Century 21 Debuts Mobile POS At NYC Flagship

Century 21 has deployed a mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solution at its flagship store in downtown NYC, and plans to roll it out to all 13 locations this year. The Mad Mobile Concierge Mobile POS solution enables Century 21 store associates to quickly support pop-up events and to supplement traditional POS stations during peak shopping hours. It came in handy earlier in July, when associates were able to respond to a rainstorm by setting up mPOS stations at each main entrance with stands selling umbrellas.

"After reviewing multiple technology solutions, we picked Mad Mobile because of their proven ability to quickly integrate with our point-of-sale and other key systems required to launch mPOS and clienteling," said Larry Mentzer, Chief Revenue Officer, Executive Director of Stores at Century 21 in a statement. "Concierge has already made an immediate impact at C21. Store associates are thrilled to offer the convenience of mobile checkout to our customers and everyone is delighted by the mPOS experience. The mobile transaction numbers have far exceeded our expectations."

Original Article: https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/news-briefs/century-21-debuts-mobile-pos-at-nyc-flagship

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Century 21 Department Stores Launches Mad Mobile's Concierge Solution

C21 Empowers Store Associates with Mobile POS

TAMPA, Fla., July 17, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Mad Mobile, the recognized in-store mobile leader, announced today the launch of its Concierge Mobile POS solution at Century 21 Department Stores. A NYC icon for more than 55 years, Century 21 stores is legendary for its exceptional offering of designer brands at amazing prices. Century 21 is a leader in high-end, off-price fashion retail. C21 launched Concierge on iOS devices at its flagship store in Downtown NYC this month and will roll out Concierge with MPOS and clienteling capabilities to all 13 of its department stores in 2018.

"After reviewing multiple technology solutions, we picked Mad Mobile because of their proven ability to quickly integrate with our point-of-sale and other key systems required to launch MPOS and clienteling," said Larry Mentzer, Chief Revenue Officer-Executive Director of Stores. "Concierge has already made an immediate impact at C21. Store associates are thrilled to offer the convenience of mobile checkout to our customers and everyone is delighted by the MPOS experience. The mobile transaction numbers have far exceeded our expectations."

Mad Mobile's Concierge solution for store associates also gives C21 the flexibility to quickly provision additional MPOS devices for peak shopping hours or to support pop-up events such as fashion shows. When it was pouring rain in NYC last week, the downtown store responded by setting up MPOS stations at each main entrance with big stands selling umbrellas. C21 associates were cycling customers in and out in just a couple minutes.

"We are excited to work with the Century 21 team to empower their store associates with mobile capabilities," said Mad Mobile CEO Bruce Bennett. "C21 joins our fast-growing list of major retailers who have deployed Concierge to enhance the shopping experience at their stores and boost sales."

Original Post: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/century-21-department-stores-launches-mad-mobiles-concierge-solution-300681989.html

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Brick-and-mortar retail's most important renovation: The workforce

Want a look at the future of brick-and-mortar retail? Stop by your local REI store.

There you will find associates who are passionate about the outdoors, who have used the gear the store offers and can tell you exactly what you need for your next skiing holiday or camping trip and exactly how to use it. Their employer picks up the tab for field trips and supplemental training, treats associates with respect, and pays them a living wage that signals management’s high regard for its workers and what they have to offer. No wonder those associates are so excited to get to work in the morning.

Image of Man at Walmart

Operators of physical retail outlets might want to take notes on what REI is doing and apply its lessons to their own stores. Rather than devoting all their time and resources to building out their online capabilities and squeezing out costs, they might consider redirecting some of their focus to improving the physical retail experience for their customers and associates. Like REI, they could invest not just in capital projects, but in people with relevant expertise.

As consumer experiences evolve, so do the long-established rules of retail. For example, many retailers today continue to maintain roughly 80% of inventory in basics or items that consumers purchase on a consistent basis. The other 20% are the special, unique or limited-edition items – the things that can surprise and delight shoppers. But the 80/20 rule of the future looks much different. As technology advances and consumer expectations evolve, expect 80% of goods to be acquired autonomously. Consumers are already embracing the outsourcing of many retail experiences to analytics and smart devices — handing over the automation of hunting, negotiating, purchasing and delivering goods. Hitting 80% in the near future is not much of a stretch.

The other 20% is where consumers will expect to have fun with their shopping and purchases. These are the items they choose to be highly involved in acquiring, and their experience expectations will be off the charts. The new role of the store will be to enable these experiences through high-touch human interactions, made possible by passionate and knowledgeable associates.

For most senior retail executives, gearing up for the future of brick-and-mortar and the new 80/20 rule means venturing deep into unfamiliar territory. It means understanding why, in a world where just about any product or service is instantly available online, shoppers would bother to visit a physical location. It means recognizing that shoppers would make the trip because they need something more than what they find in the digital world: face-to-face contact, empathy and deep expertise. Whether they want to figure out how to hook up a smart home, what dress to wear to a formal dinner, or what to pack for that dream wilderness vacation, they want to talk to someone who can offer them more knowledge and personal understanding than they can find with a quick online search.

That sort of high-value, high-touch interaction just isn’t available at stores that treat their associates as fungible commodities and their stores as product-fulfillment centers.

Original Post: https://www.retaildive.com/news/brick-and-mortar-retails-most-important-renovation-the-workforce/525065/

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11 Things Retailers Just Said About The Future Of The Store

Last week I attended the Future Store event in Seattle. I had the privilege of attending the very first one, in a small conference room in Dallas, and it was very gratifying to see it occupying a ball room and some breakout rooms this year.

Influencers in the industry, including myself, have a lot to say about the future of the store. So I thought you might be interested to hear what retailers themselves have to say. Here are the top takeaways from the event.

(Note: quotes are approximate. I was more focused on capturing the intent than word-for-word. Any misquoting was not intentional.)

1. Customer experience is not an initiative. It’s a mindset change. – Ruth Crowley, VP Customer Experience Design, Lowe’s

What customers expect is constantly evolving, so to say that you can meet their expectations with “a project” is laughable. Lots of retailers talk the talk of putting the customer at the center of the enterprise, but then have marketing report in to merchandising, or underfund customer data initiatives in favor of more investments in supply chain.

