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Omni-Channel: Offering a Seamless Shopping Experience to Customers

BY CSA STAFF

By Niclas Qvist, Pricer

Since the rise of online shopping, it seems that everyone in the world of retail has been debating the future of traditional stores. Not only do offline stores have to weather a particularly long and brutal recession, but they also have to compete with an ever-expanding online sector. In fact, recent estimates suggest that while bricks-and-mortar retailers are expected to grow 1% to 2% a year, online retail is growing at a rate of 10% annually. To counter this ‘threat’, many main street shops have set up online stores – often with great success.

However, it is important to remember that 90% of retail sells through traditional stores. There will always be a place for physical stores, as consumers will always want to be able to touch, feel and see a product for themselves before buying. While operating a ‘multi-channel’ environment in the form of having both a traditional and an online store certainly gives consumers more choice, retailers are increasingly asking themselves: “What is it that drives consumers to online stores, and how can we incorporate these features into our offline stores to create one, seamless customer experience?”

Understanding the benefits afforded to consumers who shop online is vital. In the past, shopping was a private experience – you did it by yourself. Now, thanks to the internet, it has become far more social. Before purchasing anything, customers may access at least one review website, and look at other consumer feedback and advice. They share their shopping experience via social media such as Facebook, upload photos of their purchases to Instagram and ask their friends for input. What’s more, online stores are incredibly transparent and display a lot of information on each product – what it is made from, where it is made, and its availability. We are living in the information age – and shopping is no exception.

By introducing easy access to information into their stores, main street retailers can merge the best of both worlds. By combining the tangible ‘see and touch’ aspect that you can only get in an offline store with the transparency of online shopping, retailers will be at a huge advantage. Such an integrated shopping experience allows consumers to shop the way they want, and as such offline retailers can greatly boost conversion rates – going that extra mile to ensure that consumers who enter always leave with a product, convinced they have made the right decision.

So, how can these two worlds merge together? The answer is simple – implement the latest retail technology. New retail technology offers stores the opportunity to transcend multi-channel retailing and implement an omni-channel environment, whereby they can connect the internet, mobile, and offline channels into one truly seamless customer experience.

Today, most consumers carry smartphones with them at all times, and these can allow offline stores to interact with consumers on a new level. For example, with electronic shelf labels (ESLs), not only can a retailer place a vast amount of product information on one label, but they can also include bar codes, quick response (QR) codes, or near field communication (NFC), which can be used to link consumers to positive reviews online, discounts and promotional codes – anything.

It is also now possible for retailers to bring the ‘social’ aspect of online shopping to physical stores. Consumers can ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on products in real-time, just as they would do online, simply by scanning a capable ESL with their smartphone. The ESL will then immediately update the number of ‘likes’ a product has received and retailers can choose to also display any glowing product reviews.

Shopping online also offers consumers a more ‘personalized’ service by recommending products based on past purchases and viewed items – and the latest retail technology can offer a similar intuitive, ‘smart’ service. With a QR code on an electronic label or a NFC-enabled label, a store can link the customer who scans the code or taps the ESL with his mobile to a discount on another, similar product.

Allowing customers to access information immediately through the latest retail technology can be used by main street stores to create a truly ‘omni-channel’ environment. Most people can relate to going to a shop, finally finding something they want, and then having to wait thirty minutes only to be informed it is out of stock. This means an unhappy customer and a retailer who has missed an opportunity to put money in the register. In an omni-channel environment, whichever channel customers use, the store will be viewed as a single, transparent system – as opposed to multiple channels with separate inventory and processing systems.

With ESLs, you can not only tell the customer that this product is out of stock, but more importantly, you can tell them when it will next be available in store or give directions to another branch which has availability. Other options include displaying a QR code or including a NFC which will take them to the online store to order it or suggest a similar product as an alternative.

Future shopping will be about bringing the best of mobile, e-commerce, and in-store shopping experiences in a one and only similar experience. This is the true value of today’s retail technology. It creates a seamless, simple experience for the consumer, and ensures that, in that crucial moment when they are considering buying, they are convinced, and don’t walk out of the store empty-handed.

Niclas Qvist is head of marketing and partner management at Pricer, a provider of electronic shelf labels.


