Stocktakes are mandatory for retail businesses. With the right software, they can fulfil much more than just legal requirements. A real-time view on inventory provides the basis for high on-shelf availability and customer-oriented services.
The word inventory has its roots in the Latin “invenire” which means “to find something“. Anyone who has ever been involved in the process of a stocktake knows exactly how well this terminology fits. Finding something becomes particularly complex if the ERP system displays a different stock than what is counted on the sales floor and in the backroom. Usually, the products are written off as loss or attributed to shoplifting – which is a big problem especially in the fashion retail industry. But what if articles that could not be found are still in the store? And what about “positive differences” – meaning a surplus of stock?
The crux with inexact stocks
RFID-based article management with permanent inventory offers a very precise and reliable view on the stock-figures. Businesses are presented with real-time data, which the store personnel can access at any time. With this form of inventory, retailers get accurate stock information at any time and do not have to deal with numbers which may or may not be accurate at present. At the same time, the level of granularity can be increased: RFID technology makes it easy to determine which items are in the backroom and which ones are on the sales floor – the ideal starting point for a truly efficient refill process.
The optimal inventory cycle
The objectives of an intelligent inventory management process go far beyond the accounting requirements. A question that is frequently asked is “how often do we need to do that in order to achieve our targets”? Today’s systems, using AI and machine learning techniques, can automatically suggest the optimal inventory cycle, providing increased efficiency and store performance with positive effects on the overall profitability. A perfectly balanced inventory requires systems with an integrated and automated replenishment process, analytical forecasts on top sellers and the corresponding size breakdown.
Project implementation: a few hours. Stocktake duration: a few minutes.
It’s not only expensive to close down the store and hire additional personnel to carry out stocktakes – also the degrading accuracy has severe impact on the top and bottom line results of a store. For a quick start into exact inventories, intelligent software that drives article availability and inventory accuracy near 100% within just a few hours is now available –without having to invest heavily in a time- and resource consuming project. The quick-start system delivers a convincing performance in the store from day one and makes the roll-out across the entire store network easy and fast. The tedious and time consuming way of looking for articles that may or may not be there will be a thing of the past. Maybe it is time to find a new Latin word that is more suitable?
Although the customer leaves an invisible data trail in the store, brick-and-mortar retailers barely use them to improve customer service. Dr. Michael Goller, CTO at Detego, explains why things need to change in the future.
Online retailing has not only created a new way of shopping, but also has a powerful toolbox to measure its results – with the overall objective to meet the customer’s expectations at all times. For that reason, online retailing has become the highest standard when it comes to measurement and evaluation in fashion retail. There is almost nothing that is not being evaluated while surfing the web shop. Conversion rate, click through rate, average order value, relation between new and returning visitors, bounce rate and retention time are just some of the KPIs that measure the success of online shopping activities. The really powerful thing about this is that analysis is always followed by action – usually fully automated.
And what about brick-and-mortar retail? It is about time to take some lessons…
The need for real-time data
For years, brick-and-mortar retailers have been complaining about imprecise stock-figures and unreliable historical data. Unhappy with its purchasing decisions based on last year’s sales figures, retailers would prefer to have real-time data and inventories that allow for reliable and economically viable decisions. After all, it is important to avoid high security stocks in order to reduce capital tie-up.
But why do we actually have this problem? Are the datapoints offered by the ERP systems not enough? Unfortunately not – it is not unusual that the ERP system shows higher stock than actually available on the sales floor. This so-called “ghost stock” is the cause for various problems in sales, e.g. the ERP system says a certain article, for example a red skirt in size S, is in stock, but in reality it is not. It can neither be sold nor refilled from the central warehouse – a classical out-of-stock situation. Or vice-versa, the ERP displays a lower inventory level than is actually available. The reason for these deviations is insufficient accuracy in individual processes that dangerously sum up over time.
Today’s intelligent article management is based on three pillars: fast, RFID-based article identification on item-level, tracking of every movement in real-time and proactive analysis with concrete recommendations for actions to take for the sales personnel. This is the foundation for optimum customer service and efficient processes.