What Crowley did not say, that I will add, is that this mindset change has to start from the top. And it has to come with some real self-examination, because a lot of times, what gets in the way of a good customer experience is the company’s own policies or systems. “I can’t help you because the system won’t let me” is not putting the customer at the center. Retail executives need to empower their employees to do right by customers, so that they can overcome the internal barriers that already exist while retailers struggle to tear those barriers down.

2. “Omnichannel” as a term is dead. – Many, many speakers.

I can’t attribute this quote to any one retailer, but there seemed to be general agreement among attendees that the term “omnichannel” is dead.

I have mixed feelings about this, myself. I get that while “omnichannel” promises a way of engaging with the consumer, the reality of that engagement can be ugly behind the scenes. And that it’s important to distinguish between the ugly reality of how omnichannel may be delivered today vs. the seamless, unified experience that everyone wants and which should be on retailers’ roadmaps for the near future.

But I also get that it’s hard enough to get a lot of organizations to accept and embrace the need to be omnichannel – and all that this entails to deliver on omnichannel promises behind the scenes. I sometimes encounter a sense of weariness when this topic comes up: “Really? We’re moving on from omnichannel now? Already?” Trying to kill the name can sometimes hurt the cause more than it helps it.

So it was interesting to see so many people agree that the term “omnichannel” should be killed. The most common reason given was that consumers don’t really know the term or care about it – “They don’t care if a retailer is omnichannel or not. They just want to engage with the retailer how they want to engage.” While that may be true, and while retailers should be customer-centric in how they approach their strategies, that doesn’t mean they can’t call all of the activities they’re doing to meet customer expectations a term that consumers don’t really use. Consumers don’t really care about retailers’ supply chains either, but I don’t see people trying to kill that term.

In the end, I don’t think it really matters what we call it. We have to promise customers frictionless engagement on their terms, and we have to deliver on that promise. If you want to call that seamless commerce or unified commerce or purple unicorn tears, consumers aren’t going to care. They’ll only care if you mean it, or if you miss it.

3. Everyone understands that there is no such thing as a 100% hit rate for products. So why do we expect a 100% hit rate for IT projects? – Courtney Graybill, VP Customer Experience & Product Management, David’s Bridal

I loved this analogy, and it’s one that I think retailers really need to take to heart. I’ve long held a theory about retailers, which I call my theory of competitive transparency. Retailers in general are pretty uncommunicative about their strategies, which is why I never envy the people who put on a conference like Future Store because it is notoriously difficult to get retailers to speak, and to get them to say anything of importance even when they do.

I find this unwillingness highly ironic, because you can pretty much shop a retailer’s store and digital properties and get a sense for what their strategy is, or at least how well they’re executing, even if you don’t know for sure what they’ve set out to promise consumers (something can always get lost between what was intended vs. what was actually brought to market). But the more a company’s strategy is on public display, the less willing they seem to want to talk about it. And retail is pretty much an extreme example of that.

With that kind of pressure, retailers have historically expected perfection, especially in a store context. It’s expensive to change stores, so you can’t do it all the time, and when you do make a change, you better get it right the first time so you don’t have to go back and do it again – which is more expense piled on top.

But, as Graybill points out, that expectation may no longer be realistic. Especially if retailers want to get faster to meet the speed of consumer expectations. If you’re seeking perfection, that’s a race you’ll never win.

4. Consumer apps don’t have a roadmap. Facebook doesn’t notify us all that a big change is coming, it’s just there. And that’s clearly not how we manage our stores, or how we deliver customer or employee experiences. – Marc Jamieson, Director, Store, Experience, Design, and Marketing, TELUS Communications

Along the same theme as Graybill at David’s Bridal, Marc Jamieson of TELUS expressed concern about retailers’ ability to keep up with consumer expectations. He’s right to compare consumer demands to what they have come to expect from a company like Facebook. Big consumer tech companies rarely get it right the first time, but they have built an expectation that they will be constantly evolving, and that the evolution will be consumer-friendly enough that no published roadmap or setting of expectations will be needed. People will see what’s new, and they’ll use it.

Sometimes new things work out great and are immediately adopted, and sometimes there is an enormous amount of pushback. If retailers can approach tech innovations from the perspective of “live and learn”, then they’ll have far more opportunities to evolve their customer experience than if they try for perfection the first time. But you have to design for consumer-friendly use, whether it’s consumers using the app or employees – and that, too, is a significant shift for retailers.

5. The store is moving closer and closer to technology. You can’t be effective on the business side if you don’t understand technology. – Srinivasan Rajamanickam, Senior Director, Technology, Strategy, and Innovation, Tapestry

Rajamanickam of Tapestry did a thing that no one else did at the event: he showed a technology diagram of the business, and it even had the words “API Gateway” on it.

More power to him. While the pendulum must swing, we have come from a place where IT had too much control to a place now where IT does not have enough. Another retailer, whom I will not name in the quote, said that they were implementing a council across business groups and IT in order to coordinate and prioritize IT investments across the business – and she said it like it was something revolutionary. In the meantime, I’m thinking to myself, “Isn’t this IT Governance 101? How has it gotten this bad?”

Retailers need to become digital businesses. Sometimes that statement gets interpreted to mean “Oh, you mean we have to become like Amazon”. No, not true. But you can’t be a successful retailer today of any size without technology, and the knowledge of how technology works and can potentially be used to enable the business can no longer live exclusively within the IT department of the retailer. Business users need to understand not just how what they have works, but how technology works in general. That can be a let down for someone who wanted to get into retail in order to buy beautiful things or just help customers, but that’s where we’re at as an industry. And cheers to Srini for standing up at a business conference and saying it.

6. You have to put new technology in stores. That’s just the reality. – Cedric Clark, VP, Operations, Sam’s Club

Along with Tapestry, Sam’s Club’s representative at the conference talked about the importance of technology as a business enabler. But the way he went about proving it was beautiful, with before and after videos of process (and technology) improvements at the warehouse stores’ checkout stands. I’m a business process engineer at heart, and I ate up both the problem identification as well as the way the team went about driving improvements.

But he opened his presentation with the statement above, and I thought that was important too, because there is so much opportunity in retail today that is held up by not just cost – capital cost, or finding the ROI. There is a lot held up by retailers who won’t make new investments until they have exhaustively depreciated the old, and this is a critical barrier to stores.

