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Visual data changes the execution game

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When it comes to managing the execution of promotional campaigns, image-based platforms are taking strategies to a new level.

An industry known for being data-heavy, retail is inundated with a constant flow of product and customer information passing between retailers and supplier partners. However, disparate operations continue to take a toll on trade promotions.

Some brands continue to manage information through email exchanges and text messages. Other companies use even more cumbersome processes as they continue to physically input data archived on paper-based spreadsheets. It’s clear that such legacy systems are not up to the demands of real-time retailing.

“Whether you are writing information with a pen and paper, or emailing data to create a PowerPoint, that takes a ton of time out of the day, and kills a return on investment,” said Chris Kampfe, VP of marketing, GoSpotCheck. “Companies need to spend less time on managing data and focus on higher value activities. By streamlining campaign execution, retailers will also get paid faster from supplier partners.”

Data gets visual — and centralized
The solution for many companies is adopting a standardized platform that manages structured data, such as currency, numbers, names, dates and addresses filtered through point-of-sale solutions, customer relationship management systems, and other mission-critical applications, as well as unstructured data, such as metadata and audio and video files. GoSpotCheck offers a 360º solution that can streamline execution and drive ROI.

In this first-of-its-kind platform, a mobile app is complemented by a web-based dashboard that acts as central repository of all data.

Now, as users create an end-cap display, for example, all data — from pricing values to product images — is aggregated in a centralized location.

“Viewing photos and data are a big part of execution,” he explained. “From a reporting standpoint, the images not only help retailers meet metrics, they also keep stores in compliance of what the campaign should look like and account for all steps that need to be completed. The tools also give a way for users to follow up on tasks ASAP.”

The platform in action: a retail case study
One retailer that is using the technology successfully is Crocs. Like many companies, Crocs collected data using a time-consuming process that included paper documentation, electronic conversion, and digital organization across multiple organizational teams. Data was recorded using Excel, but the information was not in a shareable or digestible format.

“There was also no way to attach digital pictures to paper which severely limited comprehensive analysis,” said Samantha Rice, director of retail operations at Crocs.

In search of a field team management solution that could increase general accountability for both individual team members and within retail stores, Crocs turned to GoSpotCheck’s survey solution, called Missions. Optional and mandatory survey fields were important for the retailer to differentiate between secondary and high-priority tasks.

Missions helped Crocs gather detailed information through pictures and a variety of task types, including multiple choice and conditional questioning. GoSpotCheck’s picture upload capabilities and related photo management made it simple to pair the numerical data with imagery.

“GoSpotCheck gives us an easier way to track presentation standards in the stores, while aggregating collected data for us to examine from a manager and leadership perspective,” Rice explained.

Using the mobile and online reporting dashboard combination empowers district managers to hold stores to brand goals at the enterprise level. Meanwhile, customizable charts and graphs keep teams accountable when examining retail execution and tracking activity. Filterable reporting tiles help Crocs discover actionable data quickly and easily.

“I can see what stores are visited and by what teams, the time between the previous visit, and the length of time each team spends in each store,” Rice said. “I have everything at my fingertips to bring clarity to the whole chain.”

Since rolling out GoSpotCheck, the company has improved the consistency of when and how visits are conducted, giving leadership in the corporate office “better visibility into store visits,” she added.

Crocs’ story illustrates the early benefits of image-based reporting, but new gains are on the horizon, including the transition to optical recognition. As a user snaps a picture of a display, for example, this data can be merged with a POS transaction log to ensure planograms and product movement is in compliance, creating “a truly automated process,” Kampfe said.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Majority of retailers can’t view their customers cross-channel

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

All retailers strive to provide connected customer experiences at store-level, yet efforts still miss the mark.

This was according to “Technologies That Are Changing How We Think of Brick & Mortar,” a report from Kibo. The report is based on responses from 115 retail executives.

According to the data, 64% of retailers feel they are only somewhat effective at capturing in-store data on customer preferences. Worse, less than half of respondents (42%) have in-store technologies to view customer information across all of their touchpoints — in-store, as well as among their digital channels.

These capabilities are paramount however, as the role of the physical store is evolving, as brick-and-mortar locations transition into a showroom, storefront and a fulfillment hub — all in one location. That means there is new emphasis on creating an omnichannel brand experience, and providing convenience to customers with the option to buy online and pick up in-store, or return a digital purchase to the store. Retailers are testing new programs and strategies that connect customer data to inventories in pursuit of stronger personalization and more diverse and accurate fulfillment programs.

In fact, personalization stands out as a major initiative, with 52% of retailer responses indicating they are planning to invest in it within the next 12 months or are already implementing this strategy. How-ever, nearly a quarter of retailers (22%) have a long road ahead as they have not yet begun to personalize, or aren’t sure if they even have that capability.

Inventory and fulfillment also remains a struggle as 41% of retailers lack trust in inventory accuracy or don’t have visibility. Meanwhile, only 17% have full enterprise-wide inventory visibility.

Many companies are also challenged by how to offer a variety of ful-fillment options — and their reasons for not offering a fulfillment choice vary. “My organization is not ready to implement” was cited as the leading reason for not offering “save the sale (44%) and in-store pickup (41%). “My technology won’t support it” was cited as the leading reason for not offering ship-from-store (42%).

On a positive note, in-store mobile technology commitments are on the rise, as 41% of retailers utilize mobile point-of-sale, and 76% have used displays or kiosks.

“It’s clear that retailers are still working through many technology and organizational challenges to address major omnichannel initia-tives,” said Tushar Patel, chief marketing officer, Kibo.

“Inventory visibility, personalization, cross-channel customer data and exploiting in-store mobile technologies are the key pillars in providing connected customer experiences in the store,” Patel said. “Retailers that enable themselves with the right technology and strategies in place can transform their brick-and-mortar stores into major brand assets in a time of digital ascendancy.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Staples skips Thanksgiving — again

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Once again, Staples will be closed for Thanksgiving.

Bucking the Black Thursday trend once again, Stapes will close its stores this year on Thanksgiving in order to give customers, employees and their families time to enjoy the holiday. Stores will reopen on Black Friday at 7 a.m. in a majority of locations, according to Staples.

“We know that the holidays are a special time for creating memories with loved ones and at Staples we want to ensure that on Thanksgiving Day our customers and associates are able to do so,” says Steve Matyas, CEO, Staples Retail. “For customers looking to relax while shopping from home on Thanksgiving Day, we’re proud to offer a wide range of convenient and flexible shopping options with amazing deals on Staples.com.”

When stores re-open on Friday, Nov. 24, customers can take advantage of different services to complete their holiday shopping. These include the company’s buy online and pick up in store option, as well as Staples’ in-store pack and ship service, a program that helps customers pack and ship merchandise via UPS. Free next-day online shipping is also available to shoppers who spend $49.99 or more. (Orders must be placed by 5 p.m. local time, excluding weekends and holidays.)

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