TECHNOLOGY

Macy’s, Kohl’s merging offline and online experiences

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Unified commerce has become the holy grail of retail as companies embark on the next-generation of the store environment — one that drives a top-notch, frictionless, non-frustrating and valuable customer experience.

The first step in this journey is to embrace their omnichannel retailing strategy at store-level — then use it to drive a “unified commerce” experience. Going beyond just breaking down operational silos, unified commerce requires retailers to transform their organization, business processes and technology to align with the demands of their customers.

Here are how two retailers are going about it:

In Macy’s quest to reinvent their brick-and-mortar stores, unified commerce “will help get product into the shopper’s hands in the quickest, most cost-effective way possible,” Eileen Rizzo, senior VP, omnichannel process and systems, Macy’s, said at the recent NRF convention & Expo in New York City. “The focus can no longer be a simple profit and loss [P&L] equation.”

For Macy’s, mobility was the catalyst to merging the online and offline experiences. Once a shopper downloads the app, the chain has immediate access to her history, and can target her via beacons positioned throughout various departments.

“This allows us to stay aware of her presence and engage with her throughout her store-level visit,” Rizzo added.

Kohl’s is taking a different approach, and focusing on seamlessly continuing the Web-based experience at store-level. This required the chain to gain a better “understanding of our customers’ needs,” Ratnakar Lavu, Kohl’s chief technology officer, said at the convention.

“This insight allows us to transfer the focus onto the customer, and provide the right experience end-to-end,” Lavu added.

To get the ball rolling, Kohl’s, like Macy’s, also leverages the value of its mobile app to engage shoppers when they walk into the store. Then a life-sized kiosk provides a digital “endless aisle” of merchandise.

The kiosk “enables shoppers to find product that may not be available in-store,” Lavu said. “The device lets them order and check out, and choose how to receive their product — at home or picked up in-store — in one, non-complicated transaction.”

The cornerstone of this evolution was a new Wi-Fi upgrade. What started as a 150-store pilot has become the backbone that will support the ongoing customer experience.

“It will allow us to know where our mobile shopper moves throughout the store, and even drive navigation on her app to help her find product during her visit,” Lavu explained.

“We continue to expand the infrastructure and integrate it within our digital displays, associate tools, and customer-facing mobility,” he added. “It enables us to use data in a new way, and create a compelling experience for our shopper.”

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