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Retail

3 Tips for Retailers Developing Digital Customer Experience Strategies

Customers increasingly use digital channels and devices in their interactions with retailers and brands. They shop online, they scan QR codes with their mobile phones, they price check items on tablets at home, and they respond to offers on digital signage at stores. Managing the digital customer experience, like the in-person customer experience, is critical for retention, customer loyalty, conversion, acquisition, and referrals.

Luckily, all of those digital interactions generate data — and lots of it. That data can provide insights into channel preferences, pricing and buying behaviors, conversion rates, campaign effectiveness, and other critical areas. Below, are three important tips for developing digital customer experience strategies.

1.  Leverage analytics: You have to bring analytics to bear on all of that digital customer data to learn what your specific customers expect from their experiences with your company, both online and in person. Tracking information in spreadsheets or making educated guesses is no longer sufficient. Data analytics applied to the data you glean from website behavior and in-store digital activities can improve forecasting, promotions planning, online recommendations, shelf layout, and other important activities. Your customers are providing valuable information via the choices they make while they utilize your digital services; analytics helps turn that information into usable business intelligence.

2. Operations must support the digital strategy: The initiative must look beyond the front-end digital customer experience. It’s important to have an easy-to-use website and to offer mobile access (either through apps or a mobile-optimized version of your website), and it’s important to provide ways for shoppers to interact with you digitally while they are in your store. But your back-end operations have to be able to support those interactions. Pricing must be accurate and up to date. You must have real-time inventory information available so that customers can see what is available. You need the infrastructure in place within your supply chain to respond to orders, transfer inventory across stores or distribution centers, and have the forecasting capabilities in place to avoid out-of-stocks or markdowns.

3. Deploy intelligent digital signage: Digital signage in the store can act as a bridge between the digital customer experience and in-person interactions. One key e-commerce innovation (pioneered by Amazon and others) is the ability to automatically generate recommendations to customers based on the products they were viewing on a website or their previous online behaviors. In a brick-and-mortar store, those types of recommendations come from seasoned sales associates, but staff can’t talk to every customer every moment they are present. Digital signage not only provides eye-catching displays, it can provide recommendations to customers based on the merchandise they are viewing near the display. It can also encourage them to access the store or brand’s online resources and make impulse purchases based on special offers.

With digital signage, retailers can convey multiple messages at different times at a single location. That makes them more flexible (and valuable) than traditional paper signage and transfers some of the elements of the digital customer experience to the store. The technology also enables retailers to more quickly respond to the customer and inventory data they are receiving. Offers and information can be changed in real-time based on anything from unexpected drops in demand to extreme weather events. The digital customer experience plays a key role in increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Your customers should have a seamless, predictable experience whether they are interacting with your brand online, in a store, or via their mobile devices.

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Retail RFID Hardware RFID Software

In-Store Analytics: The Future of Retail

The balance of power when it comes to information has shifted from retailers to shoppers with the advent of e-tailing. Shoppers now have access to an infinite amount of competitive pricing information. Even if customers walk into a retail location, they may simply evaluate products in person, then purchase online from another retailer, or hustle down the street to a competitor who is offering a better deal.

Retailers need to be able to evaluate real-time consumer data in order to capture customer business more effectively. More importantly, they need access to in-store analytics capabilities to turn that data into actionable business information. According to the Forrester Consulting and RetailNext study “Real-Time Data Drives the Future of Retail,” consumer and retailer perceptions are not aligned, and many stores lack the technology to utilize shopper data across channels. The study also found that retailers struggle to measure customer behavior. Just 33 percent, for example, reported always measuring conversion rates.

Forrester believes the store of the future will be powered by real-time in-store analytics that can predict shopper behavior over the entire “shopping journey” across multiple channels.

This means more than just head counts and point of sale data. In-store analytics allows retailers to evaluate everything from the effectiveness of a display, apparel size selection, and store layout by tracking how customers interact with merchandise. Why did they try something on and not buy it? Are there areas of the store that customers simply don’t walk through? Is end-cap display placement affecting sales of nearby products?

Consumers shop with their mobile devices and expect to encounter sales associates who can use that same technology to help them find the right product at the right price. Those shoppers also want to experience a consistent sales experience and consistent pricing across channels.

Using analytics, retailers can evaluate traffic, conversion, fixture engagement, shopper paths, and other data, and use that information to rapidly adjust their marketing and in-store operations, as well as provide better data so that buyers and planners can make better decisions. The data can help stores evaluate why a particular item didn’t sell or help prepare for a potential out-of-stock situation.