However, you don’t have to just throw tech in stores for tech’s sake. Watch customers shop, watch how employees engage with customers (or don’t), identify the friction in the process, and test and learn to figure out the best way to remove the friction. Sometimes that’s not reinventing the wheel, sometimes it’s simply changing a staffing model or a policy about how work is divided up. But if it does require a change in technology, the question rapidly becomes, are you going to do right by your customers or not?

7. Let your store associates be active on social. “Friendorsers” are more important than paid models in showing our clothes – social influencers, but also our store associates, who are 100% our customers too. – Emily Watkins, SVP, Real Estate & Construction, Charlotte Russe

A couple of weeks ago on RetailWire, there was a discussion about Macy’s program to reward employees for social influence that results in sales – basically, an affiliate model. I was surprised to see many of the BrainTrust (the regular panelists) pan the idea, saying that consumers don’t trust store associates, they want to hear from friends and family.

But what if one of your friends happens to be a store associate? Many retailers will tell you that their employees started out as customers – and not just “meh” customers, but enthusiastic brand ambassadors. That’s half of what made them an attractive hire in the first place.

So I was glad to see Watkins endorse letting store associates exercise their love for the brand beyond the store. When she said it, there was a definite stirring of unease in the room, though when the audience was asked if they let their store associates use social media for the brand, more people raised their hands that they already did that than I expected.

It comes down to a very basic question: if you trust people enough to put them in a store filled with thousands of dollars of merchandise, and talk to consumers one on one, then why is it you can’t trust them online? And if you still feel strongly that “it’s different” or that they just can’t be trusted with good judgment online, then why did you hire them in the first place?

8. We are in the Uncanny Valley moment of retail: the technology has progressed to where it feels like it’s interfering with the customer experience. But it will evolve beyond that, to where the technology can soon step back, and let the customer experience shine. – Brian Gill, SVP Technology, Nordstrom

The Uncanny Valley is a concept that is very well-understood in the robotics world. Basically, there is a curve that looks a bit like a Gartner Hype Cycle, where as technology becomes more capable, its value to people increases, except that it gets to a point where it gets capable enough that what it does enters a territory of “creepy” – it’s lifelike, but actually not lifelike enough. That is the depth of the Uncanny Valley (and then tech rebounds back to such extreme usefulness that people don’t really think about the technology, they just have the positive experience.)

Gill applied this concept to customer experience technologies in retail, using chatbots as an example – they are helpful, as long as the conversation stays on the rails. But if you diverge at all from expected responses, then things can go off the rails very quickly, and the chatbot rapidly becomes useless and annoying. This is Uncanny Valley territory.

What’s important to note is that, if he’s right, then we can expect some more years of awful, annoying experiences (like getting into an argument with Alexa, for example), until suddenly they will get appreciably better and more valuable. Which means if you’re not learning how these technologies work today, when they do come out of the valley, you might find yourself left in the dust.

9. If we don’t change the way we think, we will lose a whole generation of consumers. – Nicholas Cooper, VP, Property & Retail Establishment, IKEA

Cooper and his team laid out a future of urban-dwelling Millennials who don’t have cars and are unwilling to drive out to, as he put it “a blue box in a potato field somewhere”. To me, what’s most remarkable about what IKEA is doing is that they are trying to disrupt themselves – they’re not really waiting for the business to show the stress of changing consumer expectations before they make a change. Certainly, everywhere that IKEA opens a store today, there are still long lines of consumers waiting to get inside. And my local IKEA is still a zoo on the weekends.

But IKEA not only recognized the demographic and behavioral shifts that will eventually leave their big blue boxes in a tenuous position, they’re working now to create the future. This too is an important lesson for retailers: don’t wait until your stores are in desperate straits to figure out how to change. It takes a long time to change stores, and if it’s not Millennials that will disrupt you, then Gen Z certainly will. You can play it safe and die, or you can stay relevant and find success.

10. Some online pureplay retailers are finding that it’s cheaper to open a brick and mortar store than to acquire new customers online. – Shilpa Shah, Cofounder and CXO, Cuyana

Wondering why so many online retailers are moving to open brick & mortar stores? This tidbit from Shah of Cuyana definitely caught my attention. Because Facebook and Google dominate for digital ad budgets, and more and more ad dollars are shifting over to digital advertising, the pressure on prices and demands for consumers’ attention will only go up. At some point, the cost of customer acquisition online will exceed the cost per customer of supporting a store location – and thus, it makes good sense to open stores.

The most interesting part of this idea, though, is that you approach stores not in terms of sales or ROI, but on cost of customer acquisition. When you frame the cost this way, it’s no wonder that non-traditional retailers are doing non-traditional things in their stores. And it’s something that I would strongly recommend to brick and mortar retailers to consider: what is the cost of customer acquisition for a store versus online?

11. It’s very challenging to justify investments in innovation without proving value to executives. But innovation has to move beyond one person’s title at the company. It has to be part of the company culture. – Srinivasan Rajamanickam, Senior Director, Technology, Strategy, and Innovation, Tapestry

This quote came from a much larger panel discussion about innovation, but this quote sums up most of what was covered. Just like with Graybill’s quote above about IT projects, retailers seem to expect that innovation is something that should have a 100% hit rate. But when you look at the people who live full time on the edge of the innovation frontier – like venture capitalists and angel investors, they don’t expect 100% hits. They might invest in ten projects expecting seven to fail, two to break even, and only one to hit it out of the park. Retailers need to approach their innovation projects with the same mentality.

Otherwise, there will be no innovation at all.

Nikki Baird is a vice president of retail innovation at Aptos, a retail enterprise solution provider. Her opinions are her own.

Original Post: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nikkibaird/2018/06/26/eleven-things-retailers-just-said-about-the-future-of-the-store/#249602579874

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Physical stores win out over online competitors in this category

Apparel ranks as one of the most purchased categories online, but clothing stores in malls still own a strong advantage over e-commerce competitors.

That’s according to a survey by Valassis, the consumer promotion and coupon company, which surveyed consumers who visited an indoor mall more than times in the past year and found that 60% of them prefer to shop apparel in the physical marketplace. Their chief reasons for doing so: being able to try on items and visit — and compare selections — at several different stores.

The survey found mall shopping also offers other advantages compared to online options including:

• The social aspect of outings with family and friends; • Convenience for quick gift purchases; • A full-day experience that may include dining and entertainment; and • The ability to compare prices and products across multiple stores.

