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Slam Dunk

BY Dan Berthiaume

Athletic footwear retailer The Finish Line offers a highly seasonal assortment. When spring products started coming in from the company’s brand partners in January 2014, the chain decided to build upon its ongoing omnichannel strategy to create an experience to help boost spring customer traffic and sales.

Looking at spring athletic events that would appeal to young male consumers, Finish Line decided that the “March Madness” NCAA college basketball tournament was an ideal choice, one with built-in appeal to a big segment of the company’s customer base.

“We took a holistic approach to our ‘March Madness’ product assortment,” said Danielle Quatrochi, VP digital for Finish Line, Indianapolis, which operates approximately 880 U.S. stores, including more than 220 branded in-store shops in Macy’s locations nationwide. “It’s not just about basketball, but a cultural opportunity. It’s about supporting your team.”

Finish Line had an internal brainstorming session with the site experience and creative teams that resulted in the creation of a brief that aligned with the product assortment. The strategy focused on consumers shopping by team colors to support their school with a broader marketing message across all relevant channels.

“Customers shop both the mobile and in-store channels, as well as through social media and paid search,” explained Quatrochi. “It was an opportunity to use timely and relevant marketing across all channels. We started with direct mail, notifying customers we would do something exciting related to the upcoming tournament. We followed up with emails, social media engagement and online promotion.”

Keeping up with the times (and teams)

Once the teams that would be participating in the tournament were announced in March, Finish Line supported customer engagement by using the bracket challenge tool from ESPN.com to create a pool with a chance to win gift cards. Finish Line also sent geo-targeted emails based on regional school affiliations.

“We delivered real-time social media promotion before and after each game,” Quatrochi said. “We had a blog with articles around different results and sent out promoted posts on Twitter and Instagram celebrating both teams in each game. We also used promotional in-store signage and briefed sales associates about the games affecting the stores in their area. We reached across every customer touchpoint.”

Finish Line used a variety of technology solutions to support this multi-faceted, omnichannel promotional approach. The retailer bases its online operations on an Oracle ATG e-commerce platform and an in-house-developed content management system.

In addition, Finish Line also employed the Smarter Remarketer email tool to help deliver targeted, personalized communications to specific customer segments. In addition, the company used the Shoutlet social media marketing application to plan content for various social media platforms and schedule posts that worked in conjunction with its real-time social posts. Other solutions included Google sitelink extensions and paid Facebook advertisements.

At the conclusion of March Madness, Finish Line found it had outpaced expectations for sell-through for NCAA-licensed merchandise and team color assortments. Site traffic to Finish Line’s college basketball team merchandise pages more than doubled, and total engagement on the company’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages increased. Results were impressive enough for Finish Line to continue extending the targeted, event-specific, omnichannel approach.

“We rolled out a similar strategy with the NBA Finals, using similar applications to what we used for March Madness,” Quatrochi said.

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Checking it Out

BY Dan Berthiaume

Cameras at the point of sale have become a routine feature of brick-and-mortar stores. They help ensure that items do not get stolen or accidentally passed through checkout lines without being scanned. But the “tale of the tape” by itself is not always obvious when it comes to detecting and preventing loss at the POS.

“I’ve been a cashier, so I know a cashier can miss something,” said Doug Haworth, director of loss prevention, Woods Supermarket. The Bolivar, Missouri-based independent chain, which operates nine supermarkets and two convenience stores, has an honesty and integrity program for all cashiers. Even so, when Haworth saw a demonstration of the ScanItAll computer vision solution from Stoplift Checkout Vision Systems at an industry conference in the first quarter of 2011, it caught his interest.

Driven to Distraction

Woods Supermarket tested the ScanItAll server in one store, connecting it to the existing POS camera system. It started getting results almost immediately. The system uses mathematical algorithms to analyze video of cashiers handling items at a pixelated level, detecting motions that indicate an item was not properly scanned, such as covering a bar code with a hand. It also analyzes items in a grocery cart, including hard-to-see areas such as underneath the carriage, to see if they have been scanned.

In the first 10 days of the pilot, the retailer detected 40 items that had not been scanned and would not have been detected through cameras alone.

“There was no ‘sweethearting’ [employees purposely not scanning items] or customer theft,” said Haworth. “Cashiers were distracted talking to customers and ran items, not noticing whether or not they beeped, or the bagger would be in ‘bagging’ mode and grab whatever items were on the conveyor belt and put them right in the bag before they could be scanned.”

Success Breeds Success

After running the initial pilot for 30 days, Woods had already saved a significant amount of money in recovered losses at the POS, and decided to implement a full rollout across the chain.

“We got the most hits in the first three months of installing ScanItAll in a store,” said Haworth. “Newer cashiers didn’t realize they had to slow down and look at the register. We calculated that we would achieve ROI within two months of implementation.”

