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More retailers use AI to improve customer service

Chain Store Age – Retailers are increasingly applying artificial intelligence (AI) to better personalize customer service initiatives, and momentum is increasing. Fifty five percent of retailers plan to leverage AI technology within three years, and applications will vary, according to the “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey,” from Boston Retail Partners (BRP) retail consulting firm.

AI’s ability to learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention makes it a credible option to improve customer service. Some retailers use it to offer purchasing suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions. Others use it to pinpoint the most convenient time of day to reach out to consumers with product suggestions, which are also based on past clicks and website visit data.

While chatbots can be a useful customer service tool, some consumers may not know if they are talking to a real person or a bot until they’ve already entered the interaction. Without transparency, that lack of clarity may also turn off some consumers.

“Transparency is a big discussion for AI. Do you want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior VP and practice lead, BRP. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

Read Full Article: More retailers use AI to improve customer service

BRP Consulting’s Agile Approach for Retail Helps Accelerate Business Transformation

BRP’s Agile Approach can Achieve 50% Faster Implementation Times

Boston, MA – September 13, 2018– BRP announces the availability of its innovative Agile Approach for Retail that helps retailers deploy software up to 50% faster than traditional efforts.  Retail is rapidly being redefined. With the swift pace of disruption occurring today, retail winners need to accelerate the transformation of their organization, business processes and technology to align with the demands of their customers.  With its Agile Approach for Retail, BRP is uniquely positioned to help forward-thinking retailers adopt this accelerated and flexible method for tackling enterprise projects.

BRP’s Agile Approach for Retail enables organizations to get to market faster by encouraging cross-organizational teamwork, collaboration and adaptability, all while ensuring better organizational ownership and more efficient adoption of newly implemented solutions. With significantly faster project completion times, retailers reduce the associated risks and costs throughout the lifecycle of the project. BRP resources are trained in Agile methodologies and have hands-on experience in supporting organizations as they make the necessary structural shift in the way team members and management work and communicate with one another.

“Adopting an Agile mindset allows organizations to quickly respond to changing customer demands. With traditional implementation approaches, requirements need to be defined 12-18 months before implementation, but an Agile approach allows retailers to easily shift requirements during project implementation to match today’s and tomorrow’s customer demands,” said Ryan Grogman, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “As retailers are pressured to do more with less and quickly adapt to new retail realities, an Agile approach to technology and operations, has become a new retail imperative.”

Agile’s emphasis on continuously gathering customer feedback for inclusion in upcoming functionality allows retailers to ensure that they’re always working on the latest and most valuable functionality for the business. Retailers increase their return on investment while delivering high quality products that meet and exceed customer demands via Agile’s emphasis on small value-added increments. By implementing an Agile mindset and providing team members with a collaborative environment where they’re empowered to innovate and learn from their mistakes, retailers are taking the right steps towards surviving the retail transformation.

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail management consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)
Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM
Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks
Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit http://www.brpconsulting.com.

The Evolution Of Retail Tech: What We Have Learned, Where We Are And Where We’re Headed

Retail TouchPoints – Since the dawn of retail in the late 1800s, the retail industry has continued to influence present-day consumer expectations through the use of cutting-edge technologies. From the first cash register and bank-issued credit cards, which were introduced in the 1950s to provide “pay later” options and encourage more consumer spending — to the advent of online shopping enabling digital transactions between consumers and businesses, no other industry has experienced such extreme shifts in consumer behavior as a result.

Whether a startup or a seasoned household brand, longevity is more than a promise or a boardroom mantra or a rock bottom price; it’s a deliberate commitment to focus on the customer at every level, every stage and on every platform — in real time. That, according to key finding from the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey conducted by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), is the future of retail, and one that will require new technology to provide the kind of unified customer experience that is personal, mobile, seamless and secure, rather than disparate technology and stand-alone systems that for decades have duplicated cost structures at almost every customer touch point. Convenience is also key to the experience.

Personal: Taking cues from those who proactively send consumers personalized offers, flash sale notifications and product recommendations, many brand manufacturers in retail are discovering that “knowing” or identifying the customer right from the start is the key to personalizing the shopping experience. That’s why 70% of retailers indicate customer identification is their top customer engagement priority, with the most prevalent technologies including WiFi (43%) and mobile web sites (40%), both of which over 70% of retailers plan to use in the next three years.

