We’ve all been told time again that the in-store shopping experience is undergoing seismic change. Technologies such as beacons, omnichannel fulfillment and in-store analytics have promised to change the definition of how a retail store engages with customers. And although iron-clad digital store success stories are few and far between, stores will continue to chase the digital store dream despite not knowing the precise endgame. A handful of market leaders are implementing digital store initiatives that will act as lighthouses to the rest of the industry, showing a glimpse of what's possible with the right strategy.
In 2016, Forrester believes that:
Digital operational improvements will emerge as the golden child of store digitization. Trying to engage shoppers with shiny new technologies makes for some pretty flashy headlines, but does little to boost the retailer’s bottom line. On the other hand, store operations-focused technologies have shown early, but real, results. Tools such as in-store analytics and associate task management are ushering in a new era of store efficiency, using real-time insights to help associates understand what needs to get done and when. The smartest retailers will start combining data from sources like online behavior, in-store analytics, supply chain, and labor planning to make operational decisions in real time.
As far as digital store initiatives go, iron-clad success stories are notoriously hard to come by. Mobile point-of-service (mPOS) is one of the few digital store technologies that has garnered the attention and investment dollars of retail executives—but the return on investment has been nonetheless elusive. Despite large-scale deployments by a number of leading players (including Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, and Bloomingdales, among others), key questions such as “will this drive incremental revenue?” and “which use cases deliver the most customer and retailer value?” remain. Our newly published report “The Business Case For mPOS Is Associate Enablement” answers these questions and addresses common opportunities and challenges for eBusiness leaders rolling out an mPOS program. In the report, we find that:
Consumers expect digitally-enabled associates to facilitate in-store engagement. Retailers must change their thinking and start to view mPOS as more than just a “mobile cash register.” When shoppers see a store associate armed with a mobile device, they expect to receive contextualized assistance when and where they want it. In addition to ringing up sales in aisle, your associates should be prepared to use their devices to access enterprise inventory, provide product information, and give personalized product recommendations.
Omnichannel initiatives have dominated eBusiness priority lists for a few years now, and leading retailers have been doubling down their investments in omnichannel fulfillment technology. Most of the focus, however, has gone toward store fulfillment of online orders and click-and-collect functionality. Why did these capabilities rise to the top? Because of their clear financial impact on the business, as well as minimal impact on store and associate processes.
But considering that roughly nine out of ten retail sales still take place offline, a much larger opportunity exists when retailers leverage inventory while the customer is shopping within a store. By offering the ability to fulfill out-of-stock items from any location within the enterprise, endless aisle tools offer a scalable tactic for retailers to drive incremental revenue. Today's endless aisle programs allow retailers to:
Meet customer expectations. Consumers expect the conveniences of eCommerce—including virtually unlimited inventory and assortment—regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in the physical store. Forrester data shows that in the event that an item is out of stock, over half of US online adults would opt to have a store associate order the item for them if they could get it shipped for free. Offering endless aisle capabilities means never having to say you’re sorry to customers looking to buy your products.
Yesterday Manhattan Associates announced the acquisition of mobile point of service (mPOS) provider GlobalBay Technologies. A few years ago, it might seem odd that a warehouse and order management company would be interested in playing a significant role in the experience of customers and associates on the sales floor. However as we recently covered in our Omnichannel Order Management Wave, the role of distributed order management has been elevated and is now key to meeting customer’s rising expectations. Along with orchestrating orders across all inventory locations, omnichannel order management systems (OMS) are already taking orders in the call center, handling fraud management, and providing mobile utilities for associates to fulfill orders from stores. Moving into the point of service (POS) space with an mPOS solution is a logical evolution for Manhattan Associates since it combines enterprise inventory visibility, order management, and order capture all under one roof. In addition this acquisition provides a stronger differentiator from their largest competitor IBM, who exited the legacy POS market in 2012.
So what does this mean for POS moving forward? Three distinct solutions are now possible, including:
My dad came over today for a visit today. He’s an avid reader and consumes The New York Times from front to back. I guess you could say he’s part of my research team as he frequently cuts out articles for me related to digital business. This past weekend he brought over the front page of the business section, profiling the use of tablets in the quick serve restaurant category. Although many digital technologies in physical spaces have yet to transform shopping behavior, the restaurant industry has one of the stronger use-cases to employ digital, including:
Improving service by eliminating waiting in line. At Panera, customers go straight to their table and order via their smartphones. No more waiting in line to order, and standing around for your order to be ready.
