merchandise locally, but fulfill globally

Merchandise Locally, Fulfill Globally

Part five of our five part series exploring trends that are shaping brick-and-mortar retail experience. You can read all of the trends in The Store Is Back eBook, courtesy of RBM Technologies.

With cities expanding and more neighborhoods developing, people are driving less and looking to nearby stores. In 2016, more retailers are moving closer to where the shoppers are, which means transitioning to smaller stores in more urban areas.

retail-central-to-community-brick-and-mortar

The rise of urbanization is forcing retailers to transform their merchandising strategies. Retailers are beginning to think small, and are accommodating the local culture of the neighborhoods they inhabit. However, shoppers’ expectations are getting higher. Retailers still need to make the breadth of products in their larger format stores available within the smaller footprint.

“Associates have iPads to make our full assortment available instantly. If you want a new color, you don’t have to search another store, we can help you purchase it overnight.”

Jeff Fisher, Global Store Experience Director at Sunglass Hut

Adopting digital applications that optimize product mixes and localize visual merchandising is critical to ensuring the inventory their customers want will be available. By producing targeted campaigns and offering locally relevant merchandising, each store will develop an authentic experience and personal customer connection. What’s more, through digital devices, retailers can offer, order and deliver merchandise they can’t physically stock.

Overall, the space within brick-and-mortar stores will shrink, but customers’ demand for product range will not. Retailers will need to be flexible for the customer who expects a locally relevant, personalized retail experience with an extensive product assortment.

To read all five retail trends, download The Store Is Back today.

Empowering Store Employees - The Store Is Back

Using Digital Technologies To Empower Store Workers

Part one of our five part series exploring trends that are shaping brick-and-mortar retail experience. You can read all of the trends in The Store Is Back eBook, courtesy of RBM Technologies.

Store employees are the most valuable assets to a brand. They are on the front lines of retail experience, interacting directly with the customer. They have the opportunity to connect with customers on a personal level, something customers can’t get online.

“Store associates work so much better when they know the why. Bringing them to the table, and communicating with them can go a long way.”

Jeff Fisher, Global Store Experience Director at Sunglass Hut

The store associate’s knowledge, availability and capacity to help the customer all contribute to an exceptional experience and lasting brand impression. However, store associates can only achieve this if they are empowered to fulfill the customer’s expectations. Store employees can never truly be brand advocates if their efforts are wasted on merchandising discrepancies, and aren’t trusted with the authority or the appropriate tools to support a customer’s needs.

Some leading retailers have already begun to equip store associates with the necessary information and digital technology to keep up with today’s savvy shoppers. iPads and other mobile devices are popping up in stores, giving associates access to important details and additional product supply.

store employee using technology
Store employees can spend more time with customers when given the technology needed to execute campaigns faster and more efficient than before.

When associates have the support to engage shoppers in stores, they will deliver a seamless, personalized experience. They will help the customer through their path to purchase, influence the customer’s brand perception, and ultimately, build customer loyalty.

To read all five retail trends, download The Store Is Back today

4 steps to effectively localize retail experience

4 Steps to Effectively Localize Retail Experience

In our last post, Building a Community Brick-and-Mortar by Brick-and-Mortar, we examined how physical stores are becoming centers of communities, places where customers go for new experiences and to feel a connection to their distinct locale.

The retail industry is shifting. Customers are looking at stores in a new light.

We also promised a list of steps retailers can take to ensure they are properly localizing their assortment mixes to ensure each retail experience is optimized for each location. Without further ado, here they are:

Measure with precision. Measuring store performance allows retailers to quickly deliver the most relevant products, respond to customers’ needs, and develop a personalized experience at the store level.

Understand the shopper. Tracking retail experience provides visibility into customers’ behaviors. This gives retailers the ability to respond to and forecast trends as well as keep up with customers’ expectations.

Recognize the surroundings. By producing targeted, relevant and locally appropriate campaigns, each store can develop an authentic experience and personal customer connection. Achieving a localized experience strengthens the customer’s brand perception and the retailer’s position amongst the community and the competition.

