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Human engagement through Artificial Intelligence



It is a question that every retailer ponders: How are customers engaged with my brand and how can I keep them engaged?

In the past, surveys were a common tool for gauging customer interest, but today's shoppers are inundated with requests for their opinions and most often those get lost in the shuffle.

Since humans are often too busy or forgetful to be reliable sources of feedback, some retailers are relying on machine learning — artificial intelligence (AI) — to learn if they are succeeding with customers.

Shoppers provide retailers with an abundance of data, simply by voting with their dollars at the POS: What styles or products are popular, what is not trending, what colors are in vogue, etc.

Size, gender and age are among many characteristics that are vital in creating personas, but also, shoppers' actions are quantified.

The backbone of AI is machine learning; Programs take all that customer purchase history data in POS like Retail Pro, and unify it with other data sources like browsing behaviors, to analyze exactly how customers view a brand, a store, or a style.

Interestingly, shoppers tend to follow some repeated patterns.

For example, a person often buys the same things, behaves in a predictable way and follows similar intuitions.

By learning one buyer’s pattern, another's might be revealed as well.


Human intuition

A recent survey by retail management firm BRP Consulting reported that 45 percent of retailers were planning to increase the use of AI to improve customer experience over the next three years.

For many years, retailers relied on sales associates' perceptions to determine how engaged customers were.

But humans can be biased, and that information is therefore inaccurate.

Today, AI can combine the intuitiveness of human employees with a machine’s ability to analyze massive amounts of data in seconds.

AI helps retailers understand consumers, improve worker productivity, boost efficiency as well as raise sales.


AI-generated recommendations

AI is increasingly being integrated into commerce and retail experiences.

A great example of using AI to recognize customers' preferences is Amazon's Recommendation Engine.

Shoppers see items similar to ones they have viewed, as well as others that are commonly purchased displayed prominently alongside the item currently being viewed.

Different recommendation “entry points” are integrated into Amazon's tool as well, which maximizes cart value.

Recommendation engines help retailers forge a relationship with their customers.

Users can click on the “Your Recommendation” link to display a page that contains categorized products that might be of interest, or they can refer to the section containing similar items with previously viewed products.

McKinsey has reported that up-sell technique is responsible for some 35 percent of Amazon's revenue.

Small wonder why Amazon has decided to make the underlying technology available through AWS with the "Personalize" tool.

Another instance of a successful personalized user experience is Netflix’s extensive "smart" list of movie and TV show suggestions.

Roughly 70 percent of all content watched by subscribers is a personalized recommendation, according to Netflix.

Shoppers enjoy personalization because it makes transactions feel customized, which leads to a feeling of "specialness."

And predictive technology lets retailers promote products in a targeted way, which provides customers with a curated experience.

Commit to understanding their preferences

By continuously revising the ad content across various marketing mediums, the likelihood of a purchase increases, although retailers must guard against ad fatigue that can easily evolve into ad blindness, ultimately leading to ad blocking.

Customer engagement has always been a top concern for retailers; the cost of cultivating new customers is steep.

Enticing customers to return by demonstrating a commitment to understanding their preferences pays off not just at the cash register, but also in the word-of-mouth advertising that is gained by being intuitive and responsive, which AI solutions are expert at providing.








A little data-driven loyalty goes a long way



Retaining existing customers by keeping them satisfied and engaged is far less costly than identifying and appealing to new customers, yet too often retailers let their regulars drift away.

Why do retailers allow that to happen, especially when the costs of customer acquisition are so high?

Many retailers are primarily focused on expanding their customer bases: More customers equal more revenue.

However, if current customers aren't nurtured, they begin to feel taken for granted.

Once a customer feels unappreciated, the separation from the retailer begins.

For example, stores will offer introductory rates, special financing, free shipping or percent-off savings to new customers — while leaving loyal customers to feel left out in the cold.

Savvy retailers understand that to win against all the competition out there — online as well as brick and mortar — new customers shouldn't be favored over the current ones.

Loyalty programs can help show "the regulars" just how appreciated they are.


Reward all paying customers.

Cash-paying customers can't take advantage of certain loyalty programs; some merchants require customers to download an app or link to a credit card in order to get loyalty points.

Retailers are recognizing the problem and are starting to look for solutions.

For example, the AppCard loyalty and personalized marketing platform is a multi-tender solution, which means customers can pay how they want, and still reap member benefits.

In addition, retailers such as Target, which offer rewards through its credit card offerings, are launching a more neutral system in order to reward more customers through its loyalty program.

Being flexible — or payment agnostic —is a smart business strategy, because cash payments make up over a third of all transactions.