Real-Time Data Fuels Analytics

Getting that data requires the integration of point-of-sale data, online channel data, information from in-store sensors and RFID systems, and data pulled from other mobile and online interactions. This investment in in-store analytics, combined with the ability to quickly share data across operational areas, can help retailers respond more quickly to sales trends, provide information that can be useful in vendor negotiations, and create more effective buy plans.

Analytics can also help address other data gaps in retail. When customers enter a store but don’t purchase anything, retailers gain zero data. Additional information from sales associates and sensor/RFID systems could help provide a better understanding of those shoppers. In-store analytics can provide information that will help improve product mix optimization, and gain a better return on investment in their data collection activities. Analytics can also improve the use of campaigns and promotional displays based on actual customer behavior.

By linking in-store mobility systems to customer data, sales associates and managers can respond more quickly to customer needs while they are still in the store, which can help increase conversions and turn shoppers into buyers. Stores can also improve staffing levels based on shopper volume, improve store layout, or co-locate products that are frequently purchased together. Getting shoppers into your store is only half the battle. Analytics can help you better understand the customers you’ve already attracted, keep them coming back, and encourage them to buy more from you, and do so more often.

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Retail Wireless

3 Ways Wireless Retail Solutions Improve Operations

As a retailer operating in a highly competitive environment, you need to find and leverage every advantage you can. Most retailers have a wireless network that enables mobile devices to communicate with the point of sale (POS) and back office — but are you taking advantage of this asset to improve your operations? Your wireless retail strategy should include collecting data for business intelligence, enabling merchandising solutions, and supporting your overall marketing program.

1. Business Intelligence. Your wireless retail infrastructure is the link that helps you gather data on your customers, your staff, and your inventory — data that can help you make informed business decisions and stay a step ahead of your competition. Software applications can enable you to monitor specific types of transactions and to find data collected from smartphones, mobile devices or sensors, or video at the same time. This can enable you to drill down and find common trends that make the customer engagement successful — or to find behaviors or trends that result in not getting the sale.

2. Merchandising Solutions.Solutions that can help you consistently and efficiently manage your merchandise are also possible within a wireless retail environment. Your wireless infrastructure can support digital in-store displays that present up-to-date messaging managed from your POS system, as well as kiosks that can provide product information, engage customers with coupons and special offers, and capture their information for your loyalty program. In addition, displays can help you fight showrooming by letting your customers know you will match competitive pricing. Wireless retail systems can also help you track customers with active Wi-Fi on their smartphones, giving you information on high traffic areas that are good choices for displays and kiosks.

Wireless retail infrastructure also supports digital signage that facilitates quick and efficient execution of corporate marketing promotions, correctly and consistently showing sale prices — which can be preset to change at the moment the sale begins and to change back to the regular prices when the sale ends.

3. Marketing.Your wireless retail infrastructure can also support your overall marketing initiatives. Your sales associates, empowered with information on their mobile devices — thanks to a wireless retail environment — can engage customers with “clienteling,” establishing relationships with customers based on their purchase history and preferences, which will help them provide exceptional customer experience.

Another example of wireless retail infrastructure supporting marketing is a Wi-Fi loyalty program. Offer Wi-Fi to your customers to use in your store if they register — and provide a coupon or special offer for those who do. The next time they enter the store, they are automatically signed into your Wi-Fi network, which gives you a platform for communicating special offers or promotions — as well as collecting customer data.

Your wireless infrastructure can be more than just a cost of doing business. It can actually contribute to initiatives and strategies that help you boost revenues. Moreover — and maybe even providing more value — the exceptional customer services and level of engagement that you will be able to provide can differentiate you from the competition and make you the customer’s choice.

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Barcode Order Entry Retail

3 Things to Look for in a Retail Barcode Solution

Barcodes are a fundamental part of retail automation solutions. Advanced retail operations use barcodes to guide and document nearly every operation, from initial packaging and shipping, through supply chain management, delivery, in-store inventory placement, and the point-of-sale transaction.

Mobile computing and data capture solutions (including barcodes) provide retail companies with better visibility and control over inventory and stock levels, improved employee productivity, and a better overall customer experience. However, not all retail barcode solutions are created equal. Here are three things to look for in a barcode system:

1. Intelligent Order Entry

This functionality is important both for suppliers that have field sales representatives visiting retail clients, and for retailers who are able to place replenishment orders from the sales floor. Field sales personnel need a real-time view of customer and product information to do their jobs effectively. Phoning and faxing orders from the road is inefficient and can lead to errors, delays, and lost sales opportunities.

An intelligent order entry solution eliminates “blind ordering” from the field by enabling two-way communication between the sales team and your enterprise systems. As orders are sent in from customer sites, product, customer and pricing information can be updated on their mobile computers.

