September 23, 2016

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Mastering Omni-channel Retail: Digitally Powering Operations

Imagine shopping for items online, adding them to your cart, and setting up an appointment with the store sales executive. By the time you arrive at the store, your dressing room is stocked with the items you had chosen. The sales personnel has also added some similar items by consulting your past shopping history, and some of them are even on discount.

The dressing room has a wall-length touchscreen which lets you browse additional items on the store catalog. If an outfit doesn’t fit you, you can request for another size via the touchscreen or the retailer app on your phone. With the store associate serving you in seconds, assembling three summer outfits in ten minutes is a breeze.

Billing takes another three minutes and, as you are on your way out, a life-size screen displays another irresistible offer. All you have to do is scan the quick response code onscreen for this item to be added to your shopping basket.Does this real-time customer engagement sound too futuristic? Not anymore.

Tech-savvy fashion brands like Rebecca Minkoff have already been able to triple clothing sales by using smart interactive mirrors (which double up as touchscreens) within their connected store. 30% customers who try items requested via the touchscreen are also seen to request additional items.

With each item RFID-tagged, the store can simplify processes through omni-channel engagement by keeping tabs on what enters the fitting room, what is purchased or discarded, and how the store should constantly reorient operations to continue to delight customers. That’s a formidable amount of data to recharge retail performance!

The Changing Rules of Retail

In a recent survey, 71% US consumers stated that they still prefer purchasing from physical stores, even if the same items are available online. However, it is a well-known fact that customer engagement in retail is not what it used to be. Nor is shopping treated as a need-based activity, but an opportunity for retailers to deliver unique customer experiences. With customers increasingly adopting emerging technology trends to multi-task better, retailers need to offer an omni-channel and real-time engagement model to profitably sustain operations.

Not surprisingly then, those retailers that have not been able to adapt performance to changing technology trends are facing grim business circumstances. All 120 Austin Reed stores are slated to close by the end of June 2016. This follows the recent collapse of British Home Stores (BHS), where analysts blame the retailer’s lack of response to digitalization as one of the primary causes for the downfall. Transformation, therefore, is inevitable and retailers need a strategy that is built around the customer and the channels they interact with.

Addressing Performance Bottlenecks

A study published by Aberdeen Group Inc. shows that retailers bolstered by a strong multichannel operations are able to retain an average of 89% of their customers while players yet to adapt have a retention rate of 39%. Forrester’s report indicates that US cross-channel retail sales (buy online, pick up in store/initiate online and complete in store), should reach $1.8 trillion by 2017.

To effectively drive omni-channel operations, retailers should align performance with the brand promise. This will help ensure that physical stores and digital properties are operating in sync. It is equally important to know one’s clientele, both existing and potential customers.

As a one-size-fits-all approach would not help reach out to the diversified user base, companies should leverage digitalization to integrate backend data and customer information with the enterprise database. This could help address unique customer requests in time.

Data is the key here, not just for getting to know your customers better but also to enhance operational performance. In fact, it is the strongest tool in your arsenal—the collation, cleansing, analysis and interpretation of data today dictates the ability to understand customer preferences and customize product and service portfolios, more effectively than ever before. It is now possible to draw on a vast pool of data generated by consumers in its myriad forms—from Facebook and Instagram posts to digital calendar entries and purchase records— to deliver a truly 360-degree retail experience.

For example, data scrapped and gathered from a shopper’s smart watch might suggest that he/she may have recently incorporated a 3 mile morning run as part of his/her fitness regime. Armed with this tiny bit of information, in conjunction with his/her purchase history, a retailer can advertise, recommend, suggest and cross sell anything from running shoes to health drinks.

Retailers need to realize that every bit of insight on the customer is critical today and so is implementing the right set of tools to crunch this multitude of data into actionable insights. The impact of this can then be realized across other aspects of the retail business such as inventory management, sales techniques and multiple business processes.

Rethinking Omni-channel with HCL

HCL’s Digital Process and Experience Consulting is about improving retail experiences and delivering upon the brand promise—we help retailers form a singular, streamlined, and continuous partnership with their customer through our services. Our aim is to integrate every hub and contact point within a retail ecosystem.

Our offering, the clienteling app, enables retailers to deliver an unparalleled customer experience drawing upon a wealth of consumer data and using this insight to create a unique and personalized experience for every consumer that walks in through the door.

At HCL, we’ve put together a diverse team of professionals, with a robust knowledge of the retail industry and the modern consumer, and we are geared to deliver the technology that is driving this massive transition towards a customer-centric retail ecosystem.