Introducing the new Retail Pro Webcast: All Things Retail

Have you wondered what will you gain by switching to the latest Retail Pro software?

Regardless if you have been a Retail Pro user for years or are a retailer looking to retire your other tools in favor of this world-class software to improve your operations – either way – our new webcast series was made just for you.

Every other week we will get together for a quick 5 minute chat on how your team can accomplish their daily retail operations more efficiently with powerful functionalities in the latest Retail Pro software.

  • Replenishment
  • Promotions
  • Orders
  • Disbursements
  • Customer management
  • Send Sale & Fulfillment
  • Open & Close Day Procedures
  • And many others….

Tune in to our Retail Pro YouTube channel, subscribe so you never miss a webcast, or just watch Episode 1 here today! First webcast is on Open Day procedure.

 

 

 

2 Customer experience challenges retailers face

 

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This blog post contains excerpts from the whitepaper Using Artificial Intelligence for Effective Customer Retention, by Retail Pro®and AppCard.  Download the whitepaper to learn more about how artificial intelligence can help retailers improve customer experience and retention.

 

The era of customer experience

In the past 4-5 years, the retail industry has undergone major changes and retailers are acknowledging that it is 6-7 times more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. This same research shows that boosting customer retention rates by as little as 5% can increase profits up to 95%.

 

With such incentives at hand, brick and mortar retailers are urged to leverage eCommerce-like data collection and analysis to create a unique customer experience that will keep customers coming back for more.

 

But this is often easier said than done.

 

The evolution of customer loyalty

For years, retailers have looked for ways to influence customer behavior, from the early days of paper punch cards to sophisticated, big box SAP and SAS based CRM and ERP systems.

 

Some retailers pinned their hopes on daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, only to find out that customer acquisition is significantly more expensive than customer retention and once acquired, they have virtually no useful information about the newly acquired customers.

 

Since then, loyalty programs have evolved from basic check-in solutions to more sophisticated check-in solutions that were able to communicate with customers via mobile app, text or SMS messages, and email.

 

While such solutions garnered some initial traction, retailers still yearned for a greater understanding of their customers, including SKU-level transaction details.

 

Related Article: 3 Generations of customer loyalty & rewards technology >>

 

Top 2 customer experience challenges faced by today’s retailers

Retailers face two critical challenges in their quest to leverage data for better customer experiences: increasingly demanding shoppers and technology limitations.

 

1. Generation E (Expectations)
Customers—particularly Millennials—have become more informed, less tolerant, and increasingly demanding.

Their ever-increasing ability to shop around, research, compare, share, and explore alternative products, prices and options forces retailers to truly know their customers and understand their shopping motivations.

69% of consumers say their choice of retailer is influenced by where they feel most appreciated and can earn loyalty or rewards program points (Maritz).

Regardless of whether the shoppers are Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials or even Generation Z, retailers must realize that all of their customers belong to Generation E (Expectations), where they expect to build a relationship with their favorite brands and be appreciated for their business in exchange for their loyalty.

 

2. Tech limitations
The retail industry’s technological landscape is comprised of web developers, CRM and ERP providers, payment processors, network providers, and many more.

But the technology upon which nearly all brick and mortar retailers are still fully dependent is their Point of Sale (POS) systems, which are often highly fragmented and cumbersome. With thousands of different POS providers in the market, and no true standardization, many retailers struggle or fail to integrate multiple data sources and retail channels (Mobile, eCommerce, In-store).

Furthermore, while the POS gives retailers access to critical KPIs like daily sales numbers, top selling products, and returns by cashier, but retailers need the ability to associate transactions to an individual customer in an actionable way. This level of insight is integral for retailers to provide a truly personalized customer experience.

Related Article: How to use POS data to achieve personalized marketing like the big guys >>

 

To continue reading more about the challenges and opportunities of improving the retail customer experience, Download the whitepaper now.

 

 

Brick and Mortar Retail Is On Its Way to Becoming a Media Channel

 

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Many brick and mortar retailers have invested in providing customers exciting, engaging and satisfying shopping experiences in order to effectively compete against e-commerce.

Online retailers have done a remarkable job of offering shoppers the goods, pricing, and availability they want. The most recent figures available show continued strength for e-commerce sales: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total e-commerce sales for 2016 were estimated at $394.9 billion, an increase of 15.1 percent (±1.8%) from 2015. Online orders increased 8.9% in the third quarter of 2016. 