Shoppers preferred online shopping as opposed to a mall, meanwhile, for a broader range of product options, avoiding crowds and parking problems, and reducing the amount of impulse purchases.

Asked what might entice them to visit malls more often, respondents said more discounts (59%), better parking accommodations (20%); events (18%), and grocery options (17%).

Find infographic here: http://valassis.com/resources/infographics/item/180620/malls-rebound-infographic

Original Article: https://www.chainstoreage.com/store-spaces/physical-stores-win-out-over-online-competitors-in-this-category/

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Millennials still prefer in-store experience

Millennials still prefer to shop in-store compared to online despite the high street’s woes, according to the largest ever fashion study conducted in the age group.

Analytics firm Adoreboard, in partnership with OnePulse, analyzed the emotional responses of 10,000 18-34-year-olds and found that 49 per cent preferred to shop for clothes in physical stores, compared to 39 per cent who preferred shopping through websites, and 11 per cent through apps.

Analysts from the Queen’s University used algorithms to calculate an overall score based on customers’ emotions towards brands, like joy, trust, anger and rage.

Factors like sizing were found to weigh heavily on millennial’s opinions of a brand, with H&M and Topshop suffering heavily because of small sizing.

However, ethics and sustainability were found to be vital, with 61 per cent stating it was the most important thing when shopping for clothes.

In terms of advertising, 85 per cent of millennials said they were influenced by social media, with Instagram being the most popular influencer channel.

Meanwhile, 61 per cent distrusted traditional brand marketing.

“There’s been a lot of comment recently about the high street business model failing customers,” Adoreboard’s chief executive Chris Johnston said.

“But our report proves that millennials – those consumers whose spending power will drive retail and brand performance over the next generation – want, need and value that in-person, human, individualised experience.”

Original Post: https://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2018/06/millennials-still-prefer-store-experience-according-landmark-study/

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These Two Retail Myths May Be Holding Back Your In-Store Strategy

Retailers are making changes quick, hustling to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands. It’s no surprise that some bad information gets mixed in among the recommended strategies for retail success.

Retail brands want to make decisions that move their company forward, but sometimes the insights and concepts recommended by one entity don’t align with the advice coming from a different corner of the industry.

It’s tough out there in the real world, but help is on the way. Read on to learn about two busted retail myths that will simplify your strategy and save you from making grave retail mistakes.

Promotions Are Overrated

Almost every major retailer runs promotions to bring in shoppers. In the past few years, they’ve ramped up that spending across the industry, hoping that better deals with bring in additional shoppers.

But research from Nielsen has dispelled the notion that these promotions pay for themselves: According to the organization, almost 60 percent of promotional dollars aren’t made up for by subsequent sales.

The reason? One-time promotions don’t create loyal shoppers. Successful strategies will drive multiple in-store visits from consumers, instead of one-time trips where they come only to take advantage of a promotion. Reliance on promotions to bring in shoppers is a recipe for plummeting revenues.

Size Matters -- But Not The Way You Think

Nielsen notes that over the past 10 years, the average size of a retail store has shrunk from 13,500 to less than 13,000 square feet. Stores are getting smaller, and shoppers are getting happier: They tend to prefer smaller spaces with more manageable sales floors and easier checkout processes.

Retailers face a need for seamless omnichannel selling that combines the convenience and ease of smaller stores with the online inventory options available through e-commerce. Consumers rarely shop exclusively in stores or online -- they alternate between both, and retailers should build an infrastructure suited to this behavior.

By spending less on promotions, optimizing your retail space, and building a strong omnichannel platform, retailers can avoid common pitfalls and start creating a store for the future.

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Digital Attraction: Engaging Customers In The Brick-And-Mortar Store

The impact of online shopping on brick-and-mortar retailing is not just lost sales — after all, 90% of all retail sales transactions still happen in a physical store. Equally impactful is the extent to which the online experience has radically changed consumer expectations of what shopping should be like.

Having got accustomed to the ease, personalization and (by and large) fun of buying online, today’s digital shoppers now expect to find something similar in a real-life store. Retailers must find new ways of engaging with these digital consumers in old style analog stores, many of which have changed little in 20 years.

Recent research from Barclays shows that shoppers today have a real appetite for a more digital experience in-store, and are ready to embrace technologies such as touchscreens, smart fitting rooms and augmented reality. But just installing a selection of the hottest digital retail innovations isn’t going to give customers what they want, which is an experience that is convenient, entertaining and personal. Unless the retailer can link all its touch points seamlessly together, customers will be disappointed. There are four steps to creating that experience in the physical stores they visit: attraction, engagement, interaction and conclusion.

Attract And Engage The digital store attracts customers as soon as they approach the store and sends them a personal welcome message (if they have opted for such communication). Once inside, high definition digital images on video walls, original music playlists tailored to the store demographic and dynamic marketing content that reflects customers’ age and gender all contribute to the right vibe for the store brand. (It’s called 'retail-tainment'). Even when the store is closed, interactive window displays can encourage customers to request information about products or virtual try-on garments. For new stores or those undergoing refits, interactive hoardings help to create excitement and spark customer interest before opening day.

The second step is engagement. High-quality digital content not only communicates brand personality but also provides a way to connect creatively with customers and build a more appealing overall store experience. One pioneer of this approach is Sonae, a leading food and specialist retailer in Portugal. Sonae is using digital technology to engage with customers in its Worten electronics stores, where giant video walls extend the range of products on offer and let customers ‘see and touch’ a full-size fridge or washing machine.

In departments such as fashion and homeware, a spritz of scent and burst of music will create the right mood and a more immersive sensory experience. Memory mirrors help customers choose flattering garments; product configurators offer personalized choices for everything from trainers to room interiors; smart fitting rooms make trying on clothes much easier (and a lot more enjoyable). And if customers have opted to give you their personal information, then you can send special offers, or an invitation to visit a particular department, direct to their smartphone.

Connectivity is an important part of customer engagement. People increasingly expect the same connectivity in physical stores that they get at homes and at work. In-store WiFi for customers encourages them to check product reviews, compare prices or post ‘chelfies’ (changing room selfies — it’s a teenage thing) and share their shopping experience with friends on social media. WiFi throughout the store not only enhances the customer experience but also provides valuable data about customer behavior.

