Why Infrastructure Will Drive The Retail Store Experiences Of The Future

JP Gownder

The Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) role is changing significantly: I&O pros are increasingly helping to drive business strategies with the technologies they choose and implement. Business leaders tell Forrester that technology is too important to leave to technology managers alone; they are pushing their I&O colleagues to explore the business value associated with the technologies they choose, implement, and manage. I&O pros, in turn, tell us that their jobs are changing. As one I&O pro put it, “I’ve been an infrastructure manager for 15 years, but only in the past 3 have I been asked to construct a business plan and be part of the business planning team.”

Figure: Burberry's Technology-Powered Flagship Store In London

For I&O pros in retail and related verticals like hospitality (or for anyone involved in creating in-person experiences), we’ve just released a report to help aid this transition. Along with my co-author Michele Pelino, we’ve just released the report “Infrastructure Will Drive The Retail Store Experiences Of The Future.” The report asserts that I&O pros have an important role to play in helping their companies engage shoppers in experiences that will drive loyalty and spending.

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Retailers Have Beacon Fever

Adam Silverman

There is no hotter topic in retail today than beacons. These small objects which transmit location information to smartphones based on Bluetooth Low Energy have transformed our retail imagination, conjuring up visions of continuous offers being showered onto customers as they walk the aisles of their favorite grocery store.  The reality is more subdued.  We are still very early in the development of location strategies that leverage beacons and the iBeacon protocol, and retailers need to solve for a variety of challenges such as customer privacy, beacon maintenance, connectivity, and campaign management.

In a recent report titled “The Emergence of Beacons In Retail”, my team digs into this emerging location technology and tackles important topics, including:

  • Beacons require the right combination of hardware and software.  BLE is required as beacons leverage the Bluetooth hardware found on most new smartphones. A mobile app is also required to interface with the beacons, transmitting the location information provided by the beacon to a server, and then receiving the appropriate content back from the server to display on the customer’s mobile device.
  • Beacons enable rich experiences beyond offers.  We all enjoy saving money, and pushing offers to us via beacons will be a popular use case. However it is possible to offer a deeper level of engagement. Based on location, retailers can allow the ability to unlock dressing rooms, authenticate a mobile payment, or provide enhanced service such as preparing your favorite latte as you enter your local coffee shop.
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Analytics Helps Retailers Improve Customer Retention

Gene Cao

IBM recently kicked off its big data market planning for 2014 and released a white paper that discusses how analytics create new business value for end user organizations. The major differences compared with last year’s event:

  • Organizational change. IBM has assigned a new big data practice leader for China, similar to what it’s done for other new technologies including mobile, social, and cloud. IBM can integrate resources from infrastructure (IBM STG), software (IBM SWG), and services (IBM GBS/GTS) teams, although the team members do not report directly to them.
  • A new analytics platform powered by Watson technology. The Watson Foundation platform has three new functions. It can be deployed on SoftLayer; it extends IBM’s big data analysis capabilities to social, mobile, and cloud; and it offers enterprises the power and ease of use of Watson analysis.
  • Measurable benefits from customer insights analysis. Chinese organizations have started to buy into the value of analytics and would like to invest in technology tools to optimize customer insights. AmorePacific, a Hong Kong-based skin care and cosmetics company, is using IBM’s SPSS predictive analytics solution to craft tailored messages to its customers and has improved its response rate by more than 30%. It primarily analyzes point-of-sale data, demographic information from its loyalty program, and market data such as property values in the neighborhoods where customers live.
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Will London Underground Stations Become A New Delivery Option?

Michelle Beeson

The prospect of remote collection lockers and click & collect points replacing London Underground ticket offices sparked a round of strikes last week, creating havoc for commuters. The second round of planned strikes was only narrowly averted this week.

Transport for London’s (TFL) proposal to close 240 underground ticket offices and replace them with automatic ticket machines will result in a proportion of job losses for station staff but present an opportunity for TFL and UK retailers alike, by:

  • Responding to the popularity of click and collect in the UK. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® Retail Survey data shows that UK shoppers are responding to retailers’ omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, readily adopting click & collect services. UK grocery stores Asda, Waitrose and Tesco are not waiting for the closure of ticket offices. They are already setting up trials for click & collect services at selected stations across the London Underground network. The click and collect service will allow shoppers to order their food online before a cut-off point during the day, for collection at their local station on their way home in the evening.
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2014: Digital Reality Sets In

Nigel Fenwick

2014In my post at this time last year I wrote of the changes we could expect in 2013 around the shift toward digital business. And indeed we did see a significant move toward digital business in 2013 - a transition that’s still very much just beginning.

But 2014 will be different. 2014 is when digital reality begins to sink in for CEOs around the world. And if your CEO doesn't figure out digital business this year, I predict 2015 will be a very challenging year for your organization, no matter what business you are in.

The Retail Conundrum

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the challenge of retailers very well. Store footfall is declining as consumers' lives become more digital. We are seeing a steady shift toward shopping online and shopping less often. So how can today’s retailers survive? The simple answer is that many will not. Retail will undergo a seismic shift in the next 10 years. And since retail is a major employer, it's a shift that will impact us all.

