Retail TouchPoints - Your Source For The Latest Retail News And Trends - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints https://www.retailtouchpoints.com Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:40:04 -0500 RTP en-gb Exclusive Q&A: How Farmstead Leverages AI To Deliver Fresh Local Groceries In One Hour Or Less https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/e-commerce/exclusive-q-a-how-farmstead-leverages-ai-to-deliver-fresh-local-groceries-in-one-hour-or-less https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/e-commerce/exclusive-q-a-how-farmstead-leverages-ai-to-deliver-fresh-local-groceries-in-one-hour-or-less 0aaaPradeep ElankumaranOnline grocery is a market that’s flooded with both traditional grocers and young startups, but all share a common challenge: figuring out how to control delivery costs, delivery times and (perhaps most important to the consumer) freshness of food.

Founded in 2016, San Francisco-based Farmstead sought to solve these problems by accurately predicting supply and demand of locally-sourced goods. Leveraging proprietary machine learning, inventory and logistics platforms, Farmstead guarantees delivery within 60 minutes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Shoppers pay a $4.99 fee for one-hour delivery, and $3.99 for three-hour delivery.

In an interview with Retail TouchPoints, Pradeep Elankumaran, CEO and Co-Founder of Farmstead, described the online retailer as a “technology company, first and foremost.” Elankumaran discussed how Farmstead:

  • Shrunk its food waste percentage to under 10%, well under the supermarket average of 35%;
  • Built its own merchandising, inventory control, picking and packing and route generating software;
  • Plans to leverage machine learning and AI to predict factors such as how many drivers are needed on the road and how many employees are needed to pick and pack products; and
  • Uses online search to determine future products.

RTP: From a value standpoint, what was online grocery missing that led you to start Farmstead?

Pradeep Elankumaran: When this started in 2016, the only major delivery option in my neighborhood was Instacart. There was Amazon Fresh as well, but it was pretty dire and the selection was weak. It didn’t have the right products and the packaging was horrific.

I had a two-year-old who all of a sudden was drinking a lot of milk, and I had another child on the way. Picture going to the supermarket three or four times a week at around 7:30 to 8:00 pm, to Safeway or Whole Foods, buying the same things over and over and dealing with big lines. It’s a very stressful situation, and I was complaining to my now co-founder, ‘You’re having a baby on the way as well, do you have any ideas of what we can do here?’

Over time, he suggested posting on the Nextdoor community for Mountain View, Calif., asking if anyone was interested in weekly delivery of staples such as milk, eggs, yogurt and bread. We figured if 10 people responded, then we could get someone to do shopping for us as a private shopper. In two days, 200 people said ‘yes’. We weren’t really looking for that, but when that kind of interest is shown, it’s really hard to say ‘no’ there.

As engineers, we dug further into the space and realized there’s a much more interesting product here. If we put the right software in the right places and leveraged new delivery models that are currently coming into play, it would be possible for us to deliver groceries to you perfectly every time — without any substitutions, delivered in a very flexible window of time, while at the same time you don’t pay any more than you’d normally pay in the supermarket.

We took a deep dive into how this was possible — we have to take perishable supplies that we buy wholesale and connect it to demand using digital channels. Can we can get milk in our warehouse and sell it to people using online channels, doing online marketing before the milk expires? Can we write enough software to orchestrate all of this so that we can rapidly scale these locations that we were building?

The key is that Farmstead isn’t a retail store, we are a smaller-format warehouse. Our locations are 3,000 and 5,000 square feet, and we don’t carry every single item at the supermarket, we carry about 1,000 SKUs and invest in many categories. When we add more items, we’re actually adding more categories. If we want potato chips, we’ll have three SKUs of potato chips, not 50.

The items that we pick are usually very high quality, but our mission is to make the high-quality foods accessible to everyone. Because of that, we try to pick multiple price points in these categories as well and get the best possible quality. We sell both commercial and organic produce, cheap ketchup and fancy ketchup. We don’t really want you to position between “lower quality” or “this is more expensive so it’s higher quality.” Whatever you’re able to afford you should be able to buy on Farmstead.

