OUR THOUGHTS ON:

Strategic Enablers: Digital Speed and Agility in the Retail Industry

Retail|Technology

By Donald Applegarth

Schneider Downs Retail Industry group members attended the Columbus Retail Summit last week.  At one session, experts from Abercrombie and Fitch, Homage, American Signature, and The Riverside Company discussed the impact of digital technology on their respective organizations and how they have adapted to change.

Here are some of the highlights and ideas from the panel:

  • Encourage innovation by setting aside some time on Fridays for people to think and innovate.
  • Working for a young CEO helps bring perspective on how to think about retail’s new digital reality.  Consumers are fixated on their mobile devices, so not only is it important to invest in your website presentation, but invest in technology that maximizes the consumer experience on smart phones.
  • You must have your people, processes and technologies aligned to have any semblance of success.
  • Innovation and ideas should be encouraged.  Not every idea will succeed.  You have to embrace failure and understand that there will be failures.  Embrace them. Learn from them.
  • One strategy for Homage, a consumer products company, is to make sure you succeed at direct to consumer sales first, then invest in brick and mortar show room stores in target markets where consumers can touch, feel and experience the product.  These showroom stores don’t carry inventory for purchase, rather they allow the consumer to order and direct-ship the product to their home.  Further, Homage opens pop-up stores in other select markets to catch the 2nd and 3rd layers of consumers.  Digital marketing such as You Tube has been very useful for marketing product to promote the brand and the stores.
  • Some companies use location based device grabs to identify consumers at events.  Identifying device IDs coupled with marketing to consumers through their devices while the consumer is at an event they are passionate about captures their attention when they are most apt to buy.
  • Some panelists partner with third parties in marketplaces around the world to help identify consumer behavior trends and capture shifts in behavior when they first happen.  Being on the front end of a consumer trend is very important these days.
  • 85% of consumers engage digitally before they walk into a store.  Companies can capture browsing data and tag it to a consumer that visits a store.   One idea is to have a second device at checkout that engages the consumer with digital marketing.   This device decouples the payment at the register from the customer presentation. Digital presentations on this device can provide information on product ratings or reviews or alert the consumer to instore sales or to items they have browsed on-line that may be in stock in the store.  It could provide the consumer an option to ship the product to their home or take the product with them.  This transformational element of a digital encounter in the store could also link the consumer’s loyalty to the store to the in-store experience.
  • Since 85% of consumers engage digitally before they enter the store, adjust the commission structure for sales associates for closing the sale that began with an online search by the consumer.
  • Make sure the feedback loop is continuous and the organization is collaborating to respond to the feedback from consumers.  Many organizations monitor “reviews” of products or service, but the successful ones make adjustments by collaborating on how to make the consumer experience better.
  • Some organizations are experimenting with “gifting,” which allows the customer to gift a product and pay later upon the recipient’s acceptance. 
  • One experimental technology, Venmo allows people to share their transactions with others.  Younger generations of consumers have a propensity to be more open with their purchasing and Venmo allows them to send or request money from friends.  Think about the advantage of one person paying the tab for a meal at a restaurant and friends being able to deposit funds into the person’s account to effectively split the cost of the meal.  Perhaps rent money paid to the landlord can be paid by one tenant and the roommates can reimburse that person’s Venmo account for their share.
  • Many companies are embracing e-commerce analytics for competitive, operational, product and market intelligence.  Consumer views on Amazon is one significant and powerful use of e-commerce analytics to identify what the market may look like.  Amazon aggregator can be useful from an e-commerce analytics perspective as well. Partnering with the right e-commerce firm is extremely important and can help you roll-up data onto dashboards to make informed decisions.
  • Some international companies leverage Amazon Europe to position their brands internationally.

A lot of ground was covered by these executives, but one thing is for sure, they all have a good command of what retailers should be doing to stay relevant to the consumer.

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