Meaningful KPIs in the store
When measuring KPIs, the practical benefits for retailers are paramount. Three areas of data in the store can be distinguished:
- KPIs for inventory accuracy and product availability
- KPIs for campaign performance measurements
- KPIs on customer engagement and service quality
How KPIs are defined depends on the size and number of stores, the assortment depth and the flow of goods. Predefined objectives also play an important role: Whether five or 800 stores, KPIs for measuring inventory accuracy are significant for every retailer and still represent one of the main challenges in today’ business. Retailers, on average, can actually make accurate statements on just about 75% of their inventory (based on SKU level). However, this is not enough to meet customers’ expectations for omnichannel services. Therefore, inventory transparency and corresponding KPIs are essential for retailers´ success.
Product availability on the sales floor, also known as on-floor availability, is the second central parameter. Initially, it is less about the exact position and more about the fact that the articles are on the sales floor – after all, only items that are actually available can be sold. This key figure can be combined with an alert system that makes sure not to fall short of the defined minimum availability. Complementary to classical ERP-systems, an RFID-based merchandise management takes the data granularity to the next level, by knowing exactly at each moment in time if products are really on the salesfloor or still lingering in the backroom of a store. Having data on item level, store managers are also given important information on the dwell times of articles on the sales floor to gauge whether they are corresponding with the sales plan. One of the most famous KPIs in e-commerce is the conversion rate that describes the ratio between purchases and website visitors and also provides information on certain items that were already in the shopping cart, but for some reason have not been purchased in the end. Specifically this aspect was incredibly difficult to measure in the store for a long time but can now be measured in fitting rooms using IoT and RFID technologies. This provides meaningful insights into how many, and above all, which articles does a customer take into the fitting room and which one does she/he actually buy?
On an operational side, KPIs can also be used to manage the service quality. The replenishment rate, for example, states how quickly articles are replenished on the sales floor. On the other hand, the fitting room response time describes how quickly sales personnel handle customer requests coming from the fitting room.
The KPI “Conversion rate per campaign” shows the success of a campaign and if campaign-specific countermeasures are necessary / ©Detego
Turning data into actions
What else can brick-and-mortar retail learn from the web shop? Turning data into actions. Since nobody needs a data graveyard, any analysis of data has the goal to take immediate actions to improve. Today’s systems help the management team as well as the store personnel with concrete and automated recommendations for actions to take. This saves time in the decision-making process, unburdens the sales personnel, and enables them do the right things at the right time.
KPIs should be suitable for everyday business use. Presented visually and self-explanatory, they need to be linked to clear recommendations for actions to take. This frees up store personnel time and provides a data-driven way of optimization. Examples range from simple in-store replenishment advices, i.e. “The minimum stock for article #47699-0010 has been reached – please refill three pieces” to more advanced topics, e.g. to choose a different placement in the store for a specific article when the dwell time on the sales floor is too high compared to other stores.
Brick-and-mortar retail definitely needs support and an update to the toolbox when it comes to analysis and measures. Not only does the sales personnel benefit from intelligent recommendations for action, but the management team also gains efficient control mechanisms across the entire store network. Decisions are made on the basis of real-time data and therefore allow timely action. Ultimately, the end customer is pleased about a first-class service, which – thanks to the individual and informed advice through the sales personnel – even exceeds the standards of the online retail.
Friendly sales personnel, stores in top locations and an appealing product assortment are not enough anymore for successful fashion retailing. Today’s consumers expect more: stores as temples of experiences, sales personnel that understands or even anticipates their needs and frictionless shopping across all channels. The use of IoT technologies in brick-and-mortar stores will support retailers to meet these expectations. But how much consumer engagement does it take to turn “today’s shoppers” into “loyal customers of tomorrow”? A search for traces…
What are consumers actually looking for?