Increasing average order size and margins with contextual meal recommendations. Chili’s employs tablets that drive up order size by providing meal recommendations that may have a higher price point, higher margin, or is highly rated. In their tests they indicate a 20% lift in dessert sales! Yum.
Expediting service and improving accuracy. Restaurant staff has a lot to gain by employing digital technology. They can reallocate cashiers to kitchen or service roles, and having customers order at the table improves order accuracy.
As we ramp up our coverage of the digital store, we recently researched the role of retail sales associates to understand their impact in the age of the customer. There’s no doubt that technology has dramatically impacted the way in which consumers discover, explore, buy, and engage with brands, products, and services. However, the impact of technology on sales associates is unclear, as is the degree to which the role of the sales associate needs to evolve to leverage these new capabilities.
In the new report A New Generation Of Clienteling, we tackle the role of sales associates and their use of technology in the digital store. In the report, we note a number of trends, including the following:
The role of the associate will change from an information provider to a facilitator of engagement. The sales associate is no longer the sole provider of information in stores: Customers can now find product information via their mobile device without the help of an associate. This scenario provides an opportunity for the sales associate to pivot and drive increased engagement with the customer.
Digitally connected sales associates are trusted. Less than a quarter of US online adult today state that sales associates are the best source for product information. However, when armed with mobile devices, the associate is seen as a trusted advisor. The breadth of information available to sales associates via mobile devices allows them to consider a broader array of information when making product recommendations to customers in the store.
Last week Forrester published a report highlighting the benefits and challenges of rolling out a mobile point of service (mPOS) solution. Increasingly, retail professionals are turning to mPOS technology to help bolster customer engagement, lower store expenses, and improve the efficiency of sales-related functions. It’s clear that retailers are eager to implement this capability, but realizing a solid return on investment is not guaranteed.
Ensure your mPOS solution meets core needs. Tailor your mPOS integration to the needs of your customers and associates while leveraging the strengths of your business model. One-size mPOS does not fit all, and strategically creating a solution that exceeds your customers’ needs while bolstering your existing business model will yield the best results.
Expose your data in a scalable way. mPOS will improve customer engagement by combining the benefits of a physical interaction with the robust data of the digital experience if data is exposed correctly.
Focus on simplifying tasks first. Deploy initiatives that create efficiencies in store operations first, and then focus on developing strategies and solutions that bolster the customer experience. Today, measurable ROI is easier to define through store efficiencies than through improvements in customer experience.
A few weeks ago I visited a new prototype store from a major U.S. retailer in order to learn more about their omnichannel strategy. Expecting a customer-centric experience that seamlessly connects the digital and physical stores, I was disappointed to see what appeared to be a misguided omnichannel deployment, with an experience that was actually inferior to one without enhanced technology. Here’s why:
New layout but broken technology. Upon entering the store, I noticed a different layout with a lounge area on the right and an inoperable digital kiosk staring right at me. While the layout did appear to be more welcoming, the dark interactive display indicated a lack of commitment to execution
No in-store inventory or location-based awareness. I found a smaller kiosk near the front of the store and searched for an item online. I chose the 'pick up in store' feature, expecting the kiosk to recognize I'm already in the store and show what's in stock. Instead, this retailer decided to fulfill the order from their distribution center rather than direct me a few feet away to their colorful display showcasing the item. There was no in-store inventory information or any type of store mapping application within the kiosk.
Kiosks do not provide utility. Another department also had a kiosk, but only provided the ability to find and buy the product online. Again I was expecting the retailer to recommend the appropriate product based upon my specific needs, and show me that the product I need is just a few aisles away.
The Asia Pacific mobile payment landscape is currently in an exciting phase of development, but remains fragmented. Asian telcos will likely need to wait at least another two to three years to see traction with mobile payments. Here’s why:
User readiness. Let’s face it: Cash and credit/debit cards still dominate the payment landscape, and are a lot more convenient to use. While penetration of feature and smartphones has grown substantially in Asia, not many people actually use their phones for mobile payments. Even in markets like Australia and South Korea, cash and credit cards remain highly popular among consumers. And if demand remains low, merchants will not deign to accept mobile payments — creating a vicious cycle.
Infrastructure development. Telecom infrastructure in many Asian countries remains uneven with spotty coverage, (e.g. India and Indonesia). Without proper network access, mobile payments will not propagate outside of urban areas, if at all. While Globe’s Gcash has seen some level of success, the truth is that mobile payments remain nascent in the Philippines specifically and in Asia more broadly. In addition, there is still limited handset support for mobile payments (e.g. some Android models are not able to work with a service). Australia’s Commonwealth Bank went ahead with its m-payment launch after deciding not to wait for incompatible handsets to catch up.