Understand how customers want to be rewarded.

Customers enjoy earning — and spending — rewards.

A recent survey of approximately 1,000 online shoppers conducted by Bizrate Insights for Internet Retailer found that 70% of respondents wanted free shipping in exchange for their loyalty.

An impressive 61% also enjoyed receiving reward points they could redeem for discounts.

Unpopular perks: early notification of sales (11%) and exclusive access to products or store events (9%).


Develop personalized loyalty programs.

Successful loyalty programs "speak to" your customers' tastes.

Shopper identities can be tied with SKU-level purchase information from POS like Retail Pro, and this data is used to automatically deliver personalized offers that see increased conversion rates and provide a better shopper experience, which in turn gains shopper loyalty.

Deep learning uses that historical transaction data in your POS to provide loyalty programs with customer preferences and anticipates a shopper's next move, delivering recommendations to increase engagement and prevent churn.

AI built into solutions such as AppCard, help you "learn" your customers’ unique buying cycles and anticipate customers' desires, delivering the right message, to the right customer, at the right time.

Every retailer should understand what its best customers want and design a loyalty program for those shoppers, based on data analysis.

One loyalty program does not fit all customers, so understanding the differences and how to best reach them is imperative to preventing shopper "drift."

Using insights generated from unified data, you can build a loyalty program and overall retail experience that helps you put shoppers first.

Book your NRF 2019 meeting with us to start the conversation on how you can unify commerce with Retail Pro.





6 Essential Elements of a Winning Independent Retail Strategy



Looking to improve inventory productivity and control?

Watch this final part of our 3-part Retailer Success webinar series to see principles and tactics that will help you manage inventory better and compete profitably.

Part 3: Six Essential Elements of a Winning Independent Retail Strategy

  • See how high-achieving independent retailers differentiate themselves to compete successfully in the changing world of Amazon retail
  • Learn the major factors you can implement immediately to differentiate your business in this 6-point plan from Management One


Join us at NRF 2019 to see unified commerce that puts shoppers first


You already have the data you need to unlock your business potential.

But when your data is fragmented and scattered across the organization, it perpetuates inefficiencies in customer experience.

Book your NRF 2019 meeting to see how you can connect data in Retail Pro for unified commerce that puts shoppers first.

  • Single point of truth about your inventory, operations, and customers
  • Data-driven operations that improve customer experience
  • Streamlined retail management across digital and physical channels
Book NRF meeting >


Not going to NRF this year? Request your consultation now


Customer-sourced innovation: How retailers leverage direct customer insight to drive innovation ROI



86% of shoppers will pay more for a better customer experience.

Your team can brainstorm and implement ways to innovate CX… but when you implement changes, how do you know which factors help or hinder improvement?

And how do you know what really is a “better” customer experience?

Watch this webinar to see how customer-sourced innovation can help you close the gap between what retailers think shoppers want, and what shoppers actually want – because innovation really shouldn't hurt the bottom line.

You'll see:

  • Real stories of customer-sourced innovation
  • How to set and improve on your Customer Experience Baseline
  • Tactics to reduce guessing in your innovation initiatives

Streamline retail operations with integrated POS and ERP data



Retail is alive with changing trends like omnichannel that give your customers more ways to shop your stores.

With more ways to get your goods into shoppers’ hands, smart inventory and operations management across channels is becoming a bigger focus for serious retailers.

Integrated Retail Pro® POS and SAP Business One® ERP software enables a smooth exchange of data, streamlining in-store and head office operations for greater efficiency.

By capturing retail data from the POS at all your store locations into a single centralized platform, you can access critical real-time information to make fast, informed decisions.

You can even take proactive control through automatic alerts and automated merchandise planning, forecasting, and replenishment – so you always have the right amount of trending inventory in stock to meet demand and sell more.

Want to learn how you can increase efficiency with automated operations for your stores? Request your consultation today.


5 types of data to shape your customer experience


In today’s real-time global economy, retailers are hunting for strategic optimizations to improve experience and spark long-lasting brand engagement.

Data is key to building those one-to-one connections with customers that give them a loyalty-inspiring, memorable experience. And data is key to keeping your brand relevant in the context of shoppers’ lifestyle needs and interests.

Here are 5 examples of data retailers use to shape shoppers’ experience with their brand.


1: Product story



At their inspiring new London flagship store, United Colors of Benetton shares content on selected products, on the Benetton brand initiatives and, thanks to the use of an integrated RFID antenna, they release technical information about the products that are placed on any of their three digital interactive tables.

Product storytelling draws customers in, inspiring both a purchase and a longer-lasting relationship with your brand.


