millennials
TECHNOLOGY

Strategic Omnichannel Makeover for Winning Over Millennials

BY CSA STAFF

Millennials are the nation’s largest living generation — 75.4 million vs. 74.9 million baby-boomers per the 2016 census — and a purchasing powerhouse poised to explode. Because technology is at the epicenter of everything millennials do — how they communicate, socialize and shop — this first generation of digital natives has outstripped most retailers’ ability to engage with them. Modern retailing is at a critical crossroads, having to reconcile this unprecedented demographic shift with an across-the-board change in how technology is used within the shopping experience.

These seismic demographic and technological phenomena are reshaping omnichannel retailing and redefining success. Retailers must meet millennials’ demand for technology that drives convenience and immediate fulfillment without sacrificing engagement that’s integral to boomers’ customer service needs. Dovetailing with these prerequisites, brick-and-mortar stores are projected to account for 85% of purchases as far out as 2025 (Forrester Research), while half of all mobile product sales already combine in-store purchases with online research.

To create an empowered, untethered shopping experience that attracts millennials and wins their loyalty, and provides boomer-valued customer service, retailers should look to the store’s point-of-sale (POS) system as the natural hub of cross-channel interaction.

A service-oriented strategy that delivers full POS capabilities to any device (the true promise of omnichannel) is the linchpin for a seamless experience and uninterrupted engagement, including:

• Purchase, return, service

• Promotions, adjustments, discounts

• Any form of payment (cash, credit card, gift card, etc.)

• One view of all real-time data (products, pricing, promotions, etc.)

• Associate engagement tailored by device (mobile phone, tablet, wearable)

Integrating POS and order management for demand forecasting

To honor the millennial mantra — “I want it where I want it and when I want it” — retailers must expand their inventory management capabilities from simply reacting to changing product demand with allocation and replenishment to truly mastering product demand.

Achieving this precise, broader level of product availability requires more accurate demand forecasting — not only knowing what products are bought, but also how they are purchased — to determine:

• Where each shopper’s journey will begin and end;

• What product needs to be where and for what purpose — on the shelf or ready for click and collect; and

• Product availability for either immediate delivery or in-store pickup

Truly understanding how and when inventory is consumed requires a global view of real-time (near real-time is no longer good enough) inventory movement across the entire supply chain. This expansive, detailed view enables each store to act as a distribution center that supports efficient order fulfillment.

This new level of omnichannel fulfillment requires deft orchestration of inventory movement across the entire supply chain. Distributed order management (DOM) creates a customer-driven system that continuously reconfigures and allocates inventory based on real-time customer behavior (detailed POS transactions, including quantities purchased and returned by channel, location and method) rather than historical allocation.

Mastering Millennial Motivators

Millennials care a great deal about price, and price drives many of their purchase decisions in several categories, including specialty retail, appliances and electronics, and department stores. In fact, more than half of this tech savvy group compares prices using their mobile phone while in the store.

Social Media

However, the biggest influence on the path to purchase is word of mouth via social networks that are rife with reviews, recommendations and ratings. Think of it as today’s personalized version of Consumer Reports. Social media referrals are paramount, since as many as 71% of all consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a positive review, according to HubSpot. Plus, those brands that embrace social media are nearer and dearer to the hearts and minds of millennial shoppers.

Multiple Forms of Information

As far as information is concerned for millennials, overload is not part of their vocabulary. The more, the better. In addition to written narratives, retailers should take advantage of this group’s penchant for visuals (infographics, videos, slide shows, etc.) that convey product information (testimonials, applications, how-to installation and troubleshooting, etc.).

Innovation and Experimentation

Having used technology practically since birth, millennials are comfortable with change and adaptation. As a result, they embrace technological innovation, equate it with progress, and jump at the chance to simplify and streamline any and every part of their life. Therefore, they are predisposed to brands/retailers that offer them new paths to a more convenient shopping experience.

Molding a Millennial-Friendly Retail Enterprise

Fast-moving millennials are pushing retailers to quicken their pace of change. Keeping up to provide the capabilities necessary for consistently engaging millennials and delivering a satisfying shopping experience worthy of their loyalty is a challenge—one that points to the very nature of the retail enterprise.

Channel Unification

Unified commerce is the name of the omnichannel game for winning millennials, because this group of shoppers, more than any other, expects it. Their technological prowess enables them to nimbly move from device to device and from channel to channel at any given point on their shopping journey. And nothing less than an experience that keeps up with them will keep them coming back. It’s a tall order that retailers must fill with real-time and historical information shared among all channels.

Those who maintain channel siloes can’t provide a seamless shopping experience and are therefore failing to earn millennial loyalty.

Agile Change Adoption

The speed at which technological innovations are being thrust at retailers is so staggering that it’s no wonder many are confused (and often skeptical) about which ones will endure and truly pay off on the bottom line.

