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Small Retailers Make Big Moves

BY Dan Berthiaume

Every day, it seems there is news of another large retailer opening a tech innovation center, launching a new engagement channel, or otherwise making its mark as an IT innovator. But while the big guys get all the attention, a lot of smaller retailers are also doing some very interesting and innovative things with technology.

Here are three recent examples of small retailers launching large initiatives in technology innovation:

Poler Outdoor Stuff activates Instagram indoors


Poler Outdoor Stuff, a Portland, Oregon-based specialty outdoor retailer that operates an e-commerce site, as well as a flagship store, has been using Instagram for online promotions since launching four years ago. More recently, Poler has also been leveraging the promotional power of Instagram in its store.

“We play a feed of customer Instagram posts on in-store flat-screen TVs,” said Benji Wagner, creative director and co-founder of Poler. “We curate the most relevant and beautiful photos.”

Poler uses a social media engagement platform from Postano to curate specific posts from its Instagram feed. In addition to providing Poler with a live feed from its Instagram page, Postano also provides Poler with access to some social metrics.

“We can go in and see the impressions we are creating on Instagram,” said Wagner. “We can see how often our ‘campvibes’ hashtag is used (more than 500,000 times by 350,000 followers to date), who’s using it, and who our top influencers are.”

Knot Standard customizes IT and clothing


For specialty men’s apparel retailer Knot Standard Inc., custom fit is everything.

The New York-based omnichannel retailer, with seven showroom stores in the U.S. and Dubai, as well as a global e-commerce business, tailors clothing to its customers’ dimensions. This customized approach also fits its IT strategy.

“We built all our systems from scratch using PhP [development language],” explained Matthew Mueller, CEO and co-founder of Knot Standard. “There is no off-the-shelf technology.”

The retailer’s customized back end allows it to offer omnichannel services such as fitting and ordering online or at any store, with delivery to any global location. However, one of its most unique customized solutions is its online fitting application.

Customers who choose to be fitted online can enter measurements into the Knot Standard site, which allows the retailer to create a 3-D model of their body used on the backend to create the garment. Even in-store measurements are applied to develop a 3-D model on which the retailer bases apparel design.

Knot Standard also allows online customers to submit videos of themselves, or create models based on their measurements in one of 1,800 standard suits. The retailer is developing an application that will let shoppers take measurements with a smartphone camera in time for the holidays.

Swiss Farms takes intelligent enterprise approach


Broomall, Pennsylvania-based convenience retailer Swiss Farms Stores operates 13 stores on a drive-through model. To help ensure it can continue to function smoothly as it undergoes planned store expansion, Swiss Farms has pervasively deployed the Decision Suite business intelligence platform from Targit.

“Every department uses Targit to manage operations and reporting,” said Chris Grey, IT manager of Swiss Farms. “It delivers dashboards to the executives and manages the delivery fleet logistics system.”

Targit automatically generates reports that used to be handled via manual spreadsheet, including customer calls or e-commerce inquiries. The system integrates well into Swiss Farms’ Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP platform.

More recently, the retailer has been using Targit to gain better social media insight.

“We started getting reports on our Twitter and Facebook presence,” said Grey. “We see things like retweet penetration and what goes viral. On Facebook, we’re just starting to look. There is a lot of data available.”

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