2: Shopper details



Aesop uses user-defined fields (UDF) in Retail Pro to capture the specific type of data they need for their merchandising, marketing, or clienteling strategies.

The retailer tracks data like skin and hair types for each customer, so their retail associates can make relevant recommendations to returning customers.

Acting on shopper details like these lets customers know you’ve noticed them, and you care that they shop from you.


3: Preferences



Rimowa uses Retail Pro customer management and analytics features to actively manage their customer profiles and mine their demographics data. With Retail Pro, they access and act on their shoppers’ preferences for special editions and colors.

Keeping track of shoppers’ preferences allows you to offer a higher level of contextualization in customer engagement, and ensures you’re giving customers what they want.



4: Geolocation



Worldwide Golf Shops use shoppers’ home address to segment their email marketing for store events like sidewalk sales and demo days in shoppers’ area. They also use other customer information collected at the POS to personalize their emails.

Using geolocation data for store events helps you keep your brand a part of shoppers’ everyday life, in a memorable way.


5: Purchase history



Minor league baseball team, the New Orleans Baby Cakes, uses deep reporting in Retail Pro Prism to target and engage with VIP shoppers with fun merchandise unveiling events for those loyal customers.

Today's fans have many choices of where to buy so stores must constantly evolve to meet customers' tastes and create a customer experience that provides something for that fan who has "everything."


These are just a few examples of how your retail data can shape customer experience. Here at Retail Pro, we care about helping you build a strong foundation for powering a unified experience of ease and inspiration across stores and digital retail.

Visit us at NRF to see how you can unify your digital and store experiences for unified commerce that puts shoppers first.



Photo credits: United Colors of Benetton, Aesop, Worldwide Golf Shops, Ryan Micklin

What can leading indicators do for the bottom line?


Think of the data that makes up your Business Intelligence as being made up of cause and effect factors.

Those two factors are lagging indicators and leading indicators.

The difference between them isn’t complicated, but it is critical.


Lagging Indicators = Effect

These are made up of accounting and historic measures.

In other words, these are the financial ratios you build based on the income statement.


Leading Indicators = Cause

These are also historic but look at internal processes and external events that occur prior to revenue.

Some examples of what they are include the number of qualified sales leads, time to market, conversion ratios, employee satisfaction, etc.

These are the indicators you should focus on if you want to improve results.


Why the big difference?

According to Gartner, 80% of current Business Intelligence content is made up of lagging indicators.

However, all of that current Business Intelligence content should actually be made up of leading indicators.

Why the big difference? One word: value.

Lagging indicators are valuable if you only want to look at current conditions, but it’s important to look at future projections to better guide your company toward greater success.

Leading indicators give retailers the ability to “look into the crystal ball” and take proactive instead of reactive action, which can save both time and money.


So what can leading indicators do for the bottom line?

When you have the right information and understand what truly impacts success and failure in your business, the investment brings dividends quickly and abundantly.

Leading indicators are truly valuable for businesses of any size because they:

  • Define what is critical for your business
  • Direct where investment is needed
  • Direct where focus is needed
  • Act as a big data filter to help you focus on what matters
  • Point you to relevant, company-specific data sources


Business Intelligence and analytics is what a particular clothing retail company uses to closely monitor what’s hot and what’s not in stores throughout Europe.

The precise control of inventory, turnover, and production has delivered improvements to the company’s bottom line by an estimated 30 percent.

The old adage “you have to spend money to make money” couldn’t be more true when it comes to investing in Business Intelligence and analytics.



Get Whitepaper


This blog is an excerpt from the Retail Pro Decisions whitepaper, From KPIs to Profit: Understanding Your Leading Indicators for Better Retail Results. Get this whitepaper today to read more.


Get whitepaper


Mobile Apps: Building Unified Loyalty In-Store and Online



Loyal customers are repeat customers.

They are particularly valued because the cost of customer acquisition is high.

However, loyalty is not just about repeat business – otherwise, all repeat customers would be considered loyal, and they aren’t.


Repeat customers vs loyal customers


The difference is that loyal customers make a conscious choice to do business with a company even when a less expensive, more convenient or higher quality alternative is available somewhere else.

So why are customers loyal to a retailer when sometimes it seems illogical?

Because of that store’s superior customer service.

Creating an easy, frictionless shopping experience makes customers happy -- and that satisfaction can be parlayed into loyalty.


Converting online browsers into in-store customers


Only a few years back, brick and mortar stores were dying on the vine.

Customers were going online, finding the lowest price for items, checking them out in stores but buying them via e-commerce.