Mobile: Mobile devices including smartphones, tablets and wearables have not only changed the way shoppers research and purchase but also elevated customer expectations toward service. That’s why 49% of retailers (up from 31% in 2016) are using mobile solutions for store associates, with 89% planning to offer a mobile solution within the next three years, while 84% plan to implement mobile POS.

Seamless: By the end of 2019, 71% of retailers plan to have a unified commerce platform in place, with cloud technologies the basis for offering a centralized POS, cross-channel and fulfillment services, real-time visibility and access to product and customer information and analytics.

Secure: With data theft and fraud a growing threat to retailers and consumers alike, most survey respondents indicated a move toward a multi-layer security plan to protect sensitive customer and organization data. In addition to 96% planning to implement end-to-end encryption by the close of 2019, 73% will offer a single-token solution within three years.

Convenience: Thriving brand manufacturers and retailers have learned that providing today’s savvy customers with what they want means offering more efficient pathways to purchase. Evidence of this can be seen in the growing use of online location finders, live chat widgets and in-stock features. Moreover, with options for curbside pick-up (such as Target’s rapidly growing Drive Up feature), 24-hour delivery and multiple shipping possibilities from potentially thousands of sites around the globe, choice is allowing customers to experience the kind of shopping they crave from beginning to end.

Read Full Article: The Evolution Of Retail Tech: What We Have Learned, Where We Are And Where We’re Headed

Multichannel – Luxury Memo special report

Luxury Daily -There are many theories, explanations and predictions for how the way people shop is changing. But one undeniable reality is that customers no longer shop through single channels.

The rise of digital, the fragmentation of retail options and the dissolution of brand loyalty have all contributed to the rise of multichannel retail. Multichannel, or omnichannel as some call it, simply means that a brand or retailer is integrating the various channels of its business, such as bricks-and-mortar stores, social media and ecommerce, into one cohesive path.

This trend has been incredibly influential over the last few years, with brands across the luxury world radically reorganizing the way they do business to capture shoppers across touchpoints.

“Shopping today is all about digital, digital and digital,” said Brian Bunk, principal at Boston Retail Partners retail consulting firm, Boston. “With the advent of mobile commerce, consumers expect to shop whenever and wherever they want.

“The customer journey continues to evolve as consumers move across channels to research, purchase and review products with easy access to merchandise and information right in the palm of their hands,” he said. “According to a recent research report, Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations, digital influences up to 75 percent of all in-store visits and mobile is leveraged in almost half of all in-store shopping experiences.”

“A major trend is a focus on a holistic and personalized customer experience across any and all touchpoints,” Boston Retail Partners’ Mr. Bunk said. “Too many omnichannel efforts have failed because their main focus was on a technology or solution versus focusing on the desired customer experience.

“For many retailers, there should be more of a focus on the personalized digital experiences within the store, and the capabilities to support anywhere, anytime, anyhow shopping that customers now desire and expect,” he said. “Buy online, pick up in the store (BOPIS) is simply the table stakes for retailers, and the key is to execute it flawlessly.

“With increasing expectations, we are also seeing new twists on the BOPIS model to provide customers options, such as buy in-store, ship to home; buy online, ship to home; and buy anywhere, ship or pick-up anywhere.”

Read Full Article: Multichannel – Luxury Memo special report

The Great Retail Digital Divide

The traditional retail model is being disrupted as consumer expectations and shopping behavior rapidly evolve. A customer journey that remains in only one channel, whether online, mobile or in-store, is no longer the norm. Customers expect to move in and out of multiple channels, including in-store, online, mobile, and social media, and they expect a seamless and frictionless transition from one channel to another. This creates a new requirement for retailers to host a single shared shopping cart that moves with the customer.

Customer expectations are only going to continue to rise, fueled by the upsurge in mobile shopping over the past few years. This is driving demand for increased digital capabilities bundled with personalization in the store. Unfortunately, we are seeing that retailers are not always keeping up with customer expectations. This gap between consumer demand for digital capabilities within the store and most retailers’ current ability to support this is what we call the ‘great digital divide.’ Consumers say that digital influences up to 75% of pre-store visits and is leveraged in 46% of their in-store shopping experiences; however, less than half of retailers deliver on the most important digital capabilities that customers desire.[1]

To support this desired experience and increased capabilities, retailers need a robust order management solution that can serve as the anchor for the single shared shopping cart and operate as the brains of a unified commerce platform.

