NOTE: Raymark is now part of the Mi9 Retail team. Read the press release here.
Photo Source: Brand + Commercial
Written by Rachel Ginsberg, Band + Commercial
The conventional wisdom is that fashion companies and retailers haven’t yet nearly taken advantage of the technology available to them, aside from the now ubiquitous e-commerce. American department stores, some of the worst offenders, have largely been characterized as dinosaurs on a death march toward irrelevance and bankruptcy. However, in the past eighteen months or so the race towards execution of true omnichannel commerce has driven tech adoption at a rapid pace – particularly within and around the store environment.
Macy’s Inc (including Bloomingdale’s) is moving swiftly along with its adoption of RFID for inventory control and loss prevention. Nordstrom has been using tablets for checkout for over two years and last year had a little snafu with in-store customer tracking. Saks launched a new clienteling package in its Fifth Avenue flagship just three months ago in the midst of the holiday season – a notably bold move by any standard.
According to Dax Dasilva, Founder and CEO of LightSpeed, a developer of POS (point of sale) solutions, “For any successful retail store, product is very important, customer service is very important and the store environment is very important – but all of those can be improved by technology. You can add to how good your staff can be, how efficient your customer service can be, how engaging the whole experience can be. It really makes getting off the couch and going to the store totally worth it.”
Arguably the best, and most immediate, applications of technology in fashion and retail improve upon crucial systems already in place – those which retailers depend on daily to do business well. Technology companies are helping to push advances in adoption by proving to notoriously hard-to-convince retail executives exactly what’s possible when you add a little tech to the mix.
Point of Sale (POS).
In many stores, the cash register is the only place in which tech is in use at all. The impact of the purchase is significantly greater than just the revenue it generates; they have broad implications on the business as a whole. Each sale represents a shirt being deducted from inventory, or a pair of shoes no longer available to be sold on the website. It means sales tax (and maybe commission) owed, not to mention that sales records are crucial data points to gauge the success (or failure) of any organization.
Recognizing the many implications of the systems they provide, POS developers have responded accordingly. Dasilva says, “What is required is the ability to meet customers wherever they may be, whether in your store, on a mobile device or interacting with your brand online through e-commerce. A system like LightSpeed which was originally built as a POS system that could deliver a great customer experience, now has to be a retail commerce engine that delivers a great experience on multiple channels.”
RFID isn’t news. It has been around for quite some time and we’ve even written about it. Its potential for streamlining inventory management, replenishment and product-centric activities in-store is vast. Though no small investment initially, imagine being able to locate inventory in a stockroom with a wave of your arm, or even passively, by doing nothing at all, thanks to an antenna mounted on a stockroom ceiling. Product visibility means fewer out of stocks and more money in the register.
One of the least obvious – and most interesting – areas of opportunity for in-store technology is that of improving service. Though the specific culture of each organization will determine exactly what form service may take, the ways in which tech can help are myriad. Saks Fifth Avenue’s new clienteling software, Raymark’s Mosaic is an addition to the POS system previously in use. The add-on improves associates’ ability to maintain client relationships and even integrates the personalized corporate marketing offers directed at individual customers allowing store associates to act as a human point of follow up.
Iras, a highly innovative app co-developed by Tony King, Founder of King & Partners and Basil Farano, a longtime mobile and digital strategist, proposes a way for brands to streamline customer relationships as a whole. Rather than incresing automation and removing the human element – a common practice in retail these days – Iras actually encourages and facilitates person-to-person communication. King explains, “This is about how digital can enable better human relationships rather than getting in the way of it. That’s a really important thing to know I think because we’re not trying to cut the sales associate or the stylist out of it. We’re trying to make their jobs easier and trying to make their relationships with their customers stronger and better.”
Beyond the benefits at face value, technological integration at the product, point of sale and service levels also possesses broad marketing implications. Of course RFID should create operational efficiencies, but not only. It can also present almost magical opportunities to enrich in-store customer experience – just look at how Burberry uses it in its Regent Street flagship.
Smart POS software is already offering powerful ways to operationalize CRM, and its only a matter of time until the two systems become one. Retail stores are one of the few opportunities to experience amazing service, at once personal, knowledgeable and thoughtful – all valuable traits that technology can and will continue to enable.
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