Technology providers must assist them in both deciphering the landscape and ensuring that solutions are well suited for achieving their clients’ strategic objectives. They must also help them create agile environments that can iteratively embrace the right technologies as they replace antiquated ones.

Summary

If retailers are investing in change to attract and garner a share of the millennial wallet, they should be considering these areas:

• Mobile commerce services/functions;

• Social media functions/analytics;

• Channel unification/seamless experience;

• Innovation and experimentation;

• Agile, adaptive enterprise; and

• Cutting-edge technology.


Lexy Johnson, OneView Commerce senior VP, global marketing & engagement, helps global retailers define and implement successful omnichannel strategies that drive a unified customer experience. OneView Commerce enables retailers to drive digital transformation by providing disruptive technologies that enable the exchange of vital information via digital point of sale, real-time inventory, and enterprise promotions.

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FINANCE

Report: Walgreens sets deadline for approval of Rite Aid deal

BY Michael Johnsen

The latest move by Walgreens Boots Alliance in its pursuit of the Rite Aid may be a bet that a Trump-appointed FTC chief will finally push the deal through.

Walgreens Boots Alliance will be looking to force approval of its proposed merger with Rite Aid through a declaration of “certified compliance” — a notification that a merger applicant believes it has supplied all the information regulators need to make a decision on the deal, The New York Post reported.

According to the report, Walgreens Boots Alliance has set a deadline for deal approval of roughly three months, or about one month in advance of the expiration of the current merger agreement of July 31.

"A key to Walgreens' decision to certify compliance with the second request would be the current makeup of the FTC," George Hill, research analyst for Deutsche Bank, noted. "The body normally has five board members to vote on these transactions. … Currently, three seats are vacant with the sitting commissioner being a Democrat [Terrell McSweeny] and the chairperson being a Republican [Maureen Olhausen]. According to expectations among the investment community, the Republican member is unlikely to vote against the deal, while the Democrat could oppose the deal, with the body's inability to come to a conclusion allowing the deal to proceed through the FTC's inaction."

"Specifically, Walgreens appears to be wagering that President Trump will install a deal-friendly commissioner to review the deal, insiders said,” according to the Post report.

The Post noted that sources close to Trump have said he is considering Utah attorney general Sean Reyes for the position.

The Walgreens-Rite Aid proposed merger was first announced in Oct. 2015. If the deal goes through, Fred’s Pharmacy would buy at least 865 divested Rite Aid stores.

To read the full report, click here.

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TECHNOLOGY

Furniture retailer terminates referral program with appliance partner

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Rent-A-Center is taking another step toward repositioning the company for profitability.

The furniture retailer’s Acceptance Now division is terminating its referral agreement with Conn’s Appliances. These accounts consistently underperformed compared to the rest of its ANow portfolio in terms of delinquencies, losses and product returns.

Besides being cash flow negative accounts, they produced higher-than-average volume of returns, which were generally absorbed by Rent-A-Center’s “core stores” located in those associated areas, an issue that adversely impact of inventory levels in these locations, according to the chain.

Conns’ credit policies were applied through its company-owned secondary financing operation — an issue that also impacted the underperformance and quality of ANow customer accounts originating from Conns stores.

ANow currently operates kiosk locations inside certain Conns stores. As a result of the non-renewal of the Referral Agreement, all 115 ANow kiosks will cease operations at the close of business on June 6. The ANow accounts that are currently under the Conns agreement will be merged into and managed by existing ANow or core U.S. locations.

“We recently announced a number of strategic initiatives to move our business forward and reposition Rent-A-Center and Acceptance Now for long-term growth and profitability,” said Mark Speese, Rent-A-Center’s interim CEO.

“This decision advances our goal as we determined it was no longer in the best interests of the company and our stakeholders to renew the agreement as we focus on optimizing and growing the Acceptance Now business,” he added. “We expect these closures will result in an immediate improvement in cash flow in the ANow business beginning in June, and an improvement in ANow’s return on investment for the remainder of 2017. We thank Conns for their partnership and wish them well in the future.”

Going forward, Rent-A-Center remains focused on optimizing and growing the ANow business, and does not expect to terminate any other existing retail partnerships, according to the company.

“Our Acceptance Now stores have consistently delivered best-in-class volume per unit, with our manned model driving five to ten times the volume of approvals than any other model in this space,” Speese said. “We remain committed to working with our current and future partners where the ANow RTO alternative provides a win for the customers, our partners and for the company.”

The termination of the referral agreement comes on the heels of Rent-A-Center’s adoption of a poison pill earlier this week. This is a shareholder rights plan that will protect the retailer from an investor seeking to buy a 15% or higher stake in the company.

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