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Pay it forward. It is in this state of mind that, during an interview I was conducting with him, Daniel Dreymann, CEO Mowingo, invited me to follow Boston Retail Partners, an independent retail consulting firm working for leading retailers.
Last month at Shop.org Digital Summit in Philadelphia, after the panel « How Mobile Devices are Transforming In-Store and Customer Experiences » he moderated, I had the opportunity to talk with Ken Morris, Principal at Boston Retail Partners. Here is our conversation :
:: What expertise does Boston Retail Partners provide to retailers?
Ken Morris: We are an independent retail consulting firm helping retailers solve their business and technology problems. Our consulting services are focused exclusively on the retail industry and include: IT strategy, vendor selection and project implementation. We help retailers create successful omni-channel/unified commerce strategies to provide a seamless customer experience. BRP’s consulting services include: business and IT strategy, business process optimization, point of sale, mobile, payment security, e-commerce, CRM, unified commerce, customer experience and engagement, order management, merchandise management and supply chain.
:: In your study “2015 Ecommerce Benchmarking Survey” you reveal that 45% of retailers say that mobile is the channel that has the most impact on revenue. At the same time you mention that retailers often miss opportunities to reach consumers via mobile device in-store with individualized promotions or enabling them to find merchandise on the sales floor. What scenarios would you advise a retailer to test, as a first step to engage customers via mobile inStore?
Many retailers are using mobile for line-busting, which has a positive impact on revenues. However, there are many other mobile opportunities for retailers to enhance the customer experience and drive incremental sales. Having customer-facing WiFi is the first step, as many retailers currently do not offer this service. With WiFi in place, retailers can offer customers the opportunity to opt-in to your store WiFi which enables you to connect with your customers and personalize the shopping experience.
The next step for mobile is to engage with consumers via consumer-facing and associate-facing mobile apps.
For consumer apps, it’s great to offer item information, store locations/hours, and current specials/promos. However, the real differentiator is an app which can provide specific in-store data based on customer context. « Customer context” – the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant – is essential to personalizing the experience. Premium app features include: aisle location information for a product, real-time inventory availability, virtual store maps, push-to-talk for in-store assistance, customer reviews, loyalty point levels and personal recommendations based on an individual customer’s preferences, purchase history, browsing history and what’s in their closet. Another premium feature is to allow customers to start a transaction in the store, save it, and then finish the transaction online at home – giving them time think about their purchase.
Mobile apps for associates enable them to assist customers with clienteling, guided selling, inventory look-up, and even checkout throughout the store. In this scenario, associates are free to interact with and assist customers anywhere in the store.
A critical component to successfully delivering advanced mobile capabilities is « real-time retail. » Real-time retail is the ability to deliver a seamless personalized experience to the shopper whenever, wherever, and however they choose to shop, and will be a requirement for the store of the future. It is like bringing the “Amazon experience” to the store. It enables retailers to identify shoppers and gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing, and inventory data across all channels – instantly. Without real-time data, information provided internally and externally is out-of-date and risks being inaccurate and out of context.
:: What do you think about geofencing and beacon technologies?
Ken Morris: Location identification technologies are a key component of mobile technology. Once identified, retailers can better understand who the customer is, and can communicate contextual messages. Geolocation and geo-fencing are two methods retailers utilize to deliver messages based on context and location. Geolocation uses a combination of indoor location-based technologies and a customer’s mobile device to transmit their location within the store. Geo-fencing defines geographical boundaries as a form of virtual barrier. Once a customer crosses the barrier, associates and the shopper receive relevant alerts, based on that location. To effectively leverage this technology, retailers must analyze the customer data that is collected and offer meaningful offers based on customer context. Geolocation also enables retailers to promote key products base on environmental factor like the weather. For example, during a snow storm, some of our clients offer free same-day delivery.
:: Which American retailers are doing well in engaging customers via mobile inStore?
Ken Morris: Many retailers are doing a great job of engaging customers via mobile app, including: Macy’s, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, Staples, Nordstrom and Kohl’s.
Here is a good article on leading retail mobile applications:
:: What are the main challenges retailers face when upgrading their CRM to handle the mobile channel?
Ken Morris: Retailers face several key challenges when upgrading their CRM to integrate with their mobile capabilities.
One of the greatest challenges retailers will encounter when implementing mobile CRM solutions into their existing CRM system is data integration and consolidation. Retailers are riddled with disparate silos (systems) and have struggled to gain consistent, shareable, and accurate data across the enterprise, which makes it very challenging to obtain a single view of the customer and a single version of the truth. As data grows exponentially across multiple channels, the integration, dissemination and consolidation of all pertinent data is compounded, therefore, making it more challenging for retailers to relevantly engage and interact with customers, and for customers to have an engaging seamless experience with the brand.
A shift from silos to a holistic paradigm must occur as retailers upgrade to Mobile CRM. As retailers formulate their mobile CRM strategy and review their complex ecosystem, all pertinent systems must be integrated and CRM data points captured in order to “know the customer, reach the customer, and deliver the right experience,” consistently across all channels.
Without real-time data and analytics, customer-facing information is out of date and out of context, therefore risking the customer engagement experience and relationship. Therefore, it is critical to have real-time data that is consistent at every touch point. If retailers consistently provide relevant value, customers will share more information, leading to an even greater level of engagement and profit.
:: Personally, what inspire you in the retail field ?
Ken Morris: We, at Boston Retail Partners, get our inspiration from several sources: retail clients, surveys, and industry workshops and events. Our retail clients are our biggest inspiration and source of creative ideas, as we work side-by-side with brilliant people at leading retailers. Our industry surveys with responses from key retail executives offer us great insights to trend and priorities in the retail industry. We lead a lot of retail workshop and panel sessions at industry events that spark many new ideas as well. Another great source of inspiration is keeping abreast of the retail vendor landscape including briefings with innovative start-up technology companies.
The following key retail trade publications (Web, magazine, blog and twitter) are also a source of retail ideas: RIS News, Retail TouchPoints, STORES, Chain Store Age, Retail Customer Experience and Harvard Business Review.
About, Ken Morris
Ken was CEO and President of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears. His experience is with strategy, selection development and deployment of retail management systems and processes.
- Boston Retail Partners
- Blog, Twitter
- [Video] Ken Morris » The Amazon experience in store »
To download : E-Commerce Benchmarking Survey 2015
All research studies published by de BRP