Retailers with a base of operations in the physical world are now not only deftly entering the e-commerce arena, but they are leveraging their physical presence as well.

Brands becoming part of the in-store experience

Today, brick and mortar retail is on its way to becoming a media channel. In fact, some have suggested that retailers will not simply offer products for sale, but actually charge brands an upfront fee for the privilege of being a part of the in-store experience. So retailers might have a larger selection available online to customers, but a few, select lines are actually available to see “in person” on the showroom floor.

Think of brand boutiques in larger stores as a similar example of the strategy, but more curated, and the brands pay the retailer for the privilege.

Beacons used for personalized suggestive selling

Beacon technology is another way retailers can learn about shopper behavior.

These devices can learn where shoppers linger within a store and also provide shopper-specific information if a client agrees to opt-in to that type of data collection. That information can then be used by retailers to personalize the in-store experience, for example, suggesting available merchandise. 

Beacons can also remind shoppers of products they may have overlooked during the current shopping trip that they have previously bought. Beacons can also spotlight products a customer has previously expressed interest in, as the technology detects customers’ lingering in particular locations. 

Instead of associates spending all their time and energy on duties such as stocking shelves, counting inventory, cleaning, etc., they can instead focus on providing the best customer service possible. Managers can then invest more time learning how the store functions as a destination and how it can improve to exceed customer expectations.

Retail Pro Heads to Switzerland to Equip Akris for Streamlining Operations

 

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This month, Retail Pro went to St. Gallen, Switzerland to hold an on-site training class for tech staff at Akris, an internationally-recognized luxury fashion house.

 

Background

Founded 90 years ago, Akris remains a family-owned business with strong local ties. Its clothing creations are known as much for comfort and wearability as for high fashion.

Today, third generation brothers Albert and Peter Kriemler manage the business, which grew from its humble beginnings into a global fashion label available via their brand stores, as well as in over 300 high-end department stores throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Akris has been using Retail Pro POS and retail management software in its 17 brand stores since 2000, and is looking forward to growing deeper in its use of robust Retail Pro functionality.

Recently, Akris began thinking of additional ways that Retail Pro could be used to streamline company operations, so they contacted Retail Pro University, Retail Pro International’s training department, to discuss training options.

Retail Pro worked closely with the IT staff at Akris to develop a custom training solution to address the company’s current and future needs. A class was held on-site over a five day period in March at the company’s headquarters in St. Gallen. Attendees included representatives from the Akris IT department, software development team, and operations staff.

 

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Retail Pro Training Spurs Creative Thought for Solving Business Challenges

Akris already had a strong background in Retail Pro and did not need a basic training in how to use the software. Instead, they wanted to gain an in-depth understanding of how particular features could be leveraged in their current environment, and their impact on future operations.

To accommodate their unique requirements, the training process moved fluidly between product demonstrations, discussions, and consulting on how to best use Retail Pro features within the Akris IT system.

At one point, the team, inspired by a key feature, paused training to actually test drive it. They developed new tools and reports in their test environment on the spot to ensure it could be easily implemented.

 

Multi-Subsidiary Deployment & ERP Integration 

Akris team members also collaborated on system configuration in a multi-subsidiary deployment to determine how to achieve the best results for stores across geographies. Akris has stores in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and flexibility in Retail Pro enabled them to navigate through complex regional requirements for functions like merchandise transfers.

As a manufacturer, Akris uses an ERP system to manage product development. Through tight integration between Retail Pro and the Akris ERP, merchandise is introduced into the system through vouchers and transfers between stores and subsidiaries.

 

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In March, Retail Pro held an on-site training class with the business applications team at Akris at their headquarters in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Left to Right: Cerine Stephen, Jelena Scheller, Charles Davidson, Lukas Knutti, and Katie Ernest.

 

Plans for Growth & Deeper Use of Retail Pro

Many of the features they would like to implement have long existed in Retail Pro 9, and simply had not been leveraged. During the training session, the team developed a strategy to begin phasing in the use of strong features like commissions and markdowns. Akris is looking to expand on the current Retail Pro deployment as it grows and will possibly add new stores in the future.

 

Want to Increase ROI in Your Retail Pro?

Retail Pro University offers training courses and videos, as well as custom and on-site training options to help your retail and IT teams become Retail Pro experts. These training options can be a cost-effective solution for retailers experiencing high turnover or rolling out new functionality.

