What's in store? November

Red Ant, 23rd November 2018

Red Ant's regular look behind the headlines at retail and lifestyle brands' challenges and conversations, with expert views and actionable insight

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Single customer view is still a struggle for retailers

Retailers are finding it hard to implement a single customer view, according to research commissioned by in-memory analytics database creator Exasol.  While retailers are relying on data to make better business decisions, almost half have yet to implement a strategy that gives a holistic view of their customers.

According to Aaron Auld, Chief Executive at Exasol: ‘Retailers are coping with razor-thin profit margins, increasing the pressure to deliver for customers at any time, any place, at the right cost, and personalised to them. This research shows that, despite the big eCommerce brands having set the standards for omnichannel and customer experience, more than half of retailers still lack the all-important single customer view.’

Red Ant says: While leading retailers say they’re committed to delivering a personalised, engaging customer experience across all channels, this research shows that only 46% of respondents use data to understand their customers and how they behave so that they can improve their services. There seems to be a residual fear within the C-suite around data integration and how difficult they perceive it to be getting legacy, third party and other systems to work together. This fear is unfounded, of course – the right digital store platform can take care of it all, from integration to business processes and intelligent analytics, across all systems and all operational areas.

Easy to implement? Yeswith pre-certified integrations for many leading platforms and providers and an open SDK to connect to new providers you may already have, our digital store platform reduces project risk and time to market. Integrations with over 60 retail technology partners are ready to go, including eCommerce, POS, payments, CRM, reporting, OMS, content and workforce management.

Time to activate? Six weeks to audit systems, scope integrations and start implementation

Find out more about our digital store platform

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Drapers editor prescribes ‘strong medicine’ for fashion retailers

Drapers editor Keely Stocker pulled no punches with her Editor’s Comment for November. In a candid look at how fashion retailers are revisiting their strategies to ‘tackle ongoing trading headwinds’, she compared the plans of those who had seen a downturn in figures with those who reported a rise in revenue. While the instinct of retailers experiencing a drop in revenue was to continue their strategy of closing stores and streamlining their portfolios, those seeing an increase had invested in physical store space as well as digital initiatives.

According to Keely Stocker: ‘faced with the stark reality of what happens to retailers when they don’t adapt to changing shopping behaviours, the bellwethers of the high street are going over their strategies and structures with a fine-tooth comb, and taking much-needed steps to modernise. 

There are more tough decisions ahead. However, a streamlined strategy that embraces innovation will set a business up to be fit for the future. Those that leave it too late may risk getting left behind.’

Red Ant says: Keely Stocker is right – there’s no doubt that retailers are having a tough time, but those that listen to their customers and give them the experience they crave in-store have been proven to have a better chance of survival. Embracing the concept of the store of the future to give customers a seamless, personalised shopping experience regardless of how they choose to shop is the only way to successfully support both sales colleagues and commercial priorities.

Easy to implement? It doesn’t disrupt business as usual or involve huge amounts of support and maintenance, and it shouldn’t break the bank in terms of resource or budget.

Time to activate? You can set up trials and pilots in a matter of weeks, and build use cases for the things which work and discontinue those that don’t.

Find out more about the store of the future

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Shanghai shows the world how retail and lifestyle innovation is done

China has long been a nation of tech enthusiasts and early adopters, especially when it comes to shopping. Retail and lifestyle trend experts Insider Trends analysed the latest innovations engaging customers in Shanghai:

Smart mirrors and digital shelves – virtual fitting rooms with touchscreens and customisable avatars have taken off not only for customers, but for retailers who are able to refine and potentially reduce stock levels based on tracked shopper activity.

Everything the customer touches gathers data – from RFID chips in the products themselves to payment by facial recognition, each touchpoint is actively collecting and storing information about the customer and their choices. This data is then fed back to them via interactive displays and mobile devices in the form of recommendations and deals based on previous purchases, in-store activity and personal profiles. Sales have seen rapid improvements through this kind of real-time intelligent data analysis.

They have fully embraced AI – shoppers in Shanghai are happy to have their coffee order made for them by robots, and AI-facilitated restaurant Robot.He has taken it one step further. Using a combination of conveyor belts, a robotic arm, and mobile carts on waist-high counters, automated servers are guided by a software system that uses customer-submitted QR codes to handle seating, ordering, and payment. It’s a lesson to a retail industry fearful of AI and the potential loss of ‘human’ jobs that people still play a vital - and arguably elevated – role in the experience, interacting with and advising customers in a way automation simply couldn’t achieve.

Red Ant says: Retailers questioning whether they should invest in innovation (and there are a number who have yet to see the light) would do well to learn from Shanghai’s consumer culture. Tech is part of the fabric of shopping, with intelligent data analysis at its heart. And its retailers are not afraid of an AI-enabled future – they have the vision to see a world where it frees up sales colleagues to do more interesting, added-value work which benefits the customer and the business.

Easy to implement? The trickiest part of getting retail innovation projects off the ground is convincing the decision-makers to take the plunge – implementing the tech itself, from interactive displays to RFID-enabled changing rooms, is pretty straightforward. AI projects are also relatively easy to kick off, because they get smarter as you use them – SellSmart, our cognitive sales training app, uses natural language processing to quickly understand and search thousands of data points, integrates with eCommerce and existing databases and requires no training.

Time to activate? Three months to run a pilot, eight to twelve months for a full rollout, depending on store size and numbers

Find out more about retail innovation apps and retail AI apps