The success of a unified commerce solution requires a common commerce platform leveraged across all customer touchpoints. The centralized order management system is key, as this is the brains of the unified commerce platform.  It provides the needed customer order visibility, order orchestration and routing optimization across channels, allowing retailers to engage their customers however they choose, and meet and exceed customer expectations.

While there are many challenges to implementing an effective unified commerce solution, the cost of doing nothing is steadily increasing and may mean the difference between success and bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the ‘great digital divide’ is likely to only increase as customer expectations grow.  Customers expect a single cart that crosses all touchpoints and using your OMS as the brains of the operation may be the most effective approach to meet these needs.

If you haven’t already moved to a unified commence platform, now is the time to act. We suggest you start by looking at a unified order management system. For more information on how to bridge the ‘great digital divide’ with an order management system, we recommend reading the BRP Special Report: OMS – The Brains of the Operation.

I appreciate your thoughts on this topic.  Please share your opinions and comments below.

Brian

[1]The Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectationsreport conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Wind, stream, 07/24/18, https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-retail-research-report/

BRP: Retailers’ digital capabilities still miss the mark

Chain Store Age – The “digital divide” between retailers and consumers continues to grow, making it harder for retailers to satisfy customers’ expectations. Consumers said that digital influences up to 75% of pre-store visits and is leveraged in 46% of their in-store shopping experiences. Yet, less than half of retailers deliver on the most important digital capabilities that customers desire, according to “The Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations.”

Retailers can no longer rely on legacy systems that are not designed to accommodate today’s retail environment. Many retailers that have cobbled systems and processes together in an attempt to deliver a seamless customer experience across channels. Instead, retailers need to adopt a new approach to unified commerce, one that requires a robust order management solution (OMS). Viewed as the brains of the operation, all transaction and customer data coming in and going out of the system is used to run the business, according to another BRP study called, “OMS — The Brains of the Operation.”

“Customer expectations are exceeding retail capabilities – creating a ‘great digital divide.’ Retailers realize that unified commerce is a retail imperative, but executing the strategy is challenging,” said David Russo, VP at BRP. “The answer may be utilizing an OMS as a unified commerce platform.”

Read Full Article: BRP: Retailers’ digital capabilities still miss the mark

Customers Demand Digital Capabilities of Retailers

Convenience Store Decisions – BRP finds less than half of retailers are providing the digital capabilities customers desire. According to a new report from Boston Retail Partners (BRP), retailers are not keeping up with customers’ digital demand. This gap between consumer demand for digital capabilities within the store and most retailers’ current ability to support this is the ‘great digital divide’ that is plaguing the retail industry.

Many retailers have cobbled systems and processes together as a ‘just get something done’ approach in an attempt to deliver a seamless customer experience across channels. The unfortunate result of this quick fix approach is a ‘faux’ omni-channel model that doesn’t execute as promised and risks disappointing customers.

“While retailers understand the importance of moving to a unified commerce model, executing the strategy is challenging,” said David Russo, vice president, BRP. “It can be a daunting project when considering the scope of a commerce platform that enables and supports every customer touch point—in real-time. The answer may be utilizing an order management system as the platform for unified commerce.”

To download OMS – The Brains of the Operation, visit: https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-oms-special-report

Read Full Article: Customers Demand Digital Capabilities of Retailers

New Report from BRP Retail Consulting Firm Offers OMS Solution to Solve the Great Digital Divide

Consumers state that digital influences up to 75% of pre-store visits but less than half of retailers deliver these capabilities

Boston, MA – August 29, 2018– According to a new report from BRP, retailers are not keeping up with customer expectations.  This gap between consumer demand for digital capabilities within the store and most retailers’ current ability to support this is the ‘great digital divide’ that is plaguing the retail industry. BRP published the special report OMS – The Brains of the Operation, based on the 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, to address retailers’ need to find a solution to meet rising digital expectations.

Consumers say that digital influences up to 75% of pre-store visits and is leveraged in 46% of their in-store shopping experiences; however, less than half of retailers deliver on the most important digital capabilities that customers desire.[1]  To meet rising customer expectations, retailers can no longer rely on legacy systems that are not designed to accommodate today’s retail environment. Retailers realize that unified commerce is a retail imperative, but execution on that strategy is challenging. The answer may be utilizing an order management system (OMS) as the platform for unified commerce.

Many retailers have cobbled systems and processes together as a ‘just get something done’ approach in an attempt to deliver a seamless customer experience across channels. The unfortunate result of this quick fix approach is a ‘faux’ omni-channel model that doesn’t execute as promised and risks disappointing customers.