Interact And Conclude The third factor — interaction — depends on something that you simply cannot get online: real live salespeople. Interacting with a great sales associate is at the heart of a positive customer experience in store. Equipped with mobile devices and sales tools, digitally-enabled associates have everything they need to guide customers through their sales journey, with access to inventory, product details and the customer’s purchase history and contact details — all the information someone shopping online would have at their fingertips. In the digital store, every customer can benefit from a personal shopper.

Finally, conclude the transaction. Online, we’re used to speedy checkouts, with a couple of clicks. So the store must offer similarly easy ways to finalize the sale. This might be via a sales associate and a mobile POS app or a self-service checkout. A good digital POS service will also seamlessly manage loyalty cards and reward programs, and allow the customer to update their personal details and preferences.

The Need For A Single Platform However, digital touch points, associates and services on the sales floor are only half the story. Truly seamless engagement requires the retailer to collect and analyze large quantities of data from its customers and its inventory. That means having in place a common platform that connects all digital solutions, aggregates data sets and provides advanced analytical tools. This digital platform will also let the retailer roll out solutions consistently across multiple outlets and deliver a common brand experience.

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Target Preps For Launch Of In-Store Mobile Payments

Target is gearing up to offer in-store mobile payments in its stores, representing one of the most significant moves yet by a major brick-and-mortar retailer to transform their in-store experience.

The decision, which was revealed at the NRF Big Show 2017, has not been elaborated on by the company itself, but some of the components of this move are becoming clear. Target’s CIO told Recode that the mobile payments solution would be rolled out gradually, with the first wave of access being limited to holders of Target’s branded debit or credit card, the REDcard.

It was also suggested that these mobile payment capabilities would be built into an upcoming version of Target’s Cartwheel app, which is used to engage consumers while shopping in stores.

Although mainstream acceptance of mobile payment options has been slow among consumers, this new adoption by one of America’s largest retailers could accelerate use of this payment method, especially as consumers become acquainted with the benefits of cardless payments, expanded payment options, shorter checkout lines, and more painless couponing.

The Centerpiece Of A Larger Mobile Movement

It’s easy to look at Target’s mobile payment plans and see a larger strategy being played out. Mobile payments will likely be used to drive adoption of the company’s Cartwheel app and the engaging in-store functionality it offers.

It is likely, for example, that customers would become more motivated to use these mobile solutions as they gain access to exclusive in-store discounts and more efficient third-party coupon management.

For Target, meanwhile, the use of mobile payment processing means opening up a new acquisition channel for valuable consumer data. This will ultimately be used to build personalized experiences in stores, supporting tailored promotions, product recommendations and customized content -- all of which will make Target stores a more rewarding shopping destination.

The initiative offers no downsides, as long as Target is able to convince consumers to adopt this new approach to payment handling. Depending on its success, Target may help usher in long-overdue adoption of mobile payments.

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When It Comes To Adopting In-Store Technology, Speed Matters

While the retail industry comes to terms with its need to innovate, some brands are finding that great aspirations aren’t all that matters.

Speed does, too.

With that in mind, some companies are making aggressive moves to adopt new in-store solutions as quickly as possible. As GeoMarketing points out, Neiman Marcus has taken this commitment to heart, making rapid strides in brick-and-mortar innovation to transform its more than 40 U.S. physical locations.

Neiman Marcus is investing into several different technologies, including wireless communications tools and smart mirrors, in hopes that they will create a better consumer experience, and do so faster than their competition.

But this is a process easier said than done. Adopting new technologies always comes with periods of adjustment and pilot programs designed to fine-tune solutions before their company-wide deployment.

Fast-Tracking Mobile Advancements

According to Scott Emmons, who leads the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, the timeline for deploying a smart mirror was far more aggressive than what other retailers might choose.

“We went incredibly fast on this,” Emmons told GeoMarketing. “The time frame from paper concept -- this is what we want to do -- to approval and, then, to our first 20 mirrors being built from scratch, followed by the physical deployment all took just six weeks.”

Meanwhile, Emmons said he continues to work on proof-of-concepts for other solutions that could transform the retail space. The results can be mixed: Some receive a strong reception, while others don’t inspire the same.

Emmons’ job, of course, is to continue developing new innovations that meet the demands of consumers while also winning the favor of company decision-makers. For solutions ranging from in-store augmented reality to clienteling technology like Concierge, the value might be clear to certain executives, but adoption depends on making a successful case for how that solution can increase in-store ROI.

In-store innovation remains an ongoing experiment, but the example set by Neiman Marcus suggests that when retailers decide to green-light these solutions, they can improve their returns by accelerating their deployment.

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Three Things You Need For A Successful Mobile POS

Consumers and retailers alike have been anticipating the rise of mobile point-of-sale solutions, but adoption has consistently been behind the expected pace.

This technology’s move into the mainstream has been littered with problems: A lack of clear industry leaders, concerns about security, and the cost of implementation rank among the leading concerns. There’s also the issue of investing into solutions with long-term viability to adapt and grow as businesses -- and the overall retail industry -- advance.

Those worries haven’t completely dissipated, but mobile point-of-sale is becoming a more common sight in retail stores. Retail anxieties are on the decline, and consumer embrace of the technology is up. Even so, the right solution makes all the difference. Here are three important considerations when shopping for a mobile POS.

Top-Notch Security

Security has always been a top concern for mobile POS, and it remains the most important consideration for any retailer seeking out a new solution. Payment security is even more important than the user experience, because security gaps will compromise any efforts to drive adoption -- and it will kill the trust of your consumers in a hurry.

The most important feature, according to Retail Customer Experience, is ensuring that an mPOS tightly controls sensitive transaction data. This means that any credit card data, or other sensitive transaction information, should never be stored in the mobile device’s memory, even briefly. The mPOS itself must contain and protect that data so that it can’t hit the device’s hardware, therefore opening it up to vulnerabilities.


Not every mPOS solution is built to grow as your company grows. A good mobile POS solution needs to offer flexibility to grow as your company expands or contracts. Rigid solutions, or ones that only offer service to a certain degree of volume, aren’t good enough for retail brands whose needs are rapidly changing. Concierge was designed with exactly this need in mind, giving retailers assurance that scalability will be no obstacle.

Mobile POS should be fully scalable and cost-effective regardless of the volume of your business.


In-store mobile solutions become a headache when they all operate in isolation. Mobile POS is most efficient and convenient when it integrates seamlessly with other digital products and in-store digital touchpoints.