For retailers, using mobile computers to place new orders based on in-store inventory scans can result in more accurate and timely replenishment and fewer out-of-stocks.

2. Inventory Management

The key to having the right item on the shelf at the right time is through effective inventory management. Automatic data collection solutions (such as barcodes and RFID), combined with wireless networks, can help manage the inventory flow from the receiving area to the stock room, and even to the shelf.

Nearly every level of packaging includes a barcode, so retailers can use the technology to maintain tight and accurate control over inventory. At the warehouse, every pallet, case, and unit-level item can be scanned as they enter and exit the facility, providing an accurate shipping record.

When goods arrive at the retail location, store staff can scan the products as they enter the stock room or when they go on the shelf. These records can then be compared with point-of-sale scans at the register to maintain highly accurate inventory data.

Having all of these scans linked to an online portal can provide every stakeholder with updated shipment status and sales data. Scan data can also be used to generate automatic replenishment orders and maintain a continuous inventory record.

3. Leading Edge Data Collection and Mobility

Mobile computers and tablets are playing a lager role in retail operations as well. In the field, sales staff can use handheld computers to scan on-shelf inventory, accept customer signatures, process payments, and send orders directly to the back-end enterprise solution.

At a retail store, mobile associate solutions can improve stock management by allowing staff to use barcodes for inventory and for price checks. Associates can also use their mobile computers to check backroom stock for customers, order merchandise from a supplier or initiate a transfer from another store location.

Many retailers have also leveraged tablet technology to rapidly increase their checkout capacity during peak times/seasons by providing the ability for associates to accept payments on the sales floor. These line-busting applications can be rapidly scaled up or down to meet demand.

Barcoding technology can deliver higher same-store sales, fewer out-of-stocks, and increased inventory turnover, while also providing long-term efficiencies for retailers. When selecting a retail barcode solution, make sure to carefully evaluate all of the features and functions, and find a solution that will help take your retail operations to the next level.

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Order Entry Retail

Retailers Can Maximize Profits with an Intelligent Order Entry System

Handheld computers have been essential to the retail industry for years because they offer an efficient means of transporting remote orders from the field.  Inventory strategies that utilize mobile computers have been proven – time and time again – to produce a better return on investment for businesses by minimizing in-process inventory and eliminating other costs.

The use of handheld computers is now an industry standard, but, even though they increase cost savings, there is still room for improvement.  In order for retailers to maximize their profits, they need to begin by adding intelligence to their aging order entry systems.

One of the biggest challenges retailers face is the task of eliminating lost items from orders.  For many businesses, product catalogs change frequently and vendors have shifts in the items they carry, so antiquated/legacy handheld computers cannot always be depended on to verify barcodes.  Many older handhelds use digit and length checks to ensure that items are entered correctly, but they cannot ensure that items are current products or are being carried in the inventory.  Older handheld technology is limited by slower processing power and unimpressive storage capabilities.  As more and more products receive barcodes, the problem only gets worse.

Issues also occur on retail store shelves.  Moving items to make room for products that just arrived or creating displays with items that are on sale can result in a shelf’s tag not accurately reflecting the shelf’s contents.  If an employee scans a shelf’s tag without verifying what is on it, the wrong product could end up being ordered.  Incorrect or unnecessary orders damage profits and can even cause a business to lose customers.  Taking the time to verify a shelf’s product is a smarter move, but this process is more time consuming and slows down efficiency.

Mistakes/errors like these typically impact revenue enough to account for a loss of 3% to 7% of total sales.  Constantly losing revenue is a recipe for disaster, and this unproductive process can even cause retailers to lose customers.  In order to overcome these challenges, retailers need to invest in newer handhelds that utilize an intelligent order entry system.   Handheld computers compatible with intelligent order entry systems empower remote workers to easily and quickly access real-time information, so processes are streamlined and orders are accurate.  For retailers that employ handheld computers, up-to-date and instantaneous information greatly increase efficiency and productivity.

Newer handheld computers allow workers to enter data in a variety of ways, including scanning, keypad entry, and touchscreens – whichever is quickest for the application at hand. An order entry system also allows two-way communication for field workers, meaning that customer and pricing information is updated on the handhelds as soon as orders are sent in; faxing or phoning in orders is no longer needed.  Intelligent order entry eliminates manual steps for workers, improving efficiency, reducing paperwork, and minimizing the chance of human error.

Technology is constantly changing the retail landscape. Businesses that react appropriately to these changes are the ones that are most likely to not only survive, but thrive.  Losing 3% to 7% of sales because of inefficient processes and technology should never be an option.  An intelligent order entry system allows businesses to reduce lost sales, improve profitability, and gain a competitive edge over competitors.