May 21, 2013

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Bringing Retail Stores up to Speed

Is your retail store up to speed?

We put forth this question to our customers, and most of them answered in negative. While commenting on the lack of modernization of the retail stores, the CIO of a well-known global retailing firm said, 'While our customers, and our other channels like e-Commerce have moved to 2013, our retail stores are still not much different from the stores of 1970s.”

But we ask why?

Why retailers are underinvesting in stores—their primary sales channel for over a decade, garnering more than 95% of their total revenues. Why they are only keen on investing several hundred millions dollars in e-Commerce and m-Commerce platforms—and not stores.

Optimizing the online customer experience is essential in today’ digital age, but creating a compelling in-store experience for consumers is equally important. Retailers should modernize their stores and move them from 1970s to the present and transform the in-store shopping experience. For instance, when online stores give us a chance to look at a product, check its specifications, compare it with similar products, and perform all kinds of checks including price, reviews and more such, there is no reason why the same cannot be enabled in the brick-and-mortar stores. The ability to touch and feel the product may well further provide instant gratification and enhance in-store customer experience.

Many analysts and most of our customers seem to agree with this view. To prioritize and transform stores, retailers must modernize POS, enable Wi-Fi and in-store mobility, and integrate multiple sales channels. All these initiatives will not only bring the store channel to the current state of expectation, but will also lay down the foundation to leapfrog the stores into the next decade.

For store modernization, retailers  should look at investing in these four basic technologies:

  • Enable Wi-Fi and make them connect to your network: Understand what your customers are doing (or searching for) in the store, and respond to their needs proactively.
  • Seamless visibility across all sales channel: With the visibility to all other sales channels (including competitor's channels as well) from the store itself - customers will be able to complete their sale/purchase from the store itself.
  • Leverage cutting-edge technology and provide a differentiated customer experience:  Offer an unparalleled customer experience and get them to visit the store again and again.
  • Proactively monitor your store’s performance:  Enable remote monitoring to efficiently track and manage store assets.

It is also important to note that along with the original goal of bringing the stores into 2013 and beyond - the retailer must focus on creating more value for the customer and the business.

To help retailers bring their stores up to speed and prepare them for future, we, at HCL, have created store modernization solutions with the help of our key partners. In area of Wi-Fi enablement, we work with our strategic partner CISCO to leverage their technology that allows stores to triangulate the position of the customer to a fairly accurate degree. As a result, retailers can offer customized and relevant offerings to the consumers.

With TIBCO's technology around integration and complex event processing, we have created solutions that offer better visibility into inventory across channels at different nodes of the supply chain. This information can be used to create real-time campaigns leveraging UNICA's offer engine.

We have also created several solutions leveraging diverse technology to create offerings aimed at enhancing the Customer Experience. Our Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions like Retail Connect (suite of mobile apps), Socialytics (Social media listening and response), and others help us create a unique experience for customers.

We have also developed solutions for real-time monitoring of store IT assets enabling the store stakeholders to get a better view of business operations. In addition, they can also leverage a collaboration platform that drives communication across the store.

We believe that going forward there will be a growing focus towards stores in terms of investments. It will provide an array of opportunities to retailers to deliver a differentiated customer experience.

To convert these opportunities into business success and to keep up the physical store in alignment with current and future needs, retailers should consider investing in ‘next-generation store management solutions’ aimed at improving in-store customer experience and stores workforce productivity.