The continual growth of cross-channel shopping strategies has left the retail industry at a crossroads. Consumers are becoming savvier, utilizing the web, social media and their mobile devices to find the best deals, review items and offer real-time insights on their in-store and online shopping experiences. As a result, retailers are approaching “panic mode” to keep pace, according to Dennis Allen, Worldwide Sales Lead at Informix Warehouse Accelerator, an IBM company.
“Retail is at an inflection point: the market is changing as it increases its focus on the customer,” Allen said in a recent webinar for Retail TouchPoints. “But experts agree that the leaders managing this change and creating more interactive, data-intensive customer relationships will drive the market past that inflection point.”
The webinar, titled “From Inventory Forecasting To 24x7 Operations: Strategies For Smarter Retail,” spotlighted the increased importance of creating a unified brand experience across channels. Ken Morris, Principle of Boston Retail Partners (BRP), joined Allen to share insights into how retailers can utilize data aggregation and analysis to create a more customer-centric retail environment. During his presentation, Morris shared findings from BRP’s “13th POS Benchmarking Survey.” Results revealed that, for the first time, retailers are classifying their organizations as early adopters in the utilization of new information technology. The findings showed retailers’ increased focus on implementing mobile devices and other interactive technologies to make the brick-and-mortar store more compelling.
“I like to call this the ‘Apple-ization of retail,’” Morris explained. “Today’s merchants want to develop their own Apple store environment, which is leading to an explosive interest in creating that 24x7 experience.”
Retail respondents to the BRP survey also indicated that customer service (82%) and processing at the register/speed of service (75%) were the most important assets to an optimal in-store experience. As a result, retailers have an extreme opportunity to bolster these key areas by arming store associates with smartphones and tablets that offer real-time insights into customers and their browsing/buying history, as well as item, size and color preferences, among other data.
“There’s a unique opportunity for customers to identify themselves while they’re still in the store, rather than at the point of sale,” Morris said. “Store associates now can respond to that information and interact with shoppers in real time, similar to the experience Amazon provides.”
Along with their current databases of customer demographics and psychographics, retailers can recreate this “Amazon experience” by approaching shoppers with suggestive selling techniques, such as relevant cross-sell and up-sell options, leading to increased purchase rates and greater overall cost-per-transaction.
However, to achieve this, retailers must have a centralized platform for integrating then displaying real-time data aggregated across channels. The convergence of information from the web, mobile, social media and brick-and-mortar stores allows retailers “to create one version of the truth,” Morris reported, leading to one cohesive set of information and rules, and a 360-degree view of shoppers.
But this strategy currently lacks adoption among merchants, Morris reported: Although 52% of retailers find multichannel integration to be a top store-level priority, 32% of respondents indicated that there is no customer information available at the store level, BRP research revealed.
“Today’s web-enabled environment allows forward-thinking retailers to change the playing field,” Morris said. “These technologies allow customers to change the ways they think about the in-store experience. Retailers need to innovate continually to survive, and need to offer a seamless multichannel experience and achieve a more collaborative connection with their customer to extend their lifetime value.”
Click here to access an on-demand version of the complete webinar.