Know each store’s intricacies. Individual stores vary based on unique traits like layout space and fixture size. Keeping a model of each location ensures stores receive the right production quantities, resulting in accurate execution and a better on-brand shopping experience.

4-steps-effectively-localize-retail-experience-small
Stores are becoming part of the community, and therefore, must create experiences relevant to their surroundings.

The retail industry is shifting. Customers are looking at stores in a new light. Stores are becoming part of the community, and therefore, must create experiences relevant to their surroundings. In order to successfully become a destination within these communities, retailers need help identifying customers’ expectations and the unique attributes of its individual stores.

Many leading retailers are turning to SaaS as a solution. Through a cloud-based delivery system, retailers can keep accurate digital store models, understand the unique attributes of each if its stores, measure performance, deliver targeted campaigns and merchandising, and respond to market trends quickly.

What are your stores doing to become destinations within the community?

retail-central-to-community-brick-and-mortar

Building a Community Brick-and-Mortar by Brick-and-Mortar

Starbucks is more than just a place to grab a latte before heading to the office, each individual Starbucks location has become a hub for people to gather, meet, congregate and relax.

Sephora makes high-end beauty products accessible. The products are available for customers to test, and its store employees are more than willing to demonstrate those products. Stores even host beauty classes and special events. Sephora has become a destination where people can get together, be creative, learn new looks, find new trends, and share unique experiences. Sephora has changed the beauty retail space into a fresh, interactive and educational environment.

Stores are no longer places that simply sell things, they are now social centers within the communities they inhabit.

In 2013, Club Monaco transformed its lower 5th avenue New York City store into an arts and education center. By expanding its offerings beyond chic and stylish fashion to books, flowers, and locally sourced coffee, it created a welcoming sensory experience that connects with the community and makes shoppers want to stay awhile.

Retail's importance in establishing community
The rise of urbanization is forcing retailers to rethink the cookie cutter approach to merchandising.

These are just a few examples of how brick and mortar is changing. Stores are no longer places that simply sell things, they are now social centers within the communities they inhabit. With cities expanding, online retail options increasing, and more neighborhoods developing, people are driving less and looking to nearby stores for multiple purposes.

The rise of urbanization is forcing retailers to rethink the cookie cutter approach to merchandising. Large retail stores are getting stiff competition from small local shops, so they need to shift their focus. Big retailers must think small. Stores are now places to meet friends, gain local experiences, and find specialized inventory that caters to and reflects the community. People living within the community want retailers to contribute with authenticity and take on a sense of the local culture that surrounds them.

There are a few initial and necessary steps retailers must take in order to successfully achieve localization, deliver an accurate and superior customer experience, and ultimately make its stores community hubs. We will explore these steps in part 2 of this series.

Retail Experience, It's Not Just Business, It's Personal

Retail Experience. It’s Not Business, It’s Just Personal.

People are driven by emotions. So, is it any wonder shoppers buy based on how they feel?

Think about the powerful emotional connections Apple and Nike have made. These brands go beyond selling the newest, most innovative products within their markets.

What drives people to wait in line for days for the new iPhone? Why do they pay a premium price for the latest pair of athletic shoes? These brands create memorable experiences, enrich their customers’ everyday lives, and in turn, continue to build loyal followings. Customers sense the creative passion of the late Steve Jobs, and they feel empowered every time they head to the gym.

More brands are recognizing the need for this emotional connection. Intel’s newest video campaign shifts the focus away from its actual products, and instead, emphasizes the “amazing human experiences” its products make possible. Helping X-Games athletes go bigger and higher, blending gorgeous visual design with dance, or working with NASA to power the Space Shuttle, Intel’s experiences leave people feeling inspired and in awe.

A retailer must take into account the unique characteristics of each of its stores

For a retailer with multiple stores, it’s not necessarily about producing a larger-than-life campaign that speaks to customers’ feelings. The personal connection must reach customers at the individual brick-and-mortar store level. If a customer’s in-store experience is bad, that exciting brand campaign becomes worthless.

Retail Experience is About Personalization
Shoppers look for a personal connection when they enter a store.