That is quite simple: articles in the right sizes. Otherwise they are leaving the store without buying anything. Assuming that consumer engagement requires a proactive, not reactive sales culture, retailers need to start rethinking their business approach. This involves systems that provide high inventory accuracy and article availability, real-time information capability, and a single stock view across the entire store network including franchise and wholesales locations as well as online shops. In addition, it requires a customer-focused and empowered store personnel, equipped with smart devices and real-time information, to provide consumers with instant information about desired articles and the capability to reserve these articles or to deliver them directly to the customer’s home. It’s all about an effective way of interaction that is leading to a long-term customer loyalty. If the store staff is proactively supported by the in-store system by means of e.g. intelligent stock takes or smart replenishment processes, retailers – and ultimately the customer – benefit from high inventory accuracy and end-to-end article availability. This provides the base for a successful consumer engagement and is available with the Detego InStore Lean Edition.
What exactly do consumers expect?
A lot: individual and innovative shopping experiences. Spoilt by the convenience and services of E-Commerce, consumers’ expectations towards their shopping experience in brick-and-mortar stores are ever more stringent. Omnichannel services such as click-and-collect, return-to-store, ship-from-store and online availability check per store are part of these expectations and have to run smoothly. The Detego InStore Full Edition provides retailers the full-service package for their omnichannel business.
How does interaction with consumers look like?
Very versatile and via different touchpoints that customers choose, e.g. via their smartphone right after entering the store. The chatbot Detega gets in touch and supports with article and availability information, introduces the new collection and is also a virtual guide beyond the actual store visit. The Smart Fitting Room is also adapting to consumer requirements in an entirely experience-oriented way. It assembles preferred article variations and optimises the fitting service in close collaboration with the store personnel who brings desired articles from the sales floor or back room to the cabin when requested by consumers via the Smart Fitting Room application. Detego InChannels provides retailers with various opportunities for interaction with consumers that activate customer potential.
The Detego Suite supports retailers in meeting current and future challenges and keeps the store staff ready for increasingly demanding consumers while making the brick-and-mortar business run more efficiently.
Image source: IStock, Copyright: pixdeluxe
Is brick-and-mortar retail gambling away its future success by disregarding the power of individual service?
Alexa, Siri, Cortana and other chatbots have been welcomed in our homes to offer additional services and comfort. This development is not surprising, since we are already used to these friendly chatbots that assist us when shopping on the Internet. They answer every question instantly, assist in product search, and provide further information. Also, they are unobtrusive and can be simply clicked away – without being considered rude. However, does it make sense to have chatbots in stores too?
Will we be soon dressed by robots?
Individual service has always been the main benefit of brick-and-mortar retail. But how do robots fit in here? Difficult to imagine. However, fashion retailers are convinced in their pioneering role: the chatbot is the perfect complement to their sales team. Via the customer’s smartphone, the chatbot is always ready to communicate. Especially when the sales personnel is busy, the chatbot offers the possibility of a first dialogue with the customer. It keeps the customer engaged and supports the article search and finding them in different colours and sizes. The target group of digital natives are additionally delighted by its chat functionalities and WhatsApp fans will start chatting right away.
Sales psychology is very complex. Being present, but not too intrusive – the customer should perceive the sales personnel in a pleasant way. *In particular, female customers often want to have a look around first. Shopping for them does not necessarily mean to look for something specific. As a result, individual service is not needed or desired immediately after entering the store. On the other hand, for men, immediate assistance given by the sales personnel is often too early.* Therefore, the support of a pure informative as well as anonymous chatbot assistant is very welcomed. Especially on larger sales floors, chatbots are able to convince customers within significant time. They are highly efficient and show articles that are interesting only for the individual customer. This is known from the web shop and appreciated especially by men. If the customer has decided to try on one or more articles, the chatbot retreats discreetly. The customer controls the dialogue with the chatbot; when it starts and stops or even putting it on hold. *In contrast to beacons, that push communicational content without the customer triggering an actual impulse.*
Online mechanism brought to the store
The chatbot brings a form of intelligence into the store that is well known in online retailing. It delivers several filters for its recommendations: e.g. popular articles, bestsellers, articles on sale or even product variants. Artificial intelligence, however, is not limited to the chatbot itself. What makes it even more exciting is how it communicates with other systems in the background. The chatbot checks the actual article availability in real-time and compiles data about customer cluster and their preferred article combinations. As a result, recommendations become personal and meaningful, since only articles are offered that are actually available in the store – making them immediately available to buy. All this makes the chatbot a reliable ‘sales person’ as well as a tool that the customer will be very likely to use again next time.