RTP: Weekly subscribers have an hour before their delivery window starts to adjust their order. How does Farmstead execute such quick turnarounds based on these adjustments?

Elankumaran: That level of flexibility is very difficult to pull off, and we had to write a lot of software to support the operational efficiencies that are required to deliver rapidly. The software is really the heart of Farmstead. We have software to manage inventory, reduce food waste, schedule a labor pool to pick and pack these orders in a very efficient way, and recruit and retain drivers.

One of the key concepts here is that this is a rare instance of a technology company spending this much time and attention on the mechanics of perishable products. We first didn’t want to write all the software ourselves, but in reality there wasn’t a lot that could be used to make these efficiencies happen.

Take food waste as an example. Supermarkets waste 35% of their products. When we first saw that number as data people, we thought it was appalling. Why is that number so high? At Farmstead, the goal was to have [food waste in] single digits while aggressively adding more customers.

One of the challenges of Farmstead is that we also are not like a supermarket, in that we don’t just have a three- to five-mile radius around our store. Our locations have a 50-mile radius. Approximately 10 to 12 stores’ worth of demand can potentially be connected to one of our locations. As a result, while the number of customers we have is increasing, we still have to keep the food waste low.

Supermarkets typically have one person in charge of one or two aisles of product, and most buyers are making gut calls on produce and perishables projections, saying they need to buy an extra case of carrots because it was moving fast last week. But that’s a very inefficient way of buying. In reality, software should be doing that, so we buy all our products using software. There are no purchase orders that are generated by people, it’s all generated by code.

We reached 20% food waste after implementing the software, but still didn’t achieve our sub-8% goal. We realized that using our software alone was not enough. Then we turned on our machine learning layer to take into account all the historical sales data, all the seasonality for any particular item. By that, I mean buying more croissants for Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and buying more heavy cream during Thanksgiving time. The machine learning makes a prediction for every single item, for every single location, saying buy ‘this much’ and not ‘that much’. With that model in play, our food waste is now well under 10%.

We also built our inventory control from scratch. Most inventory control systems don’t support perishable sell-by dates that well. We did the same thing for picking-and-packing, where we used off-the-shelf scanners to create an efficient system that we control 100%. This allows us to pack a $150 order in five minutes.

We built software for our drivers, so they can go on these long delivery routes. They show up at our location, they grab the orders to put them in their car and the software tells them to drop the items off at house A, house B, house C in this specific order. A lot of things had to go right for all this to click into place, but the heart of it is our software that we’ve spent a lot of time developing.

RTP: Where do you feel machine learning and AI solutions fit into overall grocery strategies, and how should companies use this technology to their advantage?

Elankumaran: Machine learning is very good at predicting, and enterprises — not just grocers — are bad at predicting. A lot of the reasons that costs overrun are that predictions are really off. We have doubled down on machine learning to predict inventory, which is the number one cost for us. Very soon we are going to predict:

  • How many drivers will we need?
  • What’s the probability of those drivers going to those locations?
  • How many people do we need picking and packing these orders on any given day?

Grocers need to understand that the assumption that shoppers will always come to your location is changing, and in order for someone to support that change, it requires a certain level of sophistication around what needs to happen in real time. Any particular location you start has to have an increasing number of customers connected to it.

Machine learning for prediction is something that is very underutilized in grocery, and in general.

RTP: How does Farmstead go about understanding (and catering to) evolving consumer preferences, especially given your locally-sourced product offering?

Elankumaran: We’ve been collecting customer feedback for a very long time — since the day we started. The majority of items on Farmstead are added because customers tell us that they want them. We also have usage patterns. For example, someone is searching and they type in “cranberry sauce” and if we don’t have that, we can look at our reports to see that consumers may want cranberry sauce, and we should probably add it.

The biggest way that we add items is that people tell us ‘It would be nice if we carried this brand.’ For a while, there was a lot of demand for raw milk, and it wasn’t something we planned on adding, but we kept getting more people who wanted it. And they kept searching for ‘raw milk’ on Farmstead. We said, ‘You know what, let’s try it,’ and now raw milk has been a top-10 seller on Farmstead for a long time.

