3 Key Trends Driving Retail Innovation

 

As we enter the final quarter of 2017, let’s look at three major factors that will continue to be hot topics for leading retailers in 2018. In a world with increasing retail competition, innovation will be the key to success.

1. Data analytics will be used better to improve customer experience

 
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Sales information is a treasure trove of information. What’s hot, what’s not and what’s coming can all be derived from a deep dive into data. For example, Amazon will rely heavily on its expertise in data-driven customer service in its grocery business. The online powerhouse fundamentally manages operations differently from traditional retail supermarkets.

Namely, Amazon has always been customer-centric: It ranks products based on popularity, it encourages interactivity with reviews and is responsive to customer input. Most supermarkets focus on the products. Likewise, many retailers in a broad variety of specialties employ sophisticated category management practices but don’t have similar customer management programs.

2. Geolocation-based tools will make offers more relevant

 

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When retailers know where customers go to most frequently, where they linger – and where they avoid, the shopping experience can be made more intuitive. When the shopping experience is stress-free, customers are more likely to return. For example, $155 billion pharmacy chain CVS uses geolocation tools to target in-store customers with the CVS app with medication reminders and health alerts. Patients are actively encourage to manage their health through the CVS app.

3. Omnichannel synergy will help shoppers get more comfortable with the process

 

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Mobile sites reflect what is happening at the local brick and mortar location. Customers want a seamless experience. Many shoppers use multiple channels, sometimes starting online and picking up purchases in store, and other times starting in a brick and mortar store but finishing the transaction by paying via a mobile device. Whichever way they choose to shop, the process must be easy and familiar.

To this end, Best Buy has turned around impressively and is today considered a leader in connecting in-store and online experiences. It sees itself as a multichannel retailer, which offers its customers different opportunities to research, browse and buy products that best suit their lifestyles.

 

 

 

IoT Tech Helps Retail Make Customer Connections

The Internet of Things — the network of everyday devices that can be monitored and managed over the Internet – is steadily becoming a part of retail operations. Juniper Research forecasts that merchants will spend $2.5 billion on IoT technologies by 2020. The advantage?  Linking hardware such as RFID tags,beacons and connected consumer electronics — including wearables with software — analytics offers in-depth business insight and a more personalized customer experience.

Connecting with the IoT lets retailers analyze data that can help with inventory selection.

Connecting with the IoT lets retailers analyze data that can help with inventory selection.

IoT can help bring relevant technology directly to the customer. Wireless tablets let sales associates interact more closely with customers, checking inventory for the perfect color, correct size and brand, for instance. Increasingly, more stores are equipping sales staff with wireless tablets that can scan products and perform credit card transactions. More customers can be assisted on the sales floor without going to a front-line cash register. The IoT technology keeps track of pricing and inventory, applies discounts and sales, and items are logged immediately after the transaction is complete.

The IoT benefit doesn’t end after the sale is rung, either. The data gathered from a connected POS system to analyze customer buying trends can help retailers stock smart: According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. retailers lose $224 billion because of excess inventory and $45 billion from not having inventory in stock. A good point-of-sale system can set an alert that informs retailers when a certain item should be reordered. And top-performing systems can tell you the most recent price the retailer paid the supplier, as well as the average price paid previously. Off-hours, a retailer can run reports on inventory activity for the day, week or month. For a holistic view, some POS systems can track inventory from year to year, so comparisons are quick and easily extrapolated.

The various data generated by IoT/POS transactions can provide new, valuable insights about customers, pricing, product sales trends and more. Analyzing each piece and making correlations can prove invaluable to retailers aiming to create lasting relationships with their shoppers.

 

All Things Retail Webcast: Multiple Languages and Currencies at the POS

Let’s face it – the world is still far from having a single world language.

Until then, retailers like you will likely use multiple languages and currencies in your stores across borders.

When investing in POS and retail management software, it’s important to consider whether your tech tools can support your company’s language and currency needs today and as you keep expanding globally.

In this episode of the All Things Retail webcast, you’ll hear how Retail Pro POS software’s language and currency capabilities provide greater flexibility and financial reporting ease for multi-geography implementations.

 

 

 

360° Customer View: Why Knowing Your Customer is Mission-Critical

 

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Retailers today need to know just about everything to stay ahead. Not only do they need to know who their customers are, but they need to know when they shop, how they shop, and what exactly they are shopping for. Understanding their customers and providing them with tailored experiences allows them to strengthen customer loyalty – a hallmark of greater revenue.
Historically, retailers based decisions on intuition, often planning campaigns around what they thought the customer wanted. Today, data and analytics has taken the place of these gut instincts, and retailers now have factual data observing patterns of behavior. Using in-store data such as past buying behavior can help retailers create targeted campaigns, and accurately cross sell and upsell.

Customer satisfaction is critical to business success. With so many options out there for customers, having accurate data about how to make customers happy is becoming increasingly important. Developing relationships with customers, and providing them with relevant promotions and discounts can help boost loyalty. Having the right tools in place to mine through data allows retailers to better understand where customers are in the purchase funnel and develop programs and offers to meet their needs.

Retail Pro International has written 360° Customer View- Why Knowing Your Customer is Mission Critical. This whitepaper provides insight into how data and analytics can help retailers create meaningful relationships with their customers. It outlines the importance of using data to drive sales by growing relationships, boosting retention and improving customer satisfaction.