The digital assistance along the entire shopping process makes perfect sense especially in the fitting room. In there, the customer should not be left alone, since the fitting room is the place where an actual buying decision is made. During fitting, customers are particularly receptive to cross-selling offers, for example matching articles or accessories. For this, the chatbot offers a unique service: using a “bring-me” function, the customer is able to request the sales personnel to bring the desired article directly to the fitting room without the need of leaving it. The chatbot informs the sales personnel using an internal push-messaging service. In perfect team work, a sales person takes over from here and provides individual service until the customer is ready to buy.
The use of chatbots at the point-of-sale supports digital-oriented target groups via their smartphones where help is needed and refers them to the sales personnel as soon as it is required in the sales process. Therefore, chatbot and sales personnel represent an exceptional good team. Convinced virtually and taken care of personally, is the newest form of customer service. And as if there is an unwritten law: this chatbot in the store is of course female! And goes by the name Detega.
Chatbot Detega informs about articles on the sales floor.
Image source: IStock, Copyright: shapecharge
I’ll be right with you…
Did you know that on average a sales assistant in a fashion shop only spends 30% of his or her time on customer sales advice and 70% on administrative activities? He or she compares delivery notes with order lists, tries to get new merchandise on the sales floor as soon as possible and arranges returns for incorrectly supplied articles. Moreover he or she searches for items in the store, the backstore and the shop window. There’s only little time remaining for the customer.
More time for the customer
Detego Suite reverses this model: 70% of the time is spent with the customer and only 30% for administrative duties. The shop assistant’s time is freed up by an acceleration in incoming goods processing. Boxes do not even have to be opened in order to identify the complete merchandise delivered. Accurate goods receipt prevents that wrongly delivered goods need to be returned. Permanent inventory provides an entire view on the complete inventory – in real time. Due to automated replenishment recommendations, the manual inspection of the inventory in the store is no longer required. Thanks to the system NOS-items are always on the shop floor. Early warning systems prevent out-of-stock situations. The store is always ready for customers. The store personnel can devote itself entirely to the customer.
Stores benefit greatly from improved customer service
- Move your sales personnel closer to the customers
- Enable cross-selling potential through proficient salespersons
- Free your store personnel of administrative duties
- Accelerate the goods receipt process
The Smart Fitting Room is a quiet revolution in the store, but a huge sensation when it comes to customer experience and retail analytics. Why? Usually, the fitting room is the place where purchase decisions are made. So the fitting of garments should be as comfortable as possible. Spacious shelves, hooks, several mirrors, a pleasant light atmosphere and background music build the basis for a positive shopping experience in the fitting room. With the integration of digital intelligence, fitting rooms enter a new dimension that opens up new possibilities for both customers and retailers.
Benefits for customers
Via integrated sensors, the Smart Fitting Room identifies the exact articles a customer brings into the fitting room. On screens or mirrors, it then indicates which colours, models and sizes are available directly in the store, in the web shop, or in other stores. Similar to ecommerce, customers receive recommendations for suitable articles based on their preferences, and can browse through the full range of articles, check article availability in real-time and request that sales personnel bring specific articles directly into the fitting room via a call-for-assistance function. The customer perceives this digital shopping experience as the merging of different sales channels. The store, with all its multisensory impressions, presents itself as also being “online” and therefore ensures a completely positive customer journey in the long run.
Benefits for retailers
With the Smart Fitting Room, retailers recognise the potential for up- and cross-selling and use this opportunity to drive the digital transformation in the store through modern forms of communication between customers and the sales personnel. In particular, young fashion brands of the smartphone generation can use the Smart Fitting Room as a powerful tool for the enhancement of customer loyalty. Customer requirements like “ship-from-store” or recommendations in real-time on social media platforms can help retailers stand out from the competition. Small stores situated in expensive A-locations are able to present their full range to customers – an opportunity for additional sales.