The worst thing we can do is have a lot of inventory that’s not selling. My nightmare scenario is having all the product that a supermarket has that is just sitting there, and it’s just one or two customers buying something every week. That’s not what we’re about. We’re trying to bring in the products that will move and will also have a higher probability of being part of your weekly basket.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Glenn Taylor) E-Commerce Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:49:35 -0500
Savvy Retailers Know That Storefronts Must Fulfill And Strengthen Digital Promises https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/savvy-retailers-know-that-storefronts-must-fulfill-and-strengthen-digital-promises https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/savvy-retailers-know-that-storefronts-must-fulfill-and-strengthen-digital-promises

0aaaSteve Mast DelviniaI remember when the first wave of corporate web sites hit the Internet. Designers at the time were thrilled to play with a brand new platform, and before long it felt like every site was competing to see which could have the most bells and whistles packed onto a single page.

Granted, web design as a discipline was still in its infancy and people were literally learning as they went. But for a long time most pages were designed with creators, not the end users, in mind.

We may have come a long way since then, but that “me first” thinking hasn’t entirely disappeared. In fact, it lurks behind the ongoing inability of many retailers to seamlessly synch up their in-store, mobile and e-Commerce experiences with the expectations of their consumers. Technology may be deeply intertwined with their lives. But the bottom line is this — if a consumer can feel something is being forced upon them for reasons that are unclear, it creates a level of distrust that no amount of marketing can overcome.

Do it right, however, and the opportunities for brands are endless. For proof of this, look no further than the travel and hospitality industry. If anyone has mastered the art of sophisticated, effective omnichannel strategy, it’s them.

Case in point: I recently stayed at the Even Hotel in Brooklyn, N.Y. I’m an avid runner, so I made sure the hotel had solid health and wellness facilities and was run-route friendly. What impressed me was just how well the hotel tried to get to know me and cater my experience in a way that was intuitive and over and above. After my first night the hotel app began to suggest additional run routes throughout the city. Each room had a small workout space, which was a selling point for me. But guests could also access in-room exercise routines available on the television with the touch of a button. Lobby staff were not only courteous, they were clearly well-informed. One even offered me an unsolicited, useful post-run recommendation in a friendly, non-off-putting way.

All of it was helpful, and none of it felt forced or so over the top as to be uncomfortable. It made for a fantastic experience, and the hotel became the center of the experience, enhanced by digital and online technology that made sense.

By contrast, think of the controversies that continue to haunt the retail sector. On one hand we see campaigns like Tesco’s facial recognition scanners to serve up personalized ads, but that wasn’t presented in a way that was seamless to their experience nor communicated in a way that’s beneficial to the shopper. All shoppers saw was a “Big Brother”-style attempt to capture their data with no obvious upside.

Then there’s the push among many retailers to appear innovative at all costs. It’s why we see so many of them adopting cutting-edge storefront initiatives like virtual mirrors or virtual reality-powered furniture design that look and sound impressive. On paper, that is. Problem is, when they are viewed in isolation — which they often are — they come across as solutions in search of a problem, disconnected from the brand that implemented them.

The lesson for retailers goes well beyond the need to be transparent with customers when it comes to introducing anything new to their experience (although they absolutely should be). Rather, it’s that anything done in-store has to feel part of a connected, holistic experience. The flow between the web site, the app, the online shopping and the feeling a customer has when they walk though the front door of the store must all feel like part of one experience.

Brands that strike this balance will eventually strike gold. Shopify, for example, recently opened its first retail store in Los Angeles, where aspiring entrepreneurs can “purchase” advice and inspiration for their own fledgling retail business ideas. Shopify’s long and focused effort to position itself as a champion for small businesses and e-Commerce makes the move feel like a natural evolution for the brand, and one that has generated excitement among potential customers.

Frank and Oak is a great example of an e-Commerce site that has successfully launched a physical storefront by emphasizing personalization. The company had already earned a reputation for providing personalized service through its monthly style box program, through which shoppers receive products curated just for them based on their tastes and previous purchases, all supported by artificial intelligence. The store takes that a step further, offering shoppers a unique in-store experience based on the urban location of each outlet, further emphasizing the personalized feel.

