Personalization, product comparisons and content management are features commonly associated with the e-commerce channel. These and other shopping tools are now working their way into the store environment and the hands of associates on the selling floor. These and other emerging strategies and tactics were spotlighted during a recent Retail TouchPoints webinar titled “Automating the In-Store Experience with Cross Channel Intelligence,” which was sponsored by iCongo and Motorola.
The webinar featured presentations from Aberdeen Group, Motorola and iCongo. and focused on strategies on how multi-channel intelligence can improve the performance of brick and mortar retail locations. In addition, the presentation showcased the opportunity for retailers to utilize mobile solutions to automate the sales process and communicate multi-channel Intelligence down to the sales floor, by providing up-to-the-minute inventory availability, suggestions for alternative products and access to a customer’s purchasing history.
“It’s not just delivering or ordering on the Web,” said Sahir Anand, senior research analyst with Aberdeen Group. “Retailers need to look at the whole concept.”
According to Aberdeen Group research, retailers indicated an increase in cross-channel customer shopping patterns as the primary business pressure, cited by 45% of respondents. Creating a single brand identity across all channels is the key strategic action for retailers, according to 51% of retailers.
Anand pointed out that 43% of smaller retailers enter product and customer information separately into their channels, leading to poor execution of channel content update and customer programs. When analyzing the multi-channel solution landscape of current and planned strategies, 27% of respondents indicate a plan to enhance cross-channel fulfillment in 2008 and integrate inventory planning. 29% plan to enhance cross-channel product content management system and 32% plan to enhance cross-channel marketing management solutions.
Anand advised retailers to consider moving to an on-demand end-to-end multi-channel management platform, and to create a process for tracking, measuring and monitoring multi-channel performance metrics for improved bottom line attainment. “The most important takeaway is not only looking at the centralized inventory fulfillment in merchandising planning allocation, but also looking at the emerging need for on demand end-to-end multichannel management solutions,” he said.
“Each and every retailer, even if they’re only operating an in- store environment, can’t ignore the cross channel nature of customers,” he said. “90% of shoppers are doing their research on the online channel. That number has stayed consistent in the last three years.”
Connecting to Customer with Enterprise Mobility
Scott Moreland, principal, retail industry solutions for Motorola Enterprise Mobility, also presented insights into how mobile devices helping to streamline the multi-channel integration process and remedy challenges like inconsistent customer services, out-of-stock and pricing inconsistencies and data inadequacies. “Successful retailers drive success with mobility,” says Moreland. Mobile devices enable retailers to help customers while they shop, aggregating data like transaction and purchase history, item description, and SKU, size, style and vendor if an item is not currently in stock. Acting as a shopping assistant, mobile devices can assist with product recommendation and integrate with the POS system for optimal convenience.
In addition, mobile devices can help locate merchandise so the store associates never have to leave the customer’s side. A mobile solution for the management of stockroom supported sales can help with inventory, on-demand stock to floor picking, verification of stock availability, etc.
“Mobile devices deliver substantial financial, customer services and business process benefits,” said Moreland. Based on initial retail implementations, the solution delivers sales revenue increases by 8-15%, sales per hour increases of 10-20% and items per transaction increase of 5% of more. All of these benefits were achieved without additional labor expenses.
“We’re taking advantage of enterprise mobility to create a different experience for the customer, and more importantly, improve on each retailers’ financial results by creating more satisfied consumers and more loyal consumers,” said Moreland.
In addition, retailers have seen margins increase as product is sold before markdowns are needed and inventory accuracy was increased; reducing “dead stock” write-offs. “Enterprise mobility is really having an impact and combined with this cross channel intelligence and access more data within the rest of the supply chain for taking care of consumer demand,” Moreland said.
Taking Customer Service to the Next Level
Steven Kramer, President and Chief Technology Officer of iCongo, previewed the company’s new application which integrates with Motorola’s mobile devices. “Next generation wireless applications take customer service to the next level by providing sophisticated cross-channel CRM capabilities like guided selling, a more personalized experience, optimize inventory management and optimized store operations,” said Kramer.
Kramer suggested wireless devices are ideal for retailers heavily focused on premium customer service, limited inventory on the floor, multi-store retailers chains and multi-channel retailers looking to increase inventory turns by sharing inventory information. With the ability to scan a style and view available SKUs, order directly from a Web store for home deliver and bin location and back store operations, retailers can optimize inventory management.
Kramer also noted that wireless devices enable retailers to free staff from routine operations tasks to concentrate on customer service. Retailers can reduce the time spent on each sale, and offer dynamic up-sell and cross-sell information to sales people.
“Rather than having the customer being left alone in the store when asking for a product, the sales associate, through the wireless device, is now able to check whether or not inventory is available in the store and also dispatch a runner from the store to bring the product out,” he said. “It’s important for retailers to understand the loss they experience when they leave customers alone.”
The “Automating the In-Store Experience with Cross Channel Intelligence,” webinar will be available on demand for 90 days.