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T.Platt says:
Jun-20-2013 11:44 am

seamless
shoppers get seamless shopping experience, buying their way, when, where and what they want, via #CEM http://Amex.co/13rIN5K

T.Platt says:
Jun-20-2013 11:44 am

shoppers get seamless shopping experience, buying their way, when, where and what they want, via #CEM http://Amex.co/13rIN5K

T.Platt says:
Jun-14-2013 11:24 am

omnichannel
Retailers create + deliver seamless omnichannel experience so consumers buy when, where, and what they want http://Amex.co/13rIN5K

T.Platt says:
Jun-14-2013 11:24 am

Retailers create + deliver seamless omnichannel experience so consumers buy when, where, and what they want http://Amex.co/13rIN5K

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Men’s Wearhouse’s Q1 benefits from earlier Easter

BY CSA STAFF

FREMONT — Net sales at Men’s Wearhouse’s flagship brand stores got off to a slow start, but clothing and tuxedo revenues picked up, allowing the company to see total net sales of $617 million for the first quarter ended May 4, an increase of 5% from $587 million for the quarter last year.

The company reported net earnings of $33 million for the quarter, a 23% increase from $27 million for the quarter a year ago. The company’s retail segment sales for the quarter increased by 4.4% and corporate apparel sales increased by 13% compared to the prior-year quarter.

"Net sales at our core flagship brand Men’s Wearhouse stores, which represented 65% of our total first quarter sales, got off to a slow start in February and were comping negatively until about President’s weekend. After that we began to pick up in both clothing sales and tuxedo revenues," said president and CEO Doug Ewert.

Men’s Wearhouse sales were up 8.2% over last year’s first quarter sales, and comparable store sales increased 1.6%. The higher margin tuxedo rental revenues comparable store sales increased 6.5% in the first quarter of 2013, driven mainly by the Easter holiday shift allowing for an earlier prom season that increased rental rates, unit rentals and sales of tuxedo accessories.

Moores, the Canadian retail brand, was 9% of the total first quarter sales and had a comparable store sales decrease of 7% due mainly to decreased average transactions per store and units sold per transaction. K&G was 16% of the company’s total first quarter sales with a comparable store sales decrease of 6.7%, with lower average transactions per store and units sold per transaction offsetting an increase in average unit retails.

"The decrease in the K&G comps was in-line with internal expectations for the quarter. However, the Moores sales were below internal expectations as we are facing headwinds in Canada," added Ewert.

The Corporate Apparel segment, which represented 9% of total first quarter sales, had a sales increase of 13% due mainly to a higher level of customer-directed new uniform rollouts.

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Best Buy to debut Windows Store

BY CSA STAFF

REDMOND, Wash. — Best Buy has landed a partnership with Microsoft Corp. that will allow the retailer to offer a Windows Store at 500 of its locations in the U.S. and more than 100 Future Shop locations in Canada.

The comprehensive store-within-a-store will range in size from 1,500 sq. ft. to 2,200 sq. ft. Consumers will be able to see, try, compare and, of course, purchase Microsoft products and accessories, including Windows-based tablets and PCs, Windows Phones, Microsoft Office and Xbox. Each store will feature a space highlighting a variety of Windows scenarios across devices; a showcase section with the latest Windows-based PC form factors such as ultrabooks, convertibles, detachables and all-in-ones, including portable devices and a standalone area featuring Microsoft Surface.

“The Windows Store offers a large-scale, hands-on customer experience that will show customers how Windows and Microsoft devices and services can make it easier for them to work and play,” said Tami Reller, CMO and CFO of the Windows division at Microsoft. “We’re pleased to partner with Best Buy in bringing the latest technologies to consumers at scale in a unique environment where they can explore how Microsoft products fit together across entertainment, travel, music and other scenarios.”

As a result of the partnership, more than 1,200 Best Buy Microsoft-trained salespeople will be brought in to support the Microsoft specialists already working across Best Buy locations.

“Best Buy’s chief goal is to serve our customers as only we can, whether they come to us online or in stores. The Windows Store creates the kind of retail destination we all want to shop in, combining great selection, the latest technology, the best service and the lowest prices,” said Jason Bonfig, VP of computing for Best Buy. “What our customers will see in these 600 stores is something totally new and fully in line with our determination to transform Best Buy.”

The retailer will also court online shoppers with the Windows Store via a dedicated e-commerce site, which will provide updates on store locations, promotions and other information, including joint marketing efforts throughout the year. Best Buy will roll out the Windows Store between late June and September.

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