A few years ago my company worked with a major bank to better understand the customer journey, online and in-branch. While senior executives hypothesized over aspects of the omnichannel experience, using geofencing — which is essentially a short mobile survey or poll served up to people within a defined set of location parameters — we found parking to be one of the main pain points when it came to branch visits. As a result, the bank piloted adding branch parking info within their mobile app to enhance the customer experience.

In many ways we’re still in the early days of the new retail industry, and the pain from old to new is still being felt. But we’re far enough along that brands should no longer be making the mistake of not taking a true omnichannel approach.

The call to action is clear. Step back, analyze, test and be willing to take risks. Eventually, you’ll find a winning recipe. And it’s one your customers will thank you for.


 

Steve Mast is the President and Chief Innovation Officer of Delvinia, a data collection firm that has captured more than 180 million opinions and created the automated market research platform Methodify, recognized as one of the GRIT top 50 most innovative companies in the world.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Steve Mast, Delvinia) Executive ViewPoints Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:24:30 -0500
ShopKeep Secures $65 Million Funding Round https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/financial-news/shopkeep-secures-65-million-funding-round https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/financial-news/shopkeep-secures-65-million-funding-round ShopKeep Secures $65 Million Funding Round

ShopKeep has completed a $65 million round of equity and debt financing led by Tribeca Venture Partners. The venture capital firm also led the company’s funding round in 2011.

The tablet-to-cloud payments and POS platform provider plans to use the new capital to support ongoing growth initiatives and to expand into other business segments across a wider range of services and locations. Initiatives include expanding the company’s recently launched ShopKeep Capital service, which provides ShopKeep customers with working capital funding, extending the capabilities of its new Android-based platform and exploring international markets.

"ShopKeep will continue working tirelessly to deliver small business owners with technology and digital tools to fuel their businesses and compete in today’s marketplace at all levels,” said Michael DeSimone, CEO of ShopKeep, in a statement.

The round includes additional investment from First Data Corporation, a payment processing services provider, and Salesforce Ventures, the global corporate investment group of Salesforce. ORIX Growth Capital and Square 1 Bank provided the debt financing portion of the round.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Klaudia Tirico) Financial News Tue, 11 Dec 2018 17:46:27 -0500
Mall Of America Introduces Hologram Equipped To Offer Gift Recommendations https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/mall-of-america-introduces-hologram-equipped-to-offer-gift-recommendations https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/mall-of-america-introduces-hologram-equipped-to-offer-gift-recommendations Mall Of America Introduces Hologram Equipped To Offer Gift Recommendations

Mall of America and VNTANA, a mixed reality company, are collaborating to launch Ellie, Mall of America's Shopping Hologram Concierge, for the holiday season. Shoppers can give Ellie a general category like “teen" or "husband," and Ellie will follow up with additional questions to help determine the right gift for their needs.

"At our core, Mall of America is an experiential retail destination and we are thrilled to work with VNTANA to deliver this unique hologram experience throughout our holiday season," said Sarah Townes, VP of Marketing at Mall of America in a statement. "VNTANA's hologram technology is a great way to capitalize on our multi-channel chatbot we launched last year. It provides not only a fun interaction but also assistance to those searching for gift ideas this holiday season."

The software combines a chatbot with a 3D model to generate the experience, and is capable of connecting to platforms including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Alexa, IBM Watson and Satisfi Labs. In addition to suggesting gifts, the software can answer questions, schedule appointments, give directions and help with purchases.

Augmented and virtual reality platforms are part of the future of retail, and total spending on these products and services is expected to jump from $11.4 billion in 2017 to nearly $215 billion by 2021, according to IDC. As AR and VR become bigger parts of consumers’ lives, retailers will want to use these capabilities to their advantage.

“Augmented reality and voice are having a real impact on how consumers interact with brands,” said Kiran Smith, CEO of advertising and branding agency Arnold in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “As we get more advanced from a personal device standpoint, retailers have to adjust the way they do business — including how they reach their customers, their payment systems and overall capabilities — to keep up. The brands that can create relevant and seamless interactions will win.”