Store employee knowledge, easy store navigation, merchandise availability, checkout wait time, and a personal understanding of the customer base are some of the top factors that contribute to how shoppers feel about their shopping and brand experience. Therefore, to pursue and strengthen the connection with customers, it is critical that retailers focus on store optimization.

A retailer must take into account the unique characteristics of each of its stores, from aisle spacing to the surrounding local culture. Understanding and catering to individual store attributes will help a retailer deliver the most relevant, personalized and authentic experience possible. It will also simplify the process for store employees. Knowing the specific details of each store means accurate production quantities and sizes, allowing store teams to set up with efficiency and ease. Store employees then have more time on the floor to interact with customers. Lastly, it means compliance. When stores are set up accurately, performance is easy to track and measure. Retailers can react in real time when something isn’t working. Responding to customers’ needs quickly leads to higher customer satisfaction and repeat purchases.

Now is the time for retailers to evaluate their connection with their customers. How do customers feel about their store experience? Are they engaged? Are they satisfied? If the answer is yes, they will gladly return. Otherwise, their next shopping trip may be through a competitor’s doors.

retail shoppers want new retail experiences

Shoppers Are Ready for New Experiences. Are You?

With more shopping options and a constant flow of information, the power of retail is now in customers’ hands. Shopping is no longer about buying things. People can acquire merchandise anywhere, anytime. Instead, shoppers are looking for unique experiences they can share with their friends.

The recent blog post, Democratization of Retail: This Shift Just Got Real, examines how retailers are exploring new, exciting ways to engage customers. From virtual rock climbing adventures to can’t-miss Snapchat fashion shows, these disruptive experiences are attracting customers through retailers’ brick-and-mortar doors. And it is just the beginning.

If retailers don’t want to lose sales to their competitors, they must embrace the new expectations of shoppers. But how can retailers think about reinventing the shopping experience, if they can’t track or measure their current execution? When a retailer is dealing with execution errors, brand inconsistencies, and non-compliance issues in stores, it’s impossible to focus on creating fresh experiences for its customers.

In 2016, retailers’ top focus should be optimizing store execution and performance.

With one application, Merchandising Cloud, retailers can reduce errors, open communication between store teams and corporate, and deliver a localized experience throughout all stores.

Merchandising Cloud maintains an accurate digital model of every store, including unique attributes like locality, layout, and fixtures. It enables execution of merchandising plans for all locations and ensures that each store receives accurate production quantities. Employees know where each campaign element goes and that it will correctly fit.

merchandising cloud optimizes merchandising execution
Gone are the days of large binders and hand drawn fixture designs.

It also provides a single digital platform that everyone uses to connect. Two-way, real-time communication ensures that headquarters can provide accurate instructions to stores, and store teams can easily report back on compliance or difficulties.

Execution, compliance, and overall store sales performance can be executed and measured with new levels of precision. The data collected can then be used to help retailers in creating future campaigns.

In 2016, retailers’ top focus should be optimizing store execution and performance. By adopting new technology, like Merchandising Cloud, retailers can easily fix execution problems and measure the results. Once retailers ensure that every store is on brand, on message, localized, and measurable they can unfold opportunities for future growth and take on a competitive advantage. They can focus on creating a superior and memorable retail experience that inspires customers, connects them to the brand, drives them to purchase, and gives them something to talk about with other potential customers.

Learn more about Merchandising Cloud and its capabilities at www.rbmtechnologies.com.

Retail Experience Democratization

Democratization of Retail: This Shift Just Got Real

With immediate access to information through technology and the growth of competitive options, shoppers are more empowered than ever. Retail is going through a democratizing shift, giving customers a say when it comes to retail experience.

They have two particular expectations: brand accessibility and unique, entertaining experiences.

Smart retailers are already embracing the democratization phenomenon and effectively transforming their brand perceptions by providing customers with unique, sensory experiences that reach beyond the typical display of merchandise. These retailers are giving customers the opportunity to immerse themselves in their products, while making deeper connections with their brands in both brick and mortar stores and digital channels.

Here are two great examples:

Experience the Great Outdoors – in Stores

Last year, the outdoor apparel company, The North Face, used virtual reality to transport shoppers into beautiful remote landscapes. It sent shoppers in its U.S. flagship stores on virtual expeditions of trekking and rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, California and Moab Park, Utah.

