TECHNOLOGY

BRP: Most retailers plan to have unified commerce within three years

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

More and more companies are pushing unified commerce strategies to the top of their “to-do” lists.

According to Boston Retail Partners’ “2018 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey,” 81% plan to have unified commerce within three years — a move that will help them evolve the customer journey —and associated expectations.

Disruption and adaptation are changing the customer engagement model and blurring the lines among retailers, brands and wholesalers. To stay relevant in this ever-changing landscape, retailers need a different technology approach to enable the new customer experience and support its rapid evolution requires.

According to the study, unified commerce is the key to this retail transformation. Critical to a successful unified commerce strategy are four key pillars that will define the required customer experience. These include:

Personal – Engaging the customer through personalization and relevance is the key to attracting and keeping customers. For 62% of retailers, indicate customer identification is their top customer engagement priority. Meanwhile, 83% will suggestive sell based on previous purchases within three years.

Mobile – The pervasiveness and ease-of-use of mobile devices offers tremendous opportunities for retailers as the customer takes control of their own retail experience across channels. This potential is pushing 62% of companies to increase their use of mobile devices as the POS by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, 42% will use customer-owned mobile devices as a point-of-sale within three years.

Seamless – Customer expectations for a personalized and seamless experience require retailers to follow customers’ journeys across channels as they research, shop and purchase. In line with this trend, 81% of retailers plan to offer unified commerce by the end of 2020, and 91% plan to offer order visibility across channels within three years

Secure – Today’s retail environment requires security beyond retailers’ current focus on payments and networks. Thus, 91% will have end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by the end of 2020, and 61% will offer a single token solution across the enterprise within three years, according to the study.

“Retail and customer engagement models must transform,” said Brian Brunk, principal at BRP.

“However, the legacy retail applications and infrastructure still in place at many retail organizations are not properly equipped to support changing retail models and continuously evolving customer expectations,” he added. “To meet the demands of their customer, the retail winners in 2018 and beyond need to accelerate the transformation to cloud-based unified commerce. Victory belongs to the agile.”

 

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TECHNOLOGY

IHL: Automated solutions can reduce retailers’ cash-handling costs

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Cash may be king, but it can also boost retailers operating expenses if it’s not handled correctly.

That’s according to a report from IHL Group and APG Cash Drawer, which found that cash transactions incurred costs from 4% to 15%, depending on the retail segment. Cash accounted for 41.2 billion transactions in 2017, or about one-third of all transactions.

According to the study, “Cash Multipliers: How Reducing Cash Handling Can Enable Retail Sales and Profit Growth,” up to 71% of cash-related costs are the result of front-of-the-store activities, such replenishing change at tills and closing out drawers at the end of a shift.

Retailers don’t know their true costs of managing cash because the process involves multiple components and operating units, making it difficult to keep track of all associated tasks, the report stated. Costs include tasks related to drawer starts, rebuilds and closings, transporting cash to banks, and bank fees.

The study recommends that retailers look into cutting their cash-handling costs to keep a lid on expenses and compete with more agile market leaders. The report urges merchants to consider automated solutions, including automated cash management systems, smart safes, cash recycling solutions at checkout lanes. Such options can reduce retailers’ cash-related expenses between 15% and 80%, according to the study.

“Today’s retailers are focused on improving the customer experience, but their efforts are hampered by time-consuming manual tasks, such as topping up cash drawers, delivering change to checkouts and doing back office cash counts,” said Greg Buzek, president, IHL Group. “Staff time that should be dedicated to the customer experience is instead spent on these tasks. That’s why it’s critical to bring down cash-handling costs.”

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The newest delivery service: a self-driving ‘bodega-on-wheels’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Grocery chains will soon have a new way to get fresh produce into the hands of its time-starved shoppers.

Startup Robomart introduced a self-driving, nearly fully autonomous grocery store on wheels. The rolling robot is designed to bring fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items from the supermarket aisle to customers’ doors, according to Business Insider.

The concept relies on a Sprinter van-sized delivery vehicle that is refrigerated, and features multiple shelves that will be used to display various types of produce, Business Insider revealed. (It can also be designed with a heating system.)

The rolling robot is outfitted with LiDAR — a detection system that uses radar, and light from a laser, cameras, a motion control system, and route planning and obstacle avoidance software. The vehicle can cover an estimated 80-mile range at 25 miles per hour. They are also equipped with the a wireless charging system, according to Engadget.

Here’s how it works: Shoppers use an app to “order” the vehicle — a concept similar to a ride sharing service. Once it arrives at their home, the shopper unlocks and opens the vehicle’s door, then makes their selection. A proprietary “grab and go” checkout system tracks which products are removed from the vehicle, then automatically bills the shopper’s account and generates an online receipt, Engadget explained.

The concept, which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, is expected to begin cruising neighborhoods in the Bay Area during a pilot program this summer, the report added.

Robomart founder Ali Ahmed, expects the concept to appeal to a collective of local stores that could use the vehicle to compete with big-box retailers. It also could appeal to wholesalers eager to directly connect with consumers, according to TechCrunch.

For now however, the vehicles could give on-demand delivery services, like those from Amazon, Instacart, and Postmates, a run for their money. Supermarket chains could license the platform and robots for a two-year lease — a much cheaper options than opening a new store, Business Insider added. Delivery fees also go into the retailer’s pocket, instead of sharing the revenue with an on-demand delivery partner.

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