To discuss solutions for your training needs, contact us at training@retailpro.com.

It’s (Still) All About the Data

 

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This January, NRF’s Big Show hosted 35,000 attendees, 510+ exhibitors and 300+ speakers. And though there was talk of innovation and continued discussion about personalization, many of the conversations centered around data: how to gather it, how to use it, and how to protect it.

Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, talked about retail transformation, during a morning keynote. Strategic gathering of data and implementation based on that information lets retailers gain insight and predictive abilities that are new and exciting. The result is a store that can provide customers more control over product selection, special promotions, etc., while the retailer receives more data. The better the data, the more responsive a retailer can be to customers’ desires. And the most responsive retailers will be rewarded not only with more sales, but with a loyal customer base.

Virtual reality — once limited to video games — is becoming a force in retailing, Krzanich said, explaining that VR solutions can play a big role in understanding customer movements within a store, as well as predicting where they’ll go next. Intel demonstrated the use of virtual reality for store configuration and planograms in addition to shopping in a virtual version of the customer’s own home.

“You can see how in your store, your customer can have a very different experience, and you’re going to get data about what they are looking at,” Krzanich said. “What styles they like. What colors they’re looking for. What’s interesting to them. What they put into their shopping cart but then take out at the end of the day and don’t purchase. All of that data is available.”

And it’s valuable. A study by MyBuys  found that 40 percent of survey participants said they buy more from retailers that personalize their shopping experience across channels. Of course, collecting “big data,” and then using business analytics to distill it is not new. But the ways in which information is being gathered — e.g. the aforementioned virtual reality — is.

“With as many tech options as are out there to help retailers address various customer-facing elements of retail strategy, enterprise retail on the backend now has to deal with security concerns, with the increased complexity of managing all those technologies, with integrating all the data, getting maximum use out of them, etc,” noted Alexandra Firth, director of marketing, of Retail Pro.

Retail Pro provides software solutions for retailers globally, and is acutely aware of the need to provide security around all that data. Information security products and hiring consultants can be expensive, and the retailers most prone to getting hacked — small to midsize businesses — are also the ones least able to afford the investment. A few tips for SMBs:

  • Conduct a security audit. Learn where the gaps in coverage are and then hire a consultant to focus on those specific areas.
  • Train employees about the risks of phishing and viruses.
  • Determine which data is most important and then protect it. Not all information is vitally important to protect.

It’s a perfect time to focus on strengthening security, Firth added, because 2017 is shaping up to be a back-to-basics year. “Retailers are focusing on internal, structural evolution, evolving their process and procedures,” she said. “They are simplifying, streamlining — and making themselves more efficient. Simply put, they are optimizing their operations.”

NRF 2017: In-Store Personalization and Better Store Fulfillment

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In-store personalization has been slow in coming, but at this year’s NRF Big Show, vendors showcased technology that indicated the tide may be turning. And why not? Retailers are well aware that the ability to create a personalized experience for every customer could methodically lead shoppers to the point of purchase.

However, while retailers have embraced personalization techniques online, that success has not provided the impetus for similar in-store implementations. The benefits personalization offers e-commerce are known and envied by their brick and mortar counterparts. But there are myriad types of personalization – navigational and predictive, for example. Personalization can be based on third-party data, database segmentation, past purchase history, location and more. It’s complicated to start on the path to personalized selling and it doesn’t get easier.

That may change shortly, as the costs of the technology have decreased, third-party integrators are more fluent with the necessary equipment and software, and the benefits are becoming more evident. Shoppers, too, expect a unified commerce, tech-driven experience in which in-store mirrors online, and vice versa. Vendors are more motivated than ever to provide retailers with tools that will help them reflect the online experience inside a physical store. In addition, increasingly, those tools are easier to use and to integrate with existing systems.

One of the big challenges for retailers is determining how to make in-store personalization attractive to shoppers; some customers see the technology as overly intrusive. In its second annual “Creepy or Cool’ survey, RichRelevance found customers embraced personalization when it suited their needs.

“For the second year in the row, the study finds that shoppers think it is cool to get digital help finding relevant products and information – on their own terms when they choose to engage,” said Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance. “However, they are creeped out by digital capabilities that identify and track without a clear value offered in return.”