What’s more, the Smart Fitting Room provides valuable data: e.g. which articles are often tried-on but rarely bought. The consideration of customer preferences increases the retailer’s “operational excellence” making it possible to offer customers what they really want. In addition, analysis also supports merchandise optimisation.
The concept of the Smart Fitting Room can also be expanded for future personalisation. When logged into their account, customers can receive offers based on their individual fashion preferences.
The challenge of today’s modern retail is to get customers in the store. This enhances a retailer’s chance for “conversion”. The Smart Fitting Room, with its integrated services, is the perfect tool for that.
Image source: AbodeStock, Copyright: Nomad_Soul
How does the store change through omni-channel technologies?
Stores have always appealed to the senses, particularly for “seeing” and “touching”. These sensory experiences are now enhanced by interactive, digital touchpoints (e.g. via the virtual endless shelf) which enable us to browse through a complete assortment, to get online recommendations in the fitting room, or to have the possibility of returning online purchased items to a store.
But what does the introduction of mobile, digital signage and IoT mean for the set up of stores and for staff?
These technologies offer a great opportunity for the perfect interplay between product presentation, personal advice and the customer´s desire for self-service, which makes it easier to offer a customer journey that fits well with the brand’s promise. Let´s consider an example: A customer checks the availability of a skirt in a particular size and color via her smartphone before entering a store. When she visits the store, her smartphone shows a 360 degree presentation of her desired article on digital signage. Recommendations of matching items are presented too and she takes them to the fitting room. The “smart fitting room” recognises the articles via IoT technology and encourages her to browse through the complete assortment on an interactive screen. Other sizes, variants or accessories are shown and a sales assistant can be alerted through a wearable device to bring desired articles to the fitting room. IoT facilitates a new way of sales dialogue and service.
What kind of technologies are already out there and which ones are coming soon? What benefits do they offer?
Splitting the store into zones to automatically capture merchandise movements via ceiling readers is already here, as is the analysis of real-time data to optimise the presentation of merchandise and fulfill in-store KPIs. Smart fitting rooms, as an essential link to other omni-channel services, are already being used by some innovative retailers. More exact planning tools are underway and predictive analytics is the future.
Will customers do everything themselves via their smartphones and will there no longer be any store staff in future?
No, but store staff will need to adapt to a new role. Their job and sales advice will be digitally supported. For example, click & collect article reservations will be done via a tablet. Customers will be able to act in an independent manner using their smartphone e.g. to check article availability in real time. If the customer wants sales advice, though, store staff will be there for service and support.
Image sources: Fotolia; Copyright: zhudifeng / AdobeStock; Copyright: Nomad_Soul
After reading the latest post by fashion-blogger Andy Torres, Mia, 17, believes she urgently needs a new pair of jeans. Together with two girlfriends and – of course – her smartphone, Mia starts her shopping trip. It does not take long until the first beacon pops up on her smartphone to lure her into a store and direct her to the promotion. The jeans are super-trendy and the right size is available too. Mia takes them to the fitting room to try them on right away. In the meantime, her girlfriends are chilling while watching video clips of fashion shows until they hear Mia cry out. Unfortunately, the “slim-cut” of the jeans does not look good at all. Well, what other jeans styles are there? Touch, browse, swipe, click. It’s all right there on the interactive screen in the fitting room. All three of them find that totally hip, and furthermore, Mia does not have to get dressed again and dig through the whole jeans assortment on the shelves herself. She finds all the articles right here in the fitting room. A bit like a virtual, endless shelf. Using the button for “store assistant”, the desired jeans are then brought to Mia by the sales personnel. Whilst waiting, Mia is checking out various shirts, belts and bags – all from the current collection. Wow, Mia found a sweater she likes very much. Is it still available in size ‘small’? And in what colour? That’s just awesome; she immediately gets feedback that the sweater is in stock and can be found on the upper level, right here in the store. There’s also a XXL-Bag she likes as well. However, it is only available in the web shop. Five pieces are left and Mia is considering getting the bag too via the in-store ordering service, offered directly here on the screen in the fitting room.
Understand customers. Improve service. Sell more.