Concierge emphasized this need for integration by building an mPOS solution within the same platform as other consumer-friendly features, such as real-time inventory checks and seamless mobile communications. This integration also benefits the security side of things, creating fewer cracks and weaknesses for security threats to target.

Mobile POS has evolved to the point that it’s an effective part of the in-store retail ecosystem. Retailers just need to make sure they hitch their cart to the right horse.

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Massive Study Uncovers One Key Retail Truth: Omnichannel Is Working

Customers want omnichannel retail experiences. The more important question is whether or not retailers want to give it to them. In particular, some retailers remain hesitant that omnichannel is worth the investment, and that it makes any difference in their bottom-line.

To prove its success, retailers would need to find evidence that the omnichannel consumer is more valuable than the single-channel consumer, meaning that they spend more, and more often.

And according to a massive survey by the Harvard Business Review, there’s mounting evidence showing exactly that. A study of 46,000 U.S. shoppers, covering a 14-month period ending in August 2016, found strong examples of the influence omnichannel has on shoppers, and what it can do for driving retail business.

First and foremost, the study concluded that nearly three-fourths of consumers are already omnichannel shoppers in the first place. And the number of channels used appeared to correspond with increased spending activity.

Defining High-Value Customers

According to the study, omnichannel shoppers spend four percent more in brick-and-mortar stores than their single-channel counterparts. Online, that gap widens to 10 percent. And increased activity across multiple channels showed even more significant spending increases, with customers utilizing four or more channels spending nine percent more, on average, in physical stores.

Meanwhile, consumers who do their homework beforehand tend to be more willing to open up the wallet. Shoppers who conduct research on a retailer’s website wound up spending 13 percent more in brick-and-mortar stores, per the study.

Omnichannel shoppers also logged 23 percent more store visits over time than single-channel consumers. Naturally, these shoppers were more inclined to use retail touchpoints like smartphone apps and in-store tools including tablets, price-checkers, and interactive catalogs.

By failing to build experiences for these omnichannel shoppers, retailers are giving up on the majority of their consumer base -- and the shopper segment that represents the most purchasing potential.

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The Omnichannel Struggle: Your Order Fulfillment Can't Come Fast Enough

Some retailers are still grappling with online order fulfillment within two-hour windows. Others are slimming down their operations and aiming for one-hour fulfillment cycles. And in the food industry, Domino’s has become a leading example of omnichannel order fulfillment while aiming to fulfill its orders within 30 minutes.

All efforts to speed up fulfillment are noble, but the ongoing race to get faster and faster has revealed a problem of limitations. That is, no matter how fast you fulfill your orders, consumers want it faster.

And so the goal becomes an uncomfortable one: The holy grail of omnichannel retail is instant order fulfillment. Retailers are furiously working to chase a carrot that they’ll never quite reach, because consumers will always want more, and faster.

That insight isn’t meant to forecast doom for retailers. Ultimately, every company will hit an upper limit beyond which they’re unable to improve. And there’s comfort in knowing that no retailer will be able to offer truly instant fulfillment, so the practical goal is simply to make this omnichannel service as quick and efficient as possible.

But a key feature in Domino’s omnichannel strategy shows that this instant philosophy doesn’t only apply to order fulfillment. It can also be used to drive conversions from innovative points of origin.

Meeting Customers Where They’re At

Domino’s made headlines when it announced a system through which consumers could order pizza by tweeting out a pizza emoji. It might have the look and feel of a marketing stunt, but it was representative of the company’s shift toward courting a younger, mobile-savvy audience.

As Retail Info Systems News reports, Domino’s receives half of its orders through digital channels, and has built order management systems connected to Twitter and through the Apple watch, along with its own mobile app. The company now thinks of itself as an e-commerce company more than a pizza restaurant.

And that shift has been good for the company, which has seen its stock rise by 400 percent over a four-year span.

The strategy behind that success is simpler than one might think: Domino’s is simply targeting the digital impulse. While it aims to deliver its items as fast as possible, it also recognizes that consumer purchasing impulses represent a major opportunity -- especially for food sellers targeting hungry buyers. By building digital channels to leverage these moments, the company has built a winning omnichannel business model.

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What Should Brick-And-Mortar Offer Its Shoppers? Glad You Asked.

As retailers work to prioritize their spending and mobile development in stores, they do so with a focus on addressing the most pressing needs of their consumers. Certain in-store technologies may have a more pressing application in niche retail markets, but general trends have shown that most consumers look for the same things when entering most brick-and-mortar stores.

One recurring theme is a desire for experiences that blend traditional in-store engagement with new mobile innovations.

The value of in-store demonstrations is a perfect example: While product demonstrations and beauty product sampling has long been used as an in-store selling tool, mobile tech can strengthen these experiences by using augmented reality to virtually test makeup, or to see how new products might function outside of the store.

According to Forbes, 60 percent of consumers wants in-store demonstrations: Cooking classes, exercise equipment demos, and so forth. If retailers are surprised that this low-tech engagement strategy remains pivotal to the success of in-store shopping, they only need to remember that this best practice comes with a twist: While demonstrations have a continued application, the most successful such strategies will find ways to enhance that experience through technology.

This desire for in-store demonstrations comes with the growing preference for food and drink options in stores: In other words, consumers want to have more diverse engagement options in stores than simply shopping for products. This is why Barnes & Noble has been revamping its brick-and-mortar strategy to feature expanded cafe menus and even sit-down table service: Customers want the store to be a destination for more than simply buying books.

The Balance Of Personalization

Personalization in stores remains a huge emphasis for retailers. With 40 percent of consumers wanting personalized messaging delivered to them while shopping in stores, this statistic also means that 60 percent of consumers want no such personalized engagement.

This doesn’t mean brands should ease up on their personalization efforts. Consumers have the option of enabling push notifications through mobile retail apps, and they can always opt out of certain types of content. Meanwhile, customers wanting personalized experiences can use this to get product recommendations and better customer service while in stores.

Clienteling solutions like Concierge are able to maximize these efforts at personalization, and it also helps improve operations in stores by empowering store associates to be more productive when helping shoppers. As this technology becomes more familiar to consumers, demand is likely to increase, and that majority uninterested in personalization will continue to shrink.