Democratization of Retail Experience

In its South Korean stores, customers experienced the thrill of dog sled racing in the South Pole while trying on the newest apparel.

From the comfort of its brick-and-mortar locations, The North Face gave shoppers. who would have never explored these epic activities otherwise, an adventure of a lifetime.

It also built up excitement and allowed outdoor enthusiasts the chance to wear and test its latest gear in virtual environments before actually heading into the great outdoors.

As a result, The North Face presented customers with a unique, entertaining and memorable in-store experience they couldn’t get anywhere else, setting the retailer apart from its competitors.

Most importantly, customers experienced these incredible journeys, whether they were outdoorsy or not. The North Face successfully made its outdoor brand accessible to everyone.

Smart retailers are already embracing the democratization phenomenon and effectively transforming their brand perceptions

Now You See It, Tomorrow They Won’t

Also in 2015, the iconic British fashion brand, Burberry gave its customers a chance to preview its new spring 2016 line a day before it hit the runway. It made the collection available to its followers on Snapchat, the video and photo messaging app that allows users to broadcast content for up to 24 hours.

Burberry later followed up with another Snapchat experience, revealing its new advertising campaign as it was being photographed in real time. Burberry provided shoppers with two innovative social experiences, making the luxury brand accessible.

By choosing Snapchat, Burberry created a youthful energy, leveraged a “don’t miss” sense of urgency, and responded to the need for immediate gratification. It additionally built excitement around shopping in its stores, where Snapchat users could try on the items they “saw first” in real life.

There has been a shift in retail power to today’s smart shopper. As technology evolves, so will shoppers’ expectations. It is important for retailers to pay attention and adapt to the constantly changing trends that keep customers interested and excited about brands.

Currently, customers care more about experiences they can talk about than they do about accumulating merchandise. Consistently providing customers with accessible, personalized, and unique experiences in all retail channels, physical stores as well as digital environments, is what sets retailers apart from their competitors, builds brand loyalty, and influences repeat purchases.

Where Millennials shop, 2016 trends

Where the Millennials Shop

The Millennial generation is empowered, savvy and digitally stimulated. Millennials are always connected and use their mobile devices to their shopping advantage, yet most Millennials still prefer to visit a physical store. According to a recent study by Cushman & Wakefield “75% of Millennial purchases are made at brick-and-mortar stores.”

Why?

For Millennials, shopping is an experience rather than a way to acquire things. They prefer to see, touch, and interact with the merchandise and the brand; something they can’t get online.

Although this is a huge opportunity for brick and mortar, it’s also a frustrating challenge. Since Millennials have easy and immediate access to a wealth of information, they are selective and demanding. Therefore, how a store makes Millennials feel is crucial to their customer satisfaction.

In order to entice, and more importantly, retain Millennials as customers, retailers must understand, embrace and respond to the four top behaviors of Millennial shoppers:

Millennials are connected 24/7.

They leave their phones on, even while they sleep. Millennials have constant access to a wealth of information about brands, products, trends, and sales. This puts pressure on retailers to keep up, adapt, and move ahead of their competition.

Millennial Shoppers, Mobile and Brick and Mortar
Millennials may be connected by mobile, but they look for individualization in the physical store.

They want a unique, memorable experience.

Millennials expect a compelling, personalized in-store experience every time. Retailers get one chance to get it right. If Millennials aren’t engaged when they enter the store, they walk out without purchasing and head straight through a competitor’s doors.

Millennials share everything.

How a piece of clothing looks, how much a product costs, a display that makes them laugh, or how they were treated by an employee – it all gets shared to their huge social networks. Whether it’s a good or bad experience, Millennials let their peers know. The message is clear, and it can influence others’ opinions and make or break a retailer’s reputation.

They want shopping to be seamless.

They want the products, information and prices in store to match what they found online, and they expect digital transactions to be easy. This means all retail channels should be unified, and stores must be able to scan coupons and accept payments on consumers’ smartphones without hassle or hesitation.