Get the 360 Degree Customer View whitepaper today to discover how a 360° customer view can help you:

  • Improve campaign effectiveness with an omnichannel view
  • Create more up-sell and cross-sell opportunities with purchase history
  • Boost retention with relevant offers and special deals
  • Increase customer satisfaction — give shoppers what matters most

 

Get whitepaper

 

 

3 Tips to Simplify Omnichannel

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More than ever before, today’s multi-channel retail environment is becoming increasingly faced with tougher competition and technology constraints. To add to the pile, the prevalence of online shopping means that growing retailers must also deal with changing buying behaviours and customer attitudes.
 
Customers expect to get product information, consider their options, and make their purchases with ease. They bounce between channels throughout their shopping journey, so they want an experience that is complete, seamless, convenient, engaging and consistent.
 
It’s a tall order, but one that needs to be filled. Otherwise, customers will find another retailer that will deliver exactly what they need. With all these challenges in play, how can you manage to concentrate on closing sales and driving profit for your business? The answer is, by creating and maintaining a consistent customer experience and across all sales channel.
 
Get the 3 Tips to Simplify Omnichannel whitepaper today to see three important questions to ask when you are evaluating and implementing an omnichannel strategy, and most importantly, how you can do it in a streamlined and efficient manner.
 

Get whitepaper

 

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.

 

 

 

Embrace Social – Or Else

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Social media is no longer the purview of newlyweds, new parents and kitten videos. It is increasingly used by retailers looking to strengthen their brands. Conversely, as mobile shopping continues to grow, social media is putting new power into the customers’ hands. Customers not only are using their mobile tools to purchase online or even in-store, but also to communicate with retailers. And the majority of them want responses. Now.

Most businesses use social as a way to promote their brand rather than as a true channel for facilitating two-way communication.  But consumers view social media differently: They see it as a way to have a dialogue with the store or brand. According to research from Sprout, 90% of people surveyed have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. Retailers are faced now with a very public airing of customer concerns. Email and telephone calls are no longer top-of-mind for the disgruntled customer. Instead, their gripe is online for all the view to see – and, potentially – agree with. Social media is the first option customers turn to when they have a problem with a product or service.

The first option.

One social media complaint can quickly turn into a disaster. Retailers, therefore, must respond quickly and publicly, because the response isn’t just aimed at the unhappy customer, it also must show potential customers and loyal shoppers alike that you care about all of their business. How quickly? Very. According to Convince and Convert, 42% of your customers will expect a response within 60 minutes, and 57% expect the same response time at night or weekends as during regular business hours. There is no rest for the socially weary.

How to respond? Be polite. Don’t try to be cute or funny in most cases, because it’s easy for that strategy to backfire. Then, simply apologize and invite the customer to private message you. Do not remove their critical comment or others’. (Trolls are different. Abusive or irrational commentary should be deleted and the poster banned.)

Once you have established a private dialogue, discover what the issue is, apologize and offer an explanation if appropriate and then come up with a plan to rectify the problem. Follow up to ensure the fix was implemented and satisfactory. The last thing you want is for a second complaint to be lodged on social media.

Unfortunately, brands generally do a poor job of responding to customer criticism. On average, brands reply to only 11% of those posts. And, to compound customers’ frustration, brands send 23 promotional messages for each response provided. That’s a recipe for louder complaints and reduced customer satisfaction.

Retailers face enough competition; they should not be fighting their own social media policies as well. By getting on top of negative posts in an honest and open fashion, they can take negative situations and turn them into positive ones. Even a service problem can be used to improve customer satisfaction, if handled promptly and in a manner in which customers feel is aimed at genuinely helping them.

 

Use Mobile In-Store To Combat Online Competition

 

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Do you have mobile technology that your associates can use to help find products in different store locations, or to order an out-of-stock selection? Great, but if that’s the only reason for the technology, you’re stuck in 2014.

To keep up with the times and the online competitors who give your shoppers ultimate control – and attract Millennial shoppers – share that technology to beef up their customer experience.

Here are 2 ways to do it.

 

1. Self-serve mobile

First off, it’s an ideal way for the shopper who’s a “loner” – the one who wants nothing to do with associates and shops online for a reason!

A retail touchscreen lets these clients self-serve entirely. Think of it as an update to kiosk technology. This is more user-friendly, mobile and definitely full featured: Customers can search for items and complete the buying process independently.

And, with permissions levels easily set by your retail IT group, you can rest secure knowing shoppers won’t accidentally wonder off into your confidential retail records.

 

2. Mobile clienteling & endless aisle

Second, mobile technology can not only be used to locate products by the salesperson, it can also be used by the customer and associate together, for some human suggestive selling.

The salesperson can use a touchscreen as a tool to share items that are in the “endless aisle,” – products available but not physically in the store. In addition, the touchscreen can be a useful aid in retail clienteling.

Although Millennials are known to be rather aloof with salespeople and prefer a do-it-yourself approach to shopping, they do share purchase decisions and seek input from friends and perceived experts when shopping.

So, an associate might find something within the “endless aisle” and share it with the customer by physically handing him or her the screen. Customers could then add the suggestion to a cart or wish list, or begin a consultative conversation with the salesperson if the product didn’t quite hit the mark. At best, it’s a sale; at worst, it’s a solid conversation starter.

 

Supporting in-house mobile technology allows retailers to adapt readily to shopping preferences of consumers accustomed to taking control over their experience with online shopping.

Many shoppers complain of overbearing associates – when those salespeople have actually been trained to do many of the behaviors the customer finds annoying. By providing a mobile option, retailers are offering an alternative that will facilitate customer engagement in-store,  yet has more of the independence many of today’s shoppers want.

 

Want to learn about mobile POS options from Retail Pro?

Learn more about Retail Pro Prism

 

 

 

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.