Real-Time Retailing Turns the Store into the Network

Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners

Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners, recently took the time to explain how real-time retailing and how the concept of “unified commerce” allows stores themselves to become networks for customer engagement.

What is real-time retailing, and how does it benefit retailers and their customers?

In real-time retailing, the device doesn’t matter. There can be a mobile device or fixed device. Hardware, software and data reside in the cloud. The store becomes the network. There is little hardware in the store to malfunction. You drive all peripherals, like signature capture devices and tills, to the network. You can understand what’s in the customer’s closet, offer them what they want to buy and offer discounts in real time. In the future, there will be real-time markdowns using a rules engine with real-time analytics.

What is unified commerce, and how does it fit into real-time retailing?

For example, if I’m shopping online at a retailer, put items in my cart, hold them there for a while and then abandon my cart and go to the retailer’s store, through Unified Commerce when I walk in and identify myself, the staff can look up my abandoned cart history in real time and know what I was looking at. They can also look up what I’ve ordered through other channels. It unifies all channels into one opportunity in the store so associates can sell to you based on your digital footprint.

How can retailers leverage real-time retailing and unified commerce for customer engagement?

It takes three things — people, process and technology. We have the technology, but what about people and process? It’s using big-screen monitors to browse the Web with customers without violating their personal space. At Apple and Microsoft stores, there’s a lot of conversation behind the scenes. Everyone’s wearing a headset. If there’s a hole in the display, they want to understand who picked up the product and where it is. Customer engagement puts stores on a level with their real competitors, like Amazon, eBay and Google.

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