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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TECHNOLOGY

Women’s specialty chain lowers Q3 guidance

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As product and marketing issues continue to take their tolls on sales, J.Jill is adjusting its quarterly expectations.

For the third quarter ending on Oct. 28, the mall-based women’s specialty chain now expects to report total company comparable sales of -3% to -5%, with a moderate decline in gross margin as compared to last year. The company also now expects GAAP diluted EPS of $0.07 to $0.09, and adjusted diluted EPS of $0.08 to $0.10 for the quarter. This excludes approximately $0.6 million of non-recurring expenses associated with the retailer’s transition to a public company.

“We have experienced a lower than expected sales trend across both our retail and direct channels, and are updating our guidance for the quarter,” said Paula Bennett, president and CEO of J.Jill.

“We have been assessing the change in trend and have identified product and marketing calendar issues that are affecting traffic and conversion, and we are reacting quickly,” she added. “Given our long track record of consistent sales and earnings growth driven by a strong connection with our customers, we are very disappointed with our soft sales trend. I am confident in the actions we are taking to regain momentum and once again delight our customer with the product and service experience she expects from us.”

The company will provide its outlook for the fourth quarter and a revised outlook for the full fiscal year of 2017 when it reports third quarter results on Dec. 5.

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