However, it’s difficult for retailers to understand exactly what shoppers’ expectations are at any given time because they are shifting and evolving. To address that, part of the focus of this year’s NRF was the underscoring of the need for retailers to get back to basics and to develop scalable, repeatable and reliable processes that support their enterprise order management capabilities. A solid foundation built on those principles is likely to be more responsive to constantly changing – and expanding – shopper expectations.

Much of the ordering technology that is currently available to retailers is focused on the flow of product from one channel to the next. Understanding and pleasing the customer, unfortunately, has until now been simply the result of having solid ordering technology. The customer experience is largely an afterthought.

Many of the vendors at NRF believe that consideration of customer satisfaction and their preferences will move to the forefront this year. While order systems must be accurate and efficient as well as cost-effective, those characteristics are no longer a differentiator in retail. Instead, they are a requirement. What will distinguish the great retailers are those that can receive orders and provide internal inventory visibility across all sales channels as well as track customer satisfaction with store fulfillment.

Although efficiency and process are obviously important to retailers, personalization offers the potential of increased sales as well as customer loyalty. People enjoy patronizing businesses that know their tastes and provide that personal touch. In addition, retailers can further improve the customer experience by providing insight into inventory and delivery, which in turn helps the customer feel empowered. As retailers continue to blend the right mix of product, service and ordering flexibility, they encourage a sense of empowerment that enhances the customer experience.

How to Build Your Tech Strategy

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Technology empowers efficiency in your retail operations, so building a solid tech strategy is critical to effective execution.

See how Earthbound Trading Co is increasing operational efficiency by building their tech strategy with Retail Pro.

Then – book your NRF meeting to talk with us in person about how Retail Pro can help you optimize your retail tech strategy.

Book my NRF meeting now

 

 

How to Unify Commerce

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Last week we invited you to meet with us at NRF to discover optimized retail with Retail Pro.

Let’s count down the final weeks before NRF with tips on HOW to optimize your retail operations, in step with market trends and proven strategies of retailers using Retail Pro.

Then – book your NRF meeting to talk with us in person about how Retail Pro can help you optimize and unify your commerce profitably.

Book my NRF meeting now

 

Battery Life Important for mPOS Success at Holiday Time

 

Personalize every shopper experience with Retail Pro Prism

Mobile POS systems are becoming increasingly important to many retailers.

With the Christmas season just about officially starting, retailers are readying the last few tools needed to make point of sale transactions as efficient as possible. One area in need of improvement is the battery life of mobile POS devices.

Often used for “linebusting,” mPOS is a great way to ensure customers have a smooth, expedited checkout experience. It’s also a terrific means of engagement with customers on the sales floor. Many retailers have transformed the customer experience by integrating mPOS into the checkout.

But the batteries used in the tablet devices are notorious for having short lives.

Retailers with extended sale hours, for example, would need to have mobile battery packs on hand to keep devices functioning, even if it they were fully charged when doors opened. Few things are more frustrating than missing out on sales because there is no way to authorize transactions.

Larger retailers and those handling greater numbers of transactions – holiday rush, anyone? — are seeking longer battery life to reduce the need to recharge. That way, store staff can transact sales continuously for an entire shift, reducing overall recharging requirements as well as the number of devices retailers need to keep on hand.

Overall, battery life in consumer electronics is constantly being upgraded. Today, for example, laptop battery life is roughly two and a half times longer than it was in 2012. So it’s logical to assume that mPOS battery life will ultimately improve as well.

To that end, manufacturers are debuting new products that have batteries that can be swapped out easily for rapid replacement, along with docking stations that can be used to simultaneously charge not only mPOS devices but also the accompanying mobile or tablet devices.

Other improvements are on the horizon as well: Often, mass market devices are not durable enough to withstand the hazards of the sales floor. Spills and drops leave many merchants with broken devices, and software or connectivity malfunctions are sources of further frustration. Many retail merchants are therefore migrating from popular commercial hardware to more purpose-built retail solutions. Ruggedized solutions (from Panasonic, for example) are becoming popular also.

Implementing tools that can reduce line time and improve the customers’ interaction with sales associates is, of course, a move in a positive direction. Retailers need to be aware of potential pitfalls brought on by poor battery life and be ready to quickly circumvent any problems that arise.

Ironically, new technology that fails can irritate customers more than the previous “old system.” So, until improved battery life is commonly available on mPOS devices, make sure your equipment is fully charged, and you have spare battery packs or devices on hand.