Most people in sales, marketing, IT and logistics departments at the headquarters of any fashion brands would agree that providing a consistent positive customer experience is only possible through digital change in the store and throughout the entire supply chain in order to boost sales and let customers relate with the brand. Using the Internet-of-Things (IoT) in the store, digital intelligence is provided on the sales floor. So called smart objects – i.e. garments equipped with RFID labels – generate useful data and trigger measures, such as displaying information about the item and/or matching accessories on interactive touchscreens. Furthermore, intelligent RFID ceiling reading devices allow data to be collated in real-time, capturing all movements of the “intelligent garments” and evaluating all relevant information with analytical software. For instance, which zones in the store are highly frequented, and which are less popular? What articles are often tried-on, but rarely bought? Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) generated in the store – such as conversion rates in the fitting room, or dwell time of articles on the sales floor – reveal a lot of information about customer behaviour and offer the potential for improvements in customer service. If a customer decides to go to a store, he/she often really just wants to know one thing: is a specific article available in the store and if so, where? A transparent article management process provides information on the availability of sought-after items in the fitting room, in the store, as well as in the web shop. At the same time, cross-selling opportunities can be actively pursued and, in case of critical minimum quantities of items on the sales floor, notifications are sent for timely replenishment. If a store is stocked appropriately and the product assortment is presented nicely and according to consumers’ preferences, articles are sold at their calculated prices and do not end up in sales-outlets. In the background, IoT-based services do their magic. Mia had a great shopping experience and is happy with her purchase. She gives the store the best rating and shares her purchase via smartphone immediately. She will definitely come back again.
Image source: IStock, Copyright: JackF
In fashion retail, still more than 80 percent of the total revenue is made in brick-and-mortar stores, and only 20 percent from online retailing1. Despite this fact, reports about consumer behaviour and how they interact with the merchandise are mainly focused on web shops and most resellers do not have in-store KPIs to give them valuable insights into their store business. How fashion retailers might counter this analytical imbalance between online and offline retailing.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are an important management tool for any business-driven entity. Ultimately, the business areas that account for the most revenue should also be the focus for analyses regarding optimisation and future growth potential. However, in the omni-channel environment, the analytical focus is still largely on the online channel, even though for most fashion brands, physical stores drive far more sales than any web store. Online KPIs (such as conversion rate, cost-per-click, bounce rate, etc.) are evaluated by experts using analytics software on a daily basis in order to reach the desired goal – the optimisation of the web store.
Why the imbalance?
Web shops often go that much further in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO) and optimal presentation of merchandise. They also use complex algorithms to replace the physical sales staff and to influence consumers with virtual sales psychology: for example, making recommendations, such as “Customers that were interested in this product also bought these products”. All these efforts and expenses are measured in terms of marketing effectiveness. After all, they have to pay off in the end. In web shops, tracking and measuring is easy, since customers not only leave a trace, but also their individual profiles. Physical stores lack this kind of analytical transparency and the information that’s needed in order to efficiently manage and optimise the business.
How to bring the same level of analytical transparency from online retailing into physical stores
With an increasing number of collections in ever shorter time frames, fashion retailers have to put in an enormous amount of marketing effort to promote campaigns and bring customers into their stores. Therefore, it’s only rational to implement common measures of performance as well in the store, such as:
- What is the conversion rate per campaign (Marketing Effectiveness)?
- What kind of cross-selling offers are well received by customers and which are not?
- What is the bounce rate – abandonment in the fitting room?
- Which articles of a specific campaign are actively moved?
These factors, originally from the world of online retailing, also represent valuable KPIs for in-store operations. Findings and effects are totally new to the fashion retail industry, but make perfect sense. Retailers gain a transparent view on various aspects: for instance, what articles, or combinations of articles, are being taken to the fitting room; and what articles remain untouched by the customer. From this information, retailers learn how to optimise their presentation of merchandise on the sales floor and how to get more cross-selling opportunities – even when no sales people are available at that moment.