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Bryan Wassel) News Briefs Tue, 11 Dec 2018 17:07:45 -0500
Apple Pay Goes Live In Germany https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/apple-pay-goes-live-in-germany https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/apple-pay-goes-live-in-germany Apple Pay Goes Live In Germany

Four years after debuting Apple Pay in the United States, Apple has launched the service in Germany. The introduction of the contactless payment option follows Apple Pay’s launch in Belgium and Kazakhstan earlier in December. Rival Google debuted its payments solution in Germany in June 2018.

At launch, Apple’s mobile payment platform will be available via financial services firms in Germany including Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank unit Comdirect, Hypovereinsbank, Wirecard, Hanseatic Bank and credit card providers Mastercard, Visa and American Express. By next year, the company plans to roll out the service to nine other banks, including DKB, INK and Revolut.

While the service is already available in more than 20 countries, its German launch was reportedly delayed due to a dispute over Apple Pay's fees.

On its Apple Pay site for Germany, the company lists support from brands such as Bershka, Adidas, Aldi, Aral, Cigo, H&M, Kaufland, Kaufhof, Media Markt, McDonald’s and Zara.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Klaudia Tirico) News Briefs Tue, 11 Dec 2018 17:03:07 -0500
UK-based Hamleys Plans NYC Store To Fill Experiential Toy Gap https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/uk-based-hamleys-plans-nyc-store-to-fill-experiential-toy-gap https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/uk-based-hamleys-plans-nyc-store-to-fill-experiential-toy-gap UK-based Hamleys Plans NYC Store To Fill Experiential Toy Gap

Hamleys, a UK-based toy retailer, is close to finalizing a deal for a 30,000-square-foot store at Herald Square in New York City, according to CNBC. The location would open in 2020 and could be followed by additional stores in certain malls and cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Hamleys stores are known for their emphasis on experiential retailing, letting kids play with life-size Legos and having associates dressed up as fictional characters to entertain customers. The retailer currently has locations in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Mexico.

FAO Schwarz has reopened its own store at Rockefeller Center, which would put Hamleys in direct competition with another venerable toy merchant. The two retailers will compete on experience as well: the FAO Schwarz revival includes product demonstrators, magicians and employees dressed as characters.

Many retailers are working to replace Toys ‘R’ Us across the U.S., and could offer more competition should Hamleys choose to expand:

The Hole Left By Toys ‘R’ Us Is Not Yet Filled

2018 marks the first modern holiday season without Toys ‘R’ Us, and other retailers have been taking advantage of the opportunity. A number of retailers grabbed some of the market share left behind on Thanksgiving weekend by attracting former Toys ‘R’ Us shoppers to their stores, according to Gordon Haskett and Alpha Hat:

However, 59% of 2017 Toys ‘R’ Us Thanksgiving weekend shoppers simply didn’t make any brick-and-mortar purchases this year, according to Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom. The remaining players will have to compete to see if they can capture that missing share in 2019.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Bryan Wassel) News Briefs Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:38:21 -0500
True Value Cuts Unproductive Inventory, Improves Forecasting With Demand Planning Solution https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/retail-success-stories/true-value-cuts-inventory-improves-product-forecasting-with-demand-planning-solution https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/retail-success-stories/true-value-cuts-inventory-improves-product-forecasting-with-demand-planning-solution True Value Cuts Unproductive Inventory, Improves Forecasting With Demand Planning Solution

Anticipating and incorporating demand, particularly for highly seasonal and weather-dependent items, is crucial to delivering an exceptional customer experience while maintaining accurate inventory levels and a healthy profit margin. It’s a particularly tough challenge for retailers that are managing highly variable product lifecycles based on geography and seasonality.

Starting in 2017, True Value took the challenge head-on, implementing JDA Demand to revamp its demand planning processes. Since deploying JDA Demand, True Value has:

  • Saved “millions of dollars” in unproductive inventory reductions;
  • Improved forecasting from a monthly to a daily basis; and
  • Maintained fill rates.

