at the personal level — based on an individual shopper. According to the survey, 174 percent more retailers will be offering personalized promotions in the next three years. By understanding a customer’s purchasing habits the retailer gains insight into the price point at which the customer may be willing to purchase and can offer incentives or promotions in real-time to help close the sale.

Personalized recommendations

Woman holding shirt up to friend in clothes storeOne of the biggest growth areas over the next three years will be to offer personalized recommendations based on an individual customer’s shopping history. Currently 20 percent of retailers offer the ability for their associates to suggestive sell based on a customer’s previous purchases and 56 percent more plan to implement this feature within three years — a 280 percent increase.

Even more interesting is the fact that retailers are beginning to offer associates the ability to suggestive sell to their customers based on the customer’s online browsing history. This offers the ability to transcend channels and tailor the shopping experience to the customer. Offering personalized recommendations based on online behaviors is a key capability in the convergence of the digital and in-store experience.

According to BRP’s survey, personalizing the shopping experience by understanding the customer’s online browsing history will increase by 1060 percent over the next three years.


Customers are forcing a fundamental reshaping of retail by demanding a seamless convergence of the in-store and digital experiences. Successful retailers realize that they can no longer divide that experience among separate channels and must work towards a holistic shopping experience that transcends channels. One of the keys to delivering this experience is real-time retail. This is why real-time retail is “the new black!” 

As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this topic.  Please enter your comments and idea below.


BRP 2015 CRM SURVEY: Customer Experience/Engagement is #1 CRM Priority for Retailers

In Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of the top North American retailers, respondents indicated that their top CRM priority was enhancing the customer experience/engagement.


Retailers are responding to consumers’ heightened expectations for a personalized, seamless experience wherever, whenever and however they shop. Retailers understand that customer relationship management (CRM) is an essential enabler and key to influencing customer behaviors with contextual and personalized experiences across channels.

Closed-loop CRM Program

ACRM Circle successful CRM program is built on a closed-loop system that begins by identifying customers to establish new relationships, followed by engaging with customers in compelling ways such as gamification that enhance the customer experience, then analyzing customer behaviors in real-time, and finally, retaining customers with superior service and loyalty programs. This continuous loop is essential for retailers to cultivate valuable customer relationships.

The findings of the 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Survey identified that retailers are focused on the key aspects of CRM that will enhance the customer’s shopping experience across channels and increase sales. The key findings of the survey are:

Identify the Customer – 883% more retailers plan to identify customers when they walk in the store within five years.

Engage the Customer – 74% of retailers indicate that customer experience/engagement is one of their top three CRM priorities.

Analyze the Customer – 100% of the retailers surveyed plan to utilize analytics/dashboard to understand customer purchases and shopping behaviors within two years.

Retain the Customer – 46% of retailers indicate that a structured loyalty program is one of their top three CRM priorities.

Special thanks to the silver sponsors of this year’s CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey: Enactor and Epicor.

I encourage you to read the complete survey report for additional insights on retailers’ top priorities and how they are focused on improving the customer experience.

Download Now: 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey

As always, I welcome your thoughts and opinions. Please share your comments below.


VIDEO: Customer-facing and Associate Mobile Apps

Retailers are using mobile apps to improve the customer experience, but the way they use the apps is different based on the retail segment.

Customer-facing mobile apps are a good fit for grocers and big box retailers and associate-facing apps are better for specialty retailers. We are seeing grocers like Stop & Shop effectively using customer apps for scanning and paying for products.  Specialty retailers are using associate apps for guided selling like identifying what is in the customer’s closet.

Watch this video to learn more.

Visit our BRP Videos page to watch videos on other topics.

As always, I appreciate you thoughts on this topic. Please enter your thoughts and comments below.