As part of the solution, Woods also has a secure Web 2.0 interface running a live feed from its NCR Advanced Checkout Solution POS server to a remotely hosted video analytics platform that matches up the number of items detected passing through the checkout area to the number of items that have been scanned. Woods can obtain store-level performance reports and also view checkout video and receipt data, broken down by individual incidents at individual stores.

Since the initial rollout, Woods Supermarket has compared the data it gets from ScanItAll with data from its existing Shrink Trax POS exception reporting tool. And in the one store where the retailer runs a self-checkout terminal, it has implemented StopLift Self Checkout Accelerator that is designed to immediately flag unscanned merchandise and alert the attendant.

“We had eight cases in the past year where customers were caught not ringing an item up,” said Haworth. “If they showed intent, we called the cops.”

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Bridging the Divide

BY Marianne Wilson

Personalization, localization, interaction, “limited edition” retail and store experience. These are the top priorities — to varying degrees — for retailers as they look to bridge the divide between online and offline retail in the physical space. Here’s a look at how it plays out in three new stores:

Oakley: Sport lifestyle brand Oakley describes its new flagship on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue as a “disruptive display of science wrapped in art.” From its tectonic-plated exterior to its floating digital ceiling, the store entices customers with a dazzling combination of technological innovation, customization and iconic design.

The interior mixes the old with the new, preserving the 1906 building’s original brickwork, while adding a state-of-the-art digital ceiling. The installation — nine rows of 27 LCD screens suspended in fragment forms across the entire length of the ceiling — wraps progressively downward and helps draw shoppers in from outside. The content includes branded storytelling, art pieces, animations and footage of Oakley athletes. It is divided into four segments that run in alternating patterns and rhythms according to store hours and outside activity.

With some 2,100 sq. ft. of retail space, the flagship offers a full range of Oakley’s eyewear, along with apparel, watches, accessories and more. It includes a custom eyewear bar, where customers, aided by touchscreens, can choose from more than 20 different lens tints and 28 frames to build their own eyewear, with nearly 600 combinations possible. Customers can also custom-etch their lenses with personalized inscriptions and logos.

The store also houses Oakley’s new Rx center, which is being rolled out in Oakley locations across the country. Using advanced digital equipment that Oakley helped develop, certified opticians fit customers in Oakley eyewear with optimal fit and clarity.

(Store concept design: Oakley, Foothill Ranch, California; Ceiling installation: Moment Factory, Outremont, Quebec, in collaboration with SITU Fabrication, Brooklyn, New York; and Fulkra, Los Angeles)

Urban Outfitters: Space Ninety 8, a new concept from Urban Outfitters, prioritizes the store experience, offering fashion, food and other lifestyle elements in a one-of-a-kind environment designed to connect with the local community. Located in a renovated warehouse in the hipster Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the 38,000-sq.-ft., multi-level space has an industrial look, complete with exposed ceilings and brick walls — and lots of boho-chic accents. From DJ parties to temporary installations (most recently, a bicycle-repair solutions vending machine tailored to the needs of urban cyclists), the store offers a changing lineup of activities and displays designed to keep the store experience fresh and new — and keep customers coming back.

From the bottom up, Space Ninety 8 has local appeal. The basement level is dedicated to a pop-up — Adidas Originals is the inaugural tenant — and is accented with colorful, bold prints (the work of a local artist).

The ground floor has a market area, a dedicated space that showcases goods from local designers and artisans, all of whom have created goods exclusive to the store. The floor also houses a vintage shop called Urban Renewal, a funky shoe boutique, and two in-store shops, or smaller pop-ups.

The second floor features Urban Outfitter’s womenswear collections, accessories, beauty products and home goods. The third floor houses the brand’s menswear collections, along with a curated selection of books and music. There is also a seating area and an iPhone charging station.

A short staircase in the men’s area leads to a bar area, and up from that is the New York outpost of the trendy Los Angeles eatery, The Gorbals. There is an outdoor extension of the restaurant and bar on the rooftop, along with scenic views of Manhattan and a flower shop.

Time Warner Cable: Sleek and technology-driven, the first-ever flagship of Time Warner Cable, in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, invites customers to immerse themselves in the company’s diverse offerings. The 14,000-sq.-ft. store features an open floor plan where customers can jump from TV to laptop to oversized-wall-mounted-tablet to experience and interact with the latest in home entertainment.

Touchscreen monitors and hands-on demo stations are located throughout the store, along with multiple-screen video walls and smaller signage tablets that highlight offerings. The showpiece of the space is a giant, 90-in. custom-built tablet that works like a real mobile device.

The modern, digitally savvy vibe is balanced with warm accents. A cozy living-room vignette showcases a digital fireplace as part of a smart security and home-management experience. And the comfortable seating encourages customers to linger.

Time Warner Cable plans to roll out refreshed prototypes based on the flagship design to hundreds more stores across its footprint.

(Design: Fame, Minneapolis; Digital installations: Reality Interactive, Middletown, Connecticut)

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