By better forecasting demand, True Value can adjust inventories to meet regional store needs, which fluctuate significantly depending on the season. As a hardlines wholesaler to more than 4,400 independent hardware stores, each True Value store can have an entirely different look and feel. A consumer may not always find the exact same products at one True Value that they find in another, and the number of products for each store varies widely depending on the location or retailer.

 

“We have a very heterogenous store base,” said Lyndsi Lee, Divisional VP of Inventory and Global Sourcing at True Value in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “With that, we have a lot of demand variability. Also, as a wholesaler we sometimes lack true demand signals from our customers. For example, we don’t have POS data from all our customers, nor do our customers necessarily place orders from us if we happen to be temporarily out of stock on an item. We always aspire to continuous improvement, and to accomplish that, we work closely with our customers to build collaborative forecasts. Having that ability allows us to more quickly respond to trends.”

The True Value team sought to integrate predictive analytics within its demand forecasting capabilities, which the wholesaler didn’t have with its previous demand planning system.

“Consistent with the rest of the home improvement industry, our business is significantly impacted by seasonal influences — spring and winter in particular,” said Lee. “We’re always continuing to focus on new categories that are going to drive relevancy for our stores. If you think about those two factors, they drive significant demand variability within the business. We were really just seeking a solution that would help us drive increased forecast accuracy.”

Granular Forecasting Enables True Value To Capture Demand By-The-Day

True Value also can more accurately predict demand, and reallocate or redeploy inventory across its system to alleviate transportation challenges throughout the supply chain, according to Lee. The wholesaler has cut down its forecasting times from monthly to daily, and even can forecast at a granular store level. These capabilities are well ahead of its prior systems, which would routinely cause True Value to miss opportunities to adjust demand forecasts.

Bringing forecasting horizons down from monthly to daily has been particularly helpful with weather-related predictions. “If you think about weather accuracy — we’ve all experienced this — you’re looking out a week and it says it’s going to rain,” Lee said. “Lo and behold it’s a perfect, beautiful day, or worse, it’s the other way around. As we’re trying to incorporate weather signals into our forecast, particularly as you’re looking at longer time horizons, we realize that the accuracy level is low. If you’re refreshing your forecasts on a monthly basis, you’re not incorporating the latest and greatest information, so having the ability to incorporate more current, up-to-date information enables us to more proactively plan where we place inventory. This clearly drives improvements from an in-stock perspective, but also helps mitigate unnecessary expedited freight charges.”

True Value also plans to expand its JDA footprint with a replenishment planning module, designed to respond and replenish demand more quickly.

 

“Having a time-phase view of our receipts plan and inventory positions allows us to better collaborate with our vendors,” Lee said. “As an example, we historically see longer lead times in Q4 for a number of reasons, like holiday schedules at factories or goals from a supplier perspective. The module will help us anticipate these longer lead times so we can better work with our suppliers to improve product flow and ensure continuity.”

Anticipating and incorporating demand, particularly for highly seasonal and weather-dependent items, is crucial to delivering an exceptional customer experience while maintaining accurate inventory levels and a healthy profit margin. It’s a particularly tough challenge for retailers that are managing highly variable product lifecycles based on geography and seasonality.

Starting in 2017, True Value took the challenge head-on, implementing JDA Demand to revamp its demand planning processes. Since deploying JDA Demand, True Value has:

·       Saved “millions of dollars” in unproductive inventory reductions;

·       Improved forecasting from a monthly to a daily basis;

·       Maintained industry-leading fill rates

 

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Glenn Taylor) Retail Success Stories Tue, 11 Dec 2018 08:28:12 -0500
To Increase Customer Satisfaction, Start With Your Employees’ Satisfaction https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/to-increase-customer-satisfaction-start-with-your-employees-satisfaction https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/to-increase-customer-satisfaction-start-with-your-employees-satisfaction

0aaaAlix de Sagazan AB TastyA lot of the conversation about increasing customer satisfaction, in the retail sector or anywhere else, revolves around technology. Omnichannel strategies for multi-touch messaging. Automation to increase efficiency. Integrated platforms to bridge the online and in-store experience. The more powerful, connected and “smart” your tech stack is, the better your customers’ experience is said to be.