For that reason, investments into in-store personalization are also an investment into your company’s future, especially on the brick-and-mortar front. Retailers have no choice but to adjust their strategy to answer consumers’ present-day demands, but they should also be forward-thinking enough to build a long-term strategy anticipating how those demands will change over time.

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Three Things Your Mobile Retail App Needs

Mobile retail apps have a foothold with their target audience, and there’s a big opportunity to capitalize on that market -- both in terms of driving sales, and as a way to build better customer experiences.

To do that, obviously, retailers must respond to what consumers have come to expect from their mobile apps. Connection is important, and there are a number of variables brands have to consider.

As Payment Week points out, app sales grew by 70 percent between 2014 and 2015 alone. That trend has continued into 2016, resulting in a formidable retail app marketplace where consumers are finally willing to spend their money. But conversions are only one metric of an app’s success. The trick is building a mobile asset that accommodates a number of consumer activities -- and do so on a reliable basis.

Here are three key features every mobile retail app needs to offer.

Mobile Shopping Options

Consumers are more comfortable shopping through a mobile app, and retailers would be crazy not to build this possibility into their mobile app experience. Online stores are the obvious starting point, but product recommendations and streamlined mobile checkout should also be prioritized.

A mobile app is very likely to be associated with a specific user account, so personalized shopping experiences are an opportunity to elevate the experience.

Omnichannel Integration

Consumers frequently use their phones when shopping in stores, and retail apps should improve this experience. Access to store inventories, digital customer assistance, and integration with clienteling technology will all help shoppers get more out of their in-store visit.

Brands should seek creative solutions for wielding mobile apps as assisted shopping tools, expanding the level of in-store personalization that sales associates aim to offer on a one-to-one basis.


Consistent experiences are critical. When shoppers have a bad experience, they are far less likely to attempt the same experience in the future. If a retail app disappoints thanks to connectivity issues, bugs, unfriendly features and other shortcomings, it will quickly kill the ROI potential of the app.

This aspect of the mobile app experience is important enough that brands should use it as a guide for what their experience includes. If you aren’t able to deliver consistency through a flashy new app-based feature, it isn’t worth deploying to the masses. Avoid biting off more than you can chew, and aim instead to offer seamless, satisfying experiences every time -- even if they don’t leverage the possibilities of the app itself.

As with many aspects of retail, the design of a mobile app often reflects how well they know their consumer base. Let that be a guiding light in any effort to build a better mobile experience.

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Enterprise mBaaS vs. API Gateways

Enterprise mobile backend as a service (mBaaS) platforms are a new concept as an enabler of enterprise mobile solutions. Often positioned as an alternative to the traditional mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs), enterprise mBaaS platforms provide a lightweight mechanism to for enabling backend capabilities to enterprise mobile apps via mobile APIs. In that sense, enterprise mBaaS platforms are not only compared against MEAPs but to other API alternatives such as SOA infrastructures or API Gateways.

Contrasting with home grown alternatives, API Gateways such as CA Layer7 or Intel Mashery offer an enterprise ready alternative to virtualize APIs that can be used by different client applications including mobile solutions. However, API gateways should not be positioned as an enterprise mobile platform. For starters, API gateways and enterprise mBaaS platforms try to address two very different problems. While API Gateways focus on the design and virtualization of enterprise APIs, enterprise mBaaS platforms focus on providing backend capabilities to enterprise mobile apps. Additionally, enterprise mBaaS platforms provide a series of mobile-first backend capabilities that have no equivalent in API gateway platforms.

At a high level, you might still see some overlap between API Gateways and enterprise mBaaS platforms, but the differences become very obvious when implementing enterprise mobile solutions. To cite an example, while an API gateway will help to virtualize a service API that integrates with SAP, an enterprise mBaaS platform provides mobile-first SAP connectors that can be used from various mobile app development platforms.

Additionally, enterprise mBaaS platforms enable horizontal mobile-first infrastructure capabilities such as storage, identity management, logging, media distribution among many others that are often required when building enterprise mobile apps. These type of horizontal capabilities are typically not present in API gateways

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BOPIS Fulfillment Still Has Room To Improve

If your company offers buy-online, pickup-in-store, that’s a great first step toward building a winning omnichannel strategy. But according to a new report, the odds are high that your company’s success with this order fulfillment method has plenty of room for improvement.

According to a new report from iVend Retail, BOPIS order fulfillment has had no problem getting consumers to give it a try: 57.5 percent of consumers in a survey said they use BOPIS to purchase and pick up items. As for their satisfaction with the in-store pickup option, well, there is much to be desired.

Only 31.6 percent of those consumers say that BOPIS is a smooth process. It’s safe to say the majority of BOPIS users are running into any number of roadblocks and headaches, from delays in order fulfillment to incorrect inventories.

If there was any question that BOPIS efforts need to be upgraded, consumers are ready to answer that question: a whopping 92 percent said they thought buy-online, pickup-in-store could be improved.

Give The People What They Want

According to the iVend Retail study, consumers have a fairly decent handle on the types of digital enhancements they would like to see adopted in stores. Nearly half of those surveyed said they want free in-store Wi-Fi to support their own mobile device activity.

Nearly 37 percent would like digital kiosks or self-help desks to use as a resource when shopping in stores. And one-third of respondents said they want retailers to hit them with mobile promotions and offers as soon as they enter a store.

Meanwhile, shoppers continue to use BOPIS order fulfillment, despite its hiccups, for several reasons. The leading factor is to avoid online shipping costs, with 65.3 percent saying they’ve used BOPIS to avoid shipping. That’s a huge statistic for brick-and-mortar retailers, since it demonstrates how a physical presence is an asset against large online-only retailers.

Other top reasons for using BOPIS fulfillment included the convenience of picking up orders at a nearby store, and the option of instantly returning an item if it didn’t meet their expectations.

There’s a long way to go before retailers realize the potential of BOPIS fulfillment. The good news is that the solution is so popular among consumers, they seem willing to be patient if it leads to better, more reliable service.

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Mobile Adoption Doesn't Mean Mobile Success

In the world of retail, mobile has finally permeated the industry. Every retailer understands the importance of mobile technology, whether in the form of mobile-optimized sites, retail apps, or in-store touchpoints.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Many of those retailers aren’t doing a good job of leveraging that mobile opportunity.

According to research from PointSource, retailers at least understand the basic principles of mobile adoption. Ninety-one percent of companies serviced have mobile sites, and 84 percent have published a mobile app.