Soon, though, traditional retailers realized that those shoppers who were browsing but not buying could be turned into customers -- after all, they were in the store already.

Shoppers were saying they enjoyed the efficiency of e-commerce, but they also wanted to touch and feel certain items.

And other items benefited from having knowledgeable salespersons educate shoppers on features, uses, etc.


Building loyalty through mobile apps


Retailers are answering customers’ demands for more efficiency by adding mobile apps to their sales processes.

App Annie, an app market data and insights company, tracks usage and consumption for the average smartphone owner:

  • Average daily use: 2 hours and 15 minutes
  • Average number of apps installed: 60 to 90
  • Average number of apps used monthly: 30
  • Average number of apps launched daily: 9

With so many mobile phones in use, retailers are finding that the mobile app customers could be a key to increasing brand awareness, driving sales and increasing mindshare.

A survey of more than 500 mobile shoppers by research company Clutch, found that not only are consumers using e-commerce apps, but they’re also looking for features that go beyond browsing and buying: “Consumers want an easy, frictionless, and entertaining experience when using apps.”

Clutch noted that shoppers use e-commerce apps primarily for four reasons:

  1. To receive deals and offers (68%)
  2. For the flexibility to buy at any time (64%)
  3. To compare products and prices (62%)
  4. To save time at the store (54%)


The problem with mobile shopping apps


Too few retailers create apps with the consumer in mind.

What shoppers want to do with a retail app is what should drive app creation.

Retailers should develop a focused strategy when developing an app that targets the way shoppers use apps.

Many shoppers want apps that personalize the in-store experience, such as deal alerts, which are enabled when the customer is inside the physical store.

Also, Clutch reported that if an app syncs a business’ loyalty rewards, more than 80% of consumers would use the feature.

Mobile shopping apps are the future of unified retail.

Retailers should continue to increase their capabilities according to shoppers’ requests and usage patterns, and look to include discounts, rewards, personalization, and even augmented reality in the near future.


Has Walmart cracked the omnichannel challenge?



Offering customers the ability to seamlessly move from online shopping to brick and mortar and back to online is the crux of the omnichannel experience.

Shoppers can buy products 24/7, go to a physical store for an in-person inspection, and then make the purchase using either channel based on convenience.

Increasing numbers of retailers are incorporating omnichannel aspects into their business plans, including buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS), endless aisles and curbside pickup.

Creating efficient and profitable omnichannel strategies is a challenge for any business, yet their importance is well understood.

A recent study by Multichannel Merchant and Brightpearl found that 87% of retailers agree omnichannel is a critical business function, yet only 8% believe they are proficient at implementation.

That indicates a long road ahead: Retailers are clearly overcome with the technical challenges and customer expectations that are large parts of implementing an omnichannel presence.


What Walmart is doing


Recently, retail powerhouse Walmart has taken up the omnichannel challenge.

Walmart introduced its shoppers to a new e-commerce feature: 3D virtual shopping. Viewers can "walk through" an apartment outfitted with home goods sold by Walmart.

Certain items are designated as being available through the retailer, and by selecting an icon, the shopper can view a brief description and is offered an option to place it into a shopping cart.

The experience offers shoppers the benefit of seeing how items look in context: How an object will look in a home, rather than on a shelf in a store with dozens of similar items next to it.

Furniture stores have been using similar staging techniques forever. But Walmart, like other big-box retailers, has no space to devote to setting up faux living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.

So using e-commerce site — where space is plentiful — is the perfect solution.

The apartment showcases roughly 70 different items, and it is easy to see how the virtual environment can be used an infinite number of ways.

Walmart plans to add "Buy the Room," which lets customers add groups of coordinated products to their shopping carts at one time.

Aimed initially at shoppers for dorm-room items, five curated collections will be offered.

Such unique online experiences can help create a seamless omnichannel experience for shoppers.

For example, a mom and daughter go shopping for the daughter's first apartment. They arrive at Walmart, but are overwhelmed by the selection and can't visualize how items will look in an apartment.

Pulling up walmart.com on a mobile phone offers a 3D apartment tour, helping put the items in a more familiar environment.

Some of the items can be purchased while they are in the store — and others may be only available online.

Both sales channels are used to provide the customers exactly the items they desire.


Customers want a better, integrated shopping experience


A recent Accenture study found that 32% of consumers said that the integrating the mobile, website and in-store shopping experience is the biggest improvement retailers need to make.

The old “customer-centric,” multichannel approach is being replaced by a more assertive, customer-driven approach.

It is not enough for companies to simply know each customer, but they must also respond dynamically to customers who are constantly re-evaluating what they want to buy and where they want to buy it.




Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash








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