Of course, a savvy technology strategy absolutely does contribute to customer satisfaction; we’re so sure that digital tools improve customer satisfaction that it’s one of our company’s brand values. Indeed, 94% of firms say their CRO initiatives have increased customer satisfaction, according to our recent commissioned study by Forrester Consulting.

Clearly, technology and process play a huge role in maintaining happy customers. But it isn’t the only thing that matters. If the human element of your tech stack isn’t optimized — in other words, if your employees aren’t happy — it doesn’t matter how powerful your algorithms are or how omnichannel your approach is. You won’t be able to provide top notch customer satisfaction.

Customer Satisfaction Starts With Employee Satisfaction

If we didn’t maintain an attractive working environment for our employees, they could easily go elsewhere — such is the nature of young tech companies. Indeed, recent data collected by LinkedIn shows the short employee lifespan — sometimes as short as two years — for up-and-coming software companies in Silicon Valley. Keeping our employees happy, motivated and always wanting to learn more means our customers — and by extension, their customers — continue to have more satisfying experiences.

Test And Learn

The idea of “test and learn,” and continuous optimization, means finding the perfect balance between pushing yourself to always do better and knowing it’s okay to sometimes fail. Employees need to feel like they’re in a secure enough environment to take risks, especially in highly competitive sectors. After all, this is how evolution works in the natural world; species evolve from mutations — mistakes in the genome! — that lead to new creations that ultimately withstand the test of time.

Creativity, a key component of any innovative company, operates in much the same way. Whether your company has a “test and learn” approach written into its culture or not, it’s vital to allow employees enough breathing room, and provide them with enough support, to allow creativity to happen.

Make sure this zeitgeist is reflected in promotion decisions and hiring policy; screen for candidates that don’t fit this mindset, especially for management roles. Encourage risk, and crucially, “post-mortem” evaluations in a one-to-one setting. If it didn’t work, why? What could we do differently next time? What did we learn, and how can we apply these principles elsewhere?

Think ‘Glocal’

Retailers know the woes of having to localize products and messaging while still needing to retain a global brand image. The same struggles come up when it comes to maintaining an international company culture across multiple continents. How do you juggle language barriers, cultural differences and changes in time zones? In other words, how do you maintain team spirit (another one of our brand values) internationally?

Part of it has to do with thinking local — and by this, I mean hiring local talent native to the target market. Indeed, this will contribute to client satisfaction, whatever your sector. Nothing is more frustrating than reading a web site that has been poorly translated, or never being able to get hold of a client representative because they aren’t in your time zone. Local talent will help you bridge the gap and allow your customers to feel they’re being understood and catered to.

At the same time, you need to think “global.” A big issue companies scaling up internationally face is the communication headaches involved in collaborating globally. Every branch, outpost and office needs to feel part of the “global” structure, whether that means being included in emails, internal communications in a language they understand and team building exercises. While this might seem trivial, it has a huge impact on employee satisfaction..

All in all, the beauty of using your brand values to support a positive company culture is that you create a virtuous circle; you practice what you preach. Employees feel their experience at work is a true embodiment of the brand, which in turn encourages positive (direct or indirect) interactions with clients. Customer-facing employees become brand spokespeople, and if they feel the brand has been good to them, most will naturally reciprocate by creating a positive experience between the brand and the client. Happy customers really do start with happy employees.


 

Along with co-founder Rémi Aubert, Alix de Sagazan founded the conversion rate optimization platform AB Tasty in 2011. Under her leadership, the company has experienced 70% year-over-year growth, been awarded 4th place in the 2017 ‘Great Place to Work - France’ awards, and has been nominated as a finalist in the 2018 Stevie Awards for Great Employers. De Sagazan is a member of the tech think tank “The Galion Project,” and is one of Europe’s most recognized ‘women in tech’ leaders.