Detego InReports delivers store KPIs such as the conversion rate per campaign and the service quality of sales personnel
Meaningful reports require good data
In order to create meaningful dashboards, a satisfactory database is required. It’s self-explanatory that the higher the quality of the data, the higher the quality of the reports. In omni-channel retailing, for valuable data, you really need to monitor article inventory at the item-level, in real-time. With inventory accuracy approaching 100 percent – without the need for manual scanning – retailers are finally equipped with data quality that provides the basis for reliable information and meaningful reports. Having real-time information on total stocks at item-level for all stores (including franchise partners) offers another advantage: customers, or sales personnel, no longer have to look for items since the exact whereabouts of an article can be displayed on a mobile device (like a tablet PC, or smartphone), or terminal. Articles can even be located, at any time, thanks to the integration of fixed readers in a store’s ceiling. Real-time information displayed on tablet PCs allows staff to answer consumers’ questions about sought-after articles. It also means being able to make reservations throughout the entire store network and to ensure availability commitments are met – and that’s essential for omni-channel retailing.
Enhanced services for customers
The digital store’s analytical insights provide great opportunities for individual customer service too. Touchscreen displays in the fitting room can allow the customer to instantly check on article availability and check for other sizes. If the article is out-of-stock in a particular store, information showing where else it’s still available is displayed. The customer can also make reservations, so they can pick up the article in a chosen store later, or get the article delivered to their home address.
In addition, customers can press the “call-for-assistance” button in a fitting room, in order to get further help from sales personnel (e.g. to get a similar article, or the same article, in a different colour). These digital functions enable stores to capitalise on their core strength: that is, individual service. This newly gained level of service can also be evaluated as service quality. Analytical insights enable new possibilities, such as optimisation of article availability, automatic replenishment, as well as better customer service. They also support store staff in their role as an adviser. Tablet PCs can recognise any article thanks to an automatic article identification process and give recommendations on other items, as well as accessories, which may complete the look and promote cross-selling. This recommendation function (e.g. “Customers who bought/ were interested in this article also bought/ were interested in these articles”) is well-known among web stores, who have long since used the process to tempt customers to buy more. So why not to use it in the store as well?
If these services could be rated by consumers in the physical store, just like in the online store, they’d be sure to get the highest rating possible.
One of the special charms about the lagoon city of Venice is its many channels, or canals, both small and big. Innumerable bridges connect them to an open labyrinth of water as well as traditional streets.
With so many different shopping channels available to today’s consumer, it’s easy to see why Venice is the perfect metaphor for the idea of omni-channel retailing.
The ability to shop anywhere at any time is the raison d’être of omni-channel retailing. The right assortment, and the best product availability, with seamless service and an emotional brand image sum up the perfect customer journey. The shopper can choose between a variety of channels: the flagship store in the High Street, the web shop, mobile shopping, or the endless shelf provided by an online kiosk in the store. Unfortunately the omni-channel promise often develops into a big omni-channel challenge. Not only for the retailer, but also for the customer too…
Let’s assume a female customer buys a summer skirt using her mobile. Two days later the garment gets delivered. Alas, it’s too small, so the woman wants to return the skirt to the closest store. The return turns out to be quite complicated: she cannot even check online if the skirt will be available in that particular store in size M, even though the brand promotes click-and-collect as one of their services.
When retailers display the real-time inventory at each of their stores through their web shop, customers can rely on the information given and will not be disappointed when they get to the store. This stock transparency can be given accurately by fixed readers hidden in the store’s ceiling. This fixed reader infrastructure counts every article and registers product movements throughout the different zones of the store – without manual scanning.
And what’s in it for the shopper? Products which are constantly available and visible on the shop floor, thanks to automatic replenishment, making shoppers really trust the brand. They might also benefit from a cross-channel
service when entering the fitting room: the same reading system can show accessories on a screen, or interactive mirror, as recommendations that “other clients were also interested in these products”. It’s the classic web recommendation feature, that can also help with cross-selling opportunities in stores too.
And what’s in it for the retailer? Retailers will profit from insights into conversion rate, such as how many products make it from the fitting room to the check-out. They’ll learn more about customer preferences and buying habits – and, ultimately, how to drive more sales.