But mobile is still operating in a bubble: Integration with other departments remains a struggle, and poor internal support of mobile has strained budgets and resource availability. In fact, some retailers argue that the main struggles consumers have with their mobile product are due to a lack of internal support, including effective infrastructure. If true, that likely means retailers will continue to suffer from the same shortcoming: A mobile presence that simply doesn’t realize its potential.

Improving Products, Elevating The Experience

Chain Storage Age cites a number of areas where improvement management could upgrade the mobile experience. With nearly half of retail mobile websites suffering from slow load times, and other mobile optimizations failing to meet today’s standards, retailers can start by empowering IT departments to build a more satisfying user experience. That means mobile optimization that increases page load times, simplifies page assets, improves navigation, and streamlines the checkout process.

Mobile apps should also provide tangible value to users in the form of loyalty programs, app-only discounts, and other app-based services that enhance the shopping experience.

And mobile must eventually be integrated into other aspects of retail selling: Shopping profiles must be consistent from desktop to mobile to the brick-and-mortar store, and it should become a platform to drive better omnichannel order fulfillment efforts.

Contrast these areas of need with the fact that 11 percent of retailers don’t track any sort of mobile metrics. For as far as the industry has come, there’s still a glaring need to adapt and innovate.

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Unified Commerce Is Helping Retailers Seize The Moment

All the conversation around omnichannel selling has obscured a tough reality about the way retailers build those retail strategies. Omnichannel consists of multiple channels allowing the consumer experience to choose its own adventure.

But too many retailers make a common mistake: While they invest into solutions that have the look of omnichannel, there’s still too much separation between platforms and channels. The result is something that looks like everything promised by omnichannel, but that has its experience shortchanged by silos, separation, and clunky integration.

As a result, attentions are now turning toward unified commerce, which realizes the dream that omnichannel inspired. Unified commerce is run through a single real-time platform that centralizes all customer activity and channels. This unified approach is driving better experiences that offer real-time customization for consumers, helping both shoppers and sellers capitalize on short windows of opportunity.

Mobile payment technology is helping to drive this adoption, and the resulting transformation.

Taking The Friction Out Of Shopping

Unified commerce enables greater personalization and better customer experiences, in part because it takes advantage of new data acquisition channels while also eliminating friction from the customer path-to-purchase. This friction is most evident in stores, where long checkout lines create impatient, unhappy customers.

Consumers are warming to mobile payment options, and they are starting to recognize the benefits that come with such payment systems. Mobile payment makes it easy for store associates to meet the customer where they are, both physically and figuratively. According to PaymentsSource, brands are starting to understand how this liberated approach to handling payment can even improve conversion rates by helping the retailer capitalize on real-time moments.

If a customer wants to buy a big-screen TV, why go through the hassle of giving them a slip of paper, or boxing up the TV, and having them carry it up to the register? Brands are better off processing the transaction right then and there, before the shopper has time to second-guess himself.

Meanwhile, this mobile payment strategy makes it easier to gather and leverage consumer data, including data from their online shopping account. And if the items they want aren’t available in-store? The retailer’s mobile platform can be used to place an online order. This ability to move seamlessly between online and in-store platforms is the defining trait of unified commerce.

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Omnichannel Strategy Brings New Needs For Retailers

Consumers love the flexibility and convenience of omnichannel shopping. Both ship-from-store and buy-online, pickup-in-store have enjoyed rapid adoption from consumers who want the experience of shopping online, combined with the convenience of purchasing from a local store.

Retailers are rapidly building out strategies to accommodate these omnichannel experiences. And as they do, new challenges are coming to rise. The infrastructure needed to support omnichannel selling can be a complicated transition for any brand to handle.

Meanwhile, faster order fulfillment windows are creating more pressure to work quickly and efficiently. Some retailers are beginning to offer one-hour order readiness, which is a great way to build more satisfying customer experiences. But this only works when that one-hour fulfillment can be provided to every customer. Lapses in this fulfillment can do more harm than good, underscoring the need for retailers to improve their fulfillment operations.

Building An Omnichannel Management Platform

PaymentsSource has identified a number of solutions brands can implement to handle the growing pains that come with omnichannel selling. A better supply chain management solution is a top priority: Supply chain solutions must be designed to handle brick-and-mortar orders alongside mobile and desktop orders, and to do so quickly, given the accelerated fulfillment cycles caused by omnichannel selling.

Ultimately, a number of systems will need to be deployed to optimize omnichannel management. Delivery systems and transportation management will be critical to handling increased ship-from-store volume.

Business to business payments processing will be needed for B2B sellers, and software management solutions will support omnichannel software solutions.

There will inevitably be bumps in the road, but retailers should be prepared to minimize these complications by building a framework for omnichannel success. As omnichannel services increase, new scalable solutions will be needed to accommodate a top shopping solution for the future.

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Retailers Aren't Laying Off Workers, They're Investing Into Training

As digital transformation sweeps over the retail industry, many have worried that this technological change would pave the way for increased automation and industry-wide layoffs, and all while ecommerce increases its share of the consumer spending market.

But at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference last month, the opposite trend was seen. Although some retailers are closing dozens of stores and even filing for bankruptcy, others are committed to deepening their investment into human store associates.

According to the Chicago Tribune, more retailers are turning their focus toward increasing the value of their store associates by improving recruitment and training while reducing turnover. As part of that industry-wide goal, the NRF Foundation has launched a retail training and credential program geared toward helping associates at the entry level.

Part of that training will also help retailers train workers on new technologies, making it easier for stores to launch clienteling solutions like Concierge.

Working Toward A Blended Experience

Retailers recognize that brick-and-mortar stores can leverage certain advantages over online retailers. The challenge, in many cases, is bringing in facets of that online experience to enliven the experience of shopping in stores.

Technology is central to those experiences, and everything from iPads to virtual reality are enabling this transformation to take place. But with this increased technology comes new challenges. Professionals with a strong background in these technologies may not consider retail as their first option for employment, especially if they don’t associate retail with digital innovation.

Improved recruiting strategies can open the door to more tech-proficient employees. But effective training can also turn passionate retail professionals into tech-savvy associates in their own right. Through a combination of training and investment into human capital, retailers can improve their in-store experiences in several ways at once.

The end result is knowledgeable workers who love their jobs and understand their role in building a rewarding retail experience.

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