“While retailers understand the importance of moving to a unified commerce model, executing the strategy is challenging,” said David Russo, vice president, BRP.  “It can be a daunting project when considering the scope of a commerce platform that enables and supports every customer touch point – in real-time. The answer may be utilizing an order management system as the platform for unified commerce.”

To fix this problem, retailers need to rethink old paradigms and adopt a new approach to unified commerce. To support this desired experience and increased capabilities, retailers need a robust order management solution that can serve as the anchor for the single shared shopping cart and operate as the brains of a unified commerce platform.

To download OMS – The Brains of the Operation, visit: https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-oms-special-report

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)
Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM
Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks
Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit http://www.brpconsulting.com.

[1]The Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectationsreport conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Wind, stream, 07/24/18, https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-retail-research-report/

How will Google bust into brick and mortar?

RetailDive – It’s reportedly only a matter of time before the tech giant signs the lease on its first permanent store — and just what its physical strategy will look like remains to be seen.

It’s reportedly only a matter of time before Google signs the lease on its first permanent brick-and-mortar store. Last week, unnamed sources told The Chicago Tribune that the tech giant was mulling a two-level 14,000 square foot space in the city’s meatpacking district.

While Google hasn’t responded to Retail Dive’s request for information, nor has it spoken publicly to other publications, retail insiders aren’t holding back speculation over what a move into physical retail could mean for Google. In the past, the company has experimented with pop-up shops and other store-in-store concepts, but a commitment to a physical store of its own will make a brick-and-mortar strategy critical. Just what exactly that will look like has yet to be seen.

On the topic, the discussion forum RetailWire asked its BrainTrust panel of retail experts the following questions:

What kind of brick-and-mortar strategy, if any, makes the most sense for Google to support its hardware lineup? What lessons should Google take from pushes by Apple and Amazon into physical retail?

Do what Amazon did: Buy your physical footprint

Ken Morris, Principal, Boston Retail Partners: Physical stores make perfect sense to showcase Amazon’s current portfolio of tech products. It seems like a smaller footprint than 14,000 sq ft would make more sense, however, maybe they will lease some of the space to brands that are selling innovative products on Google Marketplace. Eventually, I expect Google to follow the lead of Amazon and expand its product portfolio significantly by adding private label brands of multiple product categories beyond technology.

I saw the barge idea in Portland and that was an ill-fated idea. Maybe acquiring a retailer with stores in key markets as a way to accelerate its physical presence — just like Amazon acquiring Whole Foods would be a better approach.

Read Full Article: How will Google bust into brick and mortar?

State of luxury travel retail – Luxury Memo special report

Luxury Daily – As affluent consumers on travel look for more for hyper-local activities instead of amenities, luxury retailers in popular vacation destinations are migrating towards experiential offerings and heightened customer service.

Consumer behavior in retail and travel has changed, putting the pressure on luxury retailers to adapt in highly trafficked areas during popular vacation times. Themes such as embracing local cultures, adapting to the growing number of Chinese travelers, using technology in and out of stores and other trends are becoming more popular in travel retail.

“Affluent consumers traveling to top destinations expect the royal treatment,” said David Naumann, vice president of marketing at BRP. “Luxury retailers cater to affluent shoppers with elite concierge services and exclusive events that make them feel important and esteemed.”

“Many luxury retailers have already customized their marketing strategies for seasonal and holiday shopping differences, such as Tiffany & Co.’s launching a new luxury fragrance Tiffany Eau de Parfum in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day and several retailers creating special campaigns for key Christmas shopping destinations in Germany and Europe,” BRP’s Mr. Naumann said.

“It is also imperative to offer distinctive services to make holiday shopping easier: gift suggestions, wrapping services and shipping to destinations around the world,” he said.

“It is important to offer communications and Web sites/applications in Chinese languages and provide payment options that make purchases frictionless (WeChat Wallet or Alipay),”BRP’s Mr. Naumann said. “Increasing awareness among Chinese consumers depends on a focus on optimizing content for Baidu, the dominant Chinese search engine, which has different rules than Google.”

“Chinese travelers represent one of the greatest opportunities for luxury retailers as the number of travelers and their spending continues to soar,” BRP’s Mr. Naumann said. “To capitalize on this opportunity, savvy retailers are engaging with Chinese consumers digitally to increase awareness and interest in products as they plan their trips so they include their brand on the traveler’s shopping list.

Read Full Article: State of luxury travel retail – Luxury Memo special report