In summary, retailers need to evolve to please smart Millennial shoppers. By accepting change and adopting new technologies, retailers can consolidate merchandising information and open up communication between stores and corporate headquarters, allowing for consistency between all channels. Retailers can also look at each store’s attributes, customize their stores to Millennial shoppers’ preferences, and track execution and performance results to figure out what is or isn’t working. As a result, retailers can design an authentic, exciting, on-brand experience that keep Millennials interested, engaged and ultimately coming back.

Merchandising Execution White Paper

4 Challenges That Contribute to Inaccurate Merchandising Execution

In the rapidly changing retail industry, one thing remains the same, the brick-and-mortar store is still at the forefront of retail experience.

Stores are powerful, profitable and able to provide a personal, meaningful connection with customers. Retail professionals recognize the importance of merchandising execution and the role it plays in providing the shopper with a superior retail experience – yet at the store level, it is inaccurate, inconsistent and immeasurable.

Why does precise merchandising execution seem impossible for retailers?

1. The Manual Process

Retailers depend on a slow, manual process that requires employees to input vast amounts of information into Excel spreadsheets and add numerous pages of complicated directions into large wasteful binders. This process leads to costly human errors and confusing, outdated information that make retail execution a nightmare.

merchandising execution challenges
Binders, spreadsheets and scribbled notes are commonplace in today’s merchandising execution practices

2. Scattered Data

Retailers store data in multiple places. When the information needed to execute the proper retail experience exists across multiple systems, it causes time-consuming discrepancies that can’t be monitored. Store employees are left to deal with the inconsistencies, causing them to spend little to no face time with customers.

3. Departmental Silos

Different departments exist and operate in silos that prevent real-time, open communication and collaboration between stores and headquarters. This siloed approach puts the burden on the store manager and associates to rectify any discrepancies in the plan at the store. They, in turn, don’t get the chance to provide feedback or disclose issues, and headquarters remains unclear about what is working, and what isn’t.

4. A General Approach

Retailers do not take the unique attributes of each location into account when developing merchandising plans. Instead, they are clustering stores into large, general buckets by size or region. When a planogram fails to account for a store’s distinctive traits like space allocation, local culture or customer demographics, store employees are forced to make judgment calls. As a result, materials are wasted, stores are not executed as planned, and retail experience becomes difficult to measure.

Fortunately, these challenges can be overcome by deploying a single digital application like Merchandising Cloud that plans, communicates, executes, and measures merchandising execution. As a result, retailers improve their ability to execute plans effectively and optimize individual store performance.

To learn more, download RBM Technologies’ white paper: Transforming Retail Experience with Merchandising Cloud.

why ecommerce needs a brick and mortar presence

Why e-commerce needs brick-and-mortar presences

Money, that’s why. E-commerce sites that have a brick-and-mortar presence can make more of it overall.

In a post last spring on their Knowledge blog, Peter Fader, a Wharton marketing professor and co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative explained; “Any company that doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar presence, or at least have it in the planning stages, is making a big mistake,” he says. “It’s vitally important for retailers to be everywhere a customer wants them to be. The key to success for almost any retailer is to have a big base.”

brick and mortar as a competitive advantage

What’s more, many retail categories beg for customers to touch, feel and experience their product before they purchase it. Think of that super soft sweater you had to have after feeling it on the rack or being able to ride that mountain bike through a mini course in the store.

The brick-and-mortar experience is the most immersive and powerful customer touchpoint brands have. It is more than a place to acquire merchandise — it is a place that enriches customers lives. And the power of the retail experience means that it can have an outsized impact on consumer’s perception of your brand and your service.

The financial value of brick-and-mortar in an omni-channel world is underestimated. Brick-and-mortar is still where the vast majority of transactions happen, (to the tune of 90%) and store transactions are generally significantly more profitable than those performed online.

What does this all mean?

Customers are everywhere. They are online, they are in your store, they are online while they are in your store. They post, snap, tweet, ‘gram, like, swipe right. The key for retailers is to be present where their customers are. There is no perfect mix of the above, it is unique for each retailer and the onus is on them to figure out what is right for their brand.