Time drives behavior. Digital tools extend the workplace into our private lives, allowing greater productivity while also creating fewer opportunities for large chunks of time to “go shopping.” We are increasingly using digital technologies to optimize how we fill our days for work and pleasure:

•  Digital scheduling tools like Google Calendar help us plan our work and play time.

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The Path To Customer Experience Differentiation

Harley Manning

In a previous post, I wrote about speakers at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA who represented companies in the repair phase of customer experience (CX) maturity. Their mission: find broken experiences, fix them, and measure the results.

Roughly half of companies on the path to customer experience maturity say that they’re in the repair phase today — and that’s probably a conservative estimate. But there are companies at more advanced stages of CX maturity, including a few in the most advanced phase, differentiate. That’s where firms reframe business challenges in the context of unmet customer needs, connect innovation ideas to their customer experience ecosystem, and infuse innovations with the brand.

We had two speakers at our event who represented companies in the differentiate phase: Dean Marshall, director of Lego brand retail store operations Europe, and Declan Collier, CEO, London City Airport. What is it that their organizations do that’s so different?

Lego stores  goes beyond even the typical design best practices used by companies in less advanced (but still pretty advanced!) phases of CX maturity, practices like ethnographic research and co-creation. How? By combining the two.

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Google Is Poised To Revolutionize Consumer Retail

JP Gownder

Infrastructure professionals are now all too familiar with the dynamics of bring-your-own (BYO) technology and devices: Their workers walk into the office with consumer technology all the time. This post is one in a continuing series on how consumer retail stores act as de facto extensions of the IT department in today's BYO world.

The rumors have abounded for more than six months: unconfirmed whispers that Google will open up its own major chain of consumer retail stores. The company has dipped its toes into the retail waters with Chromebook-focused kiosks in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past few years, with installations inside larger retailers like Best Buy, Dixons, and Currys.

A Google Kiosk in the U.K.: Not Yet Reaching Revolutionary Heights

Yet while kiosks – particularly those staffed by Google employees – offer some value in promoting Google’s products and services, the company has a much greater opportunity for late 2013 into 2014. Kiosks aren't going to foment a retail revolution. To quote the popular Star Wars geek meme, "these aren't the droids you're looking for."

No, it's time for Google to think big  to go gangbusters. To do something nobody has done as well previously. Why is this imperative?

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Why "We Beat Internet Prices" Isn’t the Best Battle Cry

Adam Silverman

I recently received a direct mail piece from one of my favorite retailers with a massive ad in that proclaimed "We Beat Internet Prices." Now, I am a big fan of straightforward and robust value propositions, but these types of brand exclamations are antiquated and add little value to customers, mainly because they simply reward customers for being good bargain hunters. Instead of simply stating you beat your competitor’s prices, employing strategic pricing and customer engagement initiatives creates real distinct value to your customers by:

  • Showing them you can execute on your low price promise and not just talk about it. Employing a holistic pricing strategy meets your customer’s price expectations can indicate to your customers that you are truly ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to offering the lowest price.
  • Building your credibility. Understanding your customers’ needs and offering solutions that facilitate decisions and generate engagement builds credibility. Simply shouting that you match Internet prices does little to build credibility with your customers.
  • Helping them with real problems.  Shoppers don’t need guidance on finding the lowest price -- they need to understand how your brand and solution help them compared to your competition. 
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What's your in-store digital strategy?

Martin Gill

At the start of the year, I published a piece of research looking at the major trends we predicted would hit Europe this year. One of the themes I called out was building on Peter Sheldon’s excellent research around The Digitization Of The In-Store Environment; as I put it in European Online Retail: Five Trends To Watch In 2013:“The web and the store will cuddle up.”

We’ve seen significant investment from US retailers in this space. Lowes, Home Depot, Nordstrom, and others have all been spending heavily on developing the underlying infrastructures that they can then leverage to create in-store digital experiences. Store Wi-Fi, associate devices like tablets or smartphones, kiosk technology, and even more emerging technologies like ePaper signage and electronic shelf-edge labels are on some agendas. Even Amtrak is getting in on the act with its eTicketing initiative.

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Samsung Shakes Up North American Retail. Microsoft Should Take Note.

JP Gownder

Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals, in the age of Bring-Your-Own (BYO) technology, are keeping closer tabs on the comings and goings of the consumer market. Most of the devices they find their companies’ employees using come from consumer retail, whether from physical retail locations like the Apple Store or Best Buy, or online venues like Amazon or Dell.com.

Samsung announced yesterday that it will be opening “Samsung Experience Shops -- based on a store-within-a-store concept -- in 1,400+ Best Buy locations in the US in coming weeks and months. By the second half of the year, Samsung will possess a significant retail presence tailored to its own devices and staffed with sales associates with greater knowledge of its products. CNET reports: “The shops in large-format Best Buy stores will include blue-shirted consultants who are employed and trained by Samsung, as well as Best Buy staffers who receive special instruction.”

Apple, of course, has enjoyed incredible success with its Apple Stores since they opened in North America in 2001. The Apple Store has been a powerful pillar of Apple’s overall consumer strategy because of:

  • The quality and effectiveness of its sales associates. Apple has been able to attract, train, and retain high quality staff for its stores. In an era when cost-cutting affects retail experiences across all categories, Apple’s associates create a high-quality customer experience for Apple's customers and prospects.
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