 

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Alix de Sagazan, AB Tasty) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 11 Dec 2018 08:22:53 -0500
Amazon Reportedly Planning First ‘Go’ Store In UK https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/amazon-reportedly-planning-first-go-store-in-uk https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/amazon-reportedly-planning-first-go-store-in-uk Amazon Reportedly Planning First ‘Go’ Store In UK

Amazon has opened seven cashierless Amazon Go stores across the U.S., and now the company is reportedly planning its first store across the pond. The e-Commerce giant is likely setting up shop in the UK in London's West End shopping district, according to a report in The Telegraph, although Amazon has not commented on the report.

Amazon has been looking for sites between 3,000 to 5,000 square feet in size near London’s Oxford Circus. It is unclear whether the Go store would take up the entire space, but the estimated square footage would be much larger than that of any American Amazon Go location. The largest of its stores, the third location in Seattle, is 2,100 square feet.

The push to open the store in the West End, one of Europe’s busiest shopping areas, was being orchestrated by Amazon’s U.S. team and not the UK team, the report indicated.

Although Amazon is reportedly considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 new Amazon Go stores by 2021, with more than 50 locations in major locations by 2019, growth has remained slow. The hardware alone for the original Amazon Go store in downtown Seattle is said to have cost the company $1 million.

That isn’t going to stop the e-Commerce giant from testing the technology any way it can, even if it isn’t made public. Amazon is reportedly working on adapting the “just walk out” technology deployed in Amazon Go to larger format stores, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The technology combines sensors, computer vision and deep learning to detect which items have been taken off and returned to shelves, keeping track inside a virtual cart. Once finished, shoppers leave the store and are automatically charged on their Amazon accounts. The store uses a variety of scanning technologies and algorithms to monitor patrons and verify purchases.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Mon, 10 Dec 2018 13:45:43 -0500
JD.com, Alibaba Reach Outside China To Empower Retail Innovation https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/store-operations/jd-com-alibaba-reach-outside-china-to-empower-retail-innovation https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/topics/store-operations/jd-com-alibaba-reach-outside-china-to-empower-retail-innovation JD.com, Alibaba Reach Outside China To Empower Retail Innovation

JD.com and Alibaba are partnering with tech companies and retailers to collaborate on new ways to drive the industry forward. JD.com joined with Intel to launch a joint lab that will explore the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in smart retail solutions, while Alibaba is working with Spanish retailer El Corte Inglés in a joint effort to complement each other’s logistics expertise.

JD.com and Intel have formed the Digitized Retail Joint lab to develop vending machines, media and advertising solutions and other retail-focused technologies. The team already has merged Intel’s RRI edge computing and OpenVINO computer vision architecture with JD’s computer vision algorithms to analyze customer traffic and in-store purchasing habits — data that can be used to improve personalization efforts.

“This lab will combine our collective strengths to develop cutting-edge solutions to bring the precision of online shopping to offline players,” said Zhi Weng, VP of JD.com and head of JD Big Data Platform in a statement. “We look forward to expanding our cooperation with Intel to deliver a best-in-class, personalized shopping experience wherever consumers shop.”

The partnership between El Corte Inglés and Alibaba will span retail, payments, cloud computing and the entire Alibaba New Retail initiative. El Corte will tap a number of Alibaba solutions, including data analytics and AI-based tools, and open a sales channel for “made-in-Spain” goods on Tmall. El Corte also will provide support for Alibaba, which could leverage the department store’s shipping capabilities and distribution centers in Spain to support AliExpress, the retailer’s international e-Commerce service, in the nation.

“This agreement will allow us to combine both the physical and online worlds, in order to offer the best shopping experience to our customers,” said Victor del Pozo, CEO of El Corte Inglés in a statement. “Together, we are writing the future and placing ourselves at the forefront of trade and technology.”

Alibaba is no stranger to working with other retailers to enhance its offerings: the retail giant partnered with Guess in July 2018 to launch a FashionAI concept store that featured Guess apparel on smart racks, smart mirrors and next-generation fitting rooms. Guess plans to introduce the technology to its own stores in the future.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Mon, 10 Dec 2018 13:05:20 -0500