The Mobility Factor
If retailers want to survive in the new economy and volatile marketplace, their focus needs to be on the customer and providing the best service and shopping experience possible. Increasingly, mobile strategies are helping them achieve this goal.
“Consumers looking to connect with retailers, and intimate mobile solutions are helping to revolutionize the retail experience,” said Sanjay Poonen, president of global solutions for SAP, at the SAP Retail Forum 2011, held recently in Chicago. “Overall, [mobility] empowers shoppers as well as store associates, and improves the shopping experience.”
The SAP event made clear that savvy retailers are increasingly leveraging their shoppers’ interest in mobile technology to boost customer service. Besides increasing speed of consumer interaction, mobile solutions enable retailers to create intimacy among shoppers, increasing cross- and up-sells.
REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), the Kent, Wash.-based outdoor gear and apparel retailer, has created a two-fold mobile strategy. First, the chain has a mobile app that shoppers can download on iTunes. The free app allows shoppers to search for and purchase merchandise through their mobile phone; scan product bar codes at store-level to learn more information; and even read customer reviews, receive exclusive discounts, access REI membership information, locate stores and reach customer service.
“The app is the top retail app on iTunes, and half of its sales are happening through iPads alone,” reported Bill Baumann, CIO, REI, during a panel discussion at the SAP forum.
The retailer’s second focus is a mobile POS platform. REI added mobile POS in two stores just before the 2010 holiday shopping season. Even though the company still continues to evaluate how to streamline operations such as security tag removal and emailing receipts, “We knew we couldn’t afford to wait,” Baumann said. “We are tracking 25% of sales happening through the devices, and [the solution] is not even operating at 100% yet.”
REI is not alone in its thinking. For example, 65% of retailers reported that mobility was a key focal point in their POS strategies, according to Aberdeen Group’s “Retailers Target POS Mobility for Engagement Interactivity and Revenue” report.
REI continues to evaluate how to create an agile mobile solution.
“We continue to learn from customers’ usage, their behavior and where and how they shop with us,” Baumann said. “And we are learning a lot. And when we work through all issues, we will share it with the world.”
CVS/pharmacy enhances mobile features for greater convenience
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS/pharmacy today announced enhanced shopping and prescription refill functionality for its mobile site, located at m.CVS.com, as well as iPhone and Android apps, enabling shoppers to use mobile devices to manage their ExtraCare Rewards accounts, scan and send prescription refills, and order photo prints from CVS Photo Centers.
Customers accessing CVS/pharmacy’s mobile website can now take advantage of several features of the ExtraCare Rewards Program. This new functionality lets shoppers:
Load select ExtraCare coupons received via email directly to their ExtraCare card through the "Send to Card" digital savings option;
View the available balance of ExtraBucks Rewards;
Check ExtraCare transaction history; and
Order a new ExtraCare Rewards card to replace a missing or lost card.
In addition, CVS/pharmacy launched a set of mCommerce options for shoppers using photo services. Customers using smartphones can now:
View photo albums and slideshows;
Order prints for in-store pickup in about an hour;
Share photos with friends and family.
For customers who have downloaded CVS/pharmacy’s iPhone or Android app, CVS/pharmacy is making it easier to manage prescriptions. Customers with the iPhone or Android app can now use their smartphones to scan and send rapid refills (no sign-in required) to their local CVS/pharmacy for up to six prescriptions at once, just by using the camera in their mobile devices and the CVS/pharmacy app. These refills can be sent by scanning the prescription label directly. The apps also include a quick-response code scanner that customers can use for scanning any QR code at CVS/pharmacy stores or any other retailer.
Beyond the prescription refill functionality, the same ExtraCare Rewards Program management now available through the CVS/pharmacy mobile site has been added to the CVS/pharmacy iPhone and Android apps.
These features are in addition to the already launched features that allow shoppers to spot nearby CVS/pharmacy stores by using their phone’s GPS, check their weekly circular and find MinuteClinic locations and services.
DavidsTea Sweetens Operations
DavidsTea is on an upward trajectory as it introduces new business channels and expands operations. Its well-designed, inviting stores, which sell 150 varieties of tea and related accessories, are bringing specialty tea to the mainstream and winning over converts in the process.
Since opening its first location in 2008, the fast-growing Montreal-based tea company has expanded across Canada, and is on track for 70 locations by yearend. It is also looking beyond its own borders, having recently opened its first two U.S. stores (both in Manhattan). The company, which already has a flourishing e-commerce business, is also establishing a wholesale/corporate operation.
It all adds up to a busy agenda for DavidsTea. And it’s one in which a new enterprise resource planning system, Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail, is playing a crucial role.
“We were outgrowing the functionality of the [previous ERP] system, which was limited to supporting our retail and point-of-sale operations,” said Howard Tafler, CFO, DavidsTea. “We needed a full back-end and accounting package that could support our current business and future plans.”
DavidsTea began searching for a new platform two years ago. To support the company’s diverse operations, the ideal ERP platform had to be affordable, scalable and robust enough to support new business functionality, and open so that integration with third-party software partners would be seamless. It found what it was looking for in Microsoft Dynamics AX, an end-to-end retail solution that standardizes operations across locations.
The infrastructure, which is supported by a centralized database, manages the enterprise’s retail operations, POS, financials and accounting. To streamline the implementation, DavidsTea is working with Cole Systems, a New York City-based Microsoft partner that is helping the retailer to configure and customize the Dynamics AX system and integrate all enterprise software.
The chain began installing the platform in the second quarter of 2011, and by June it was supporting financials and accounting. By mid-October, the system was supporting supply-chain operations and back-office functionality. At that point, DavidsTea also began rolling stores onto the Dynamics AX platform.
“Currently, half of our stores are supported by the platform, and we expect the entire chain to be live on the platform by the end of November,” Tafler reported.
The open configuration also fosters tight integration with other software. During the implementation, for example, DavidsTea integrated JustEnough, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based provider of a best-of-breed merchandise planning and demand management system, with AX, a move that allows the retailer to plan its purchasing and allocation to stores based upon data that resides in AX’s database.
Similarly, the chain is implementing a workforce management system from Alpharetta, Ga.-based Dayforce, and a fully integrated e-commerce platform from Keyora, Oakville, Ontario, which uses AX data to determine enterprise orders and fulfillment.
DavidsTea is looking forward to leveraging the power of the infrastructure as the new year approaches, initially taking advantage of the base functionality needed to operate its business. As additional software is augmented, the retailer looks forward to using the platform to support evolving business processes. The result is an end-to-end ERP solution that not only creates a unified system for DavidsTea today, but also provides the foundation of growth for tomorrow.
“Our plan is to continue growing over the next few years,” Tafler said. “During this growth, we will need a multifunctional, open ERP system. The Dynamics AX system is flexible enough to handle all of our endeavors.”