Monthly Newsletter | MARCH 2017 | Thirteenth Issue
S-CUBE Fixtures What's In Store this month

Table of Contents

Stores are Getting Smarter
Retaining Retail Talent
The Internet of Things
Driving Post-Holiday Sales


Stores are Getting Smarter
When done right, connected retail technologies promise to dramatically improve the customer experience.


In their e-commerce operations, retailers have long had access to limitless data about customers and transactions. They’ve become adept at using this information to deliver personalized communications and targeted campaigns to customers as they shop online.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for in-store shopping. Retailers have had no way of knowing what customers were doing in their stores from the time they entered the front door until they checked out at the POS system.

Now, new technologies are becoming available that can bring the personalized customer experience of online shopping into traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These “connected stores” will help retailers better understand the purpose of a shopper’s visit to predict how they will shop and shape their experience. Such technologies promise to help keep brick-and-mortar stores relevant, engaging and competitive.

IoT Technology
The primary driver of this change is the increasingly widespread adoption and deployment of sensors and smart devices as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a network of physical objects or “things” that contain embedded electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

In particular, retailers are increasingly taking advantage of:

Sensors. Embedded into “things,” such as infrared traffic monitors, sensors help retailers understand where customers are, what they’re doing, and what’s going on around them. Then they can communicate and share data in real-time over a network or cloud-based platform. Retailers can use this data to measure traffic patterns, trip times and checkout queues.

Mobile devices. Retailers can provide customers with downloadable mobile apps. Customers share their identities through these apps so retailers know exactly who is in their store, and can collect detailed behavior on customer’s preferences and shopping behavior.

Beacons. RFID and other inventory tracking devices will allow the retailer to understand whether an item is in the store—and if so, if it’s in a pile in the dressing room or how many times customers picked it up but did not purchase it, opening up a whole new realm of real-time signal data.

Intelligent in-store communications
Retailers are combining real-time data from these IoT technologies with the detailed historical information on customers’ preferences and shopping behavior they’ve always collected from loyalty programs and POS systems. By running real-time analytics on all of this data in the background, retailers can predict what products, services and promotions an individual customer might be interested in and determine what promotions to present at what frequency as the customer moves through the store.

For example, knowing that the parent of school age children is in the school supplies section in the weeks before classes begin, a retailer might adjust in-store signage for Back-to-School. With in-store tracking, as the customer passes end-of-aisle displays or other areas of potential interest, the store might generate an instant promotion based on his profile or purchase history and deliver a message or coupon to his mobile phone. If a high-value customer dwells for a long period in a single location on an aisle, store associates can detect that, go over in person to the customer and offer to help.

With knowledge of where the customer is in their shopping journey, retailers can also better predict what’s the next best offer or action. If someone is buying a TV set, a retailer could look at their previous history to determine whether to offer them a warranty or an accessory. On the other hand, if a frequent customer has consistently opted out of warranties online and in-store, the opportunity will lie in offering accessories.

When done right, connected retail technologies promise to dramatically improve the in-store customer experience, allowing retailers to give the customer exactly what they want (product, experience, service, info) with more precision in less time.



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Retaining Retail Talent
What you need to know about tracking and retaining your retail talent.


As retail continues its rapid transformation, efforts to find and keep the right employees must change right along with it. It’s not just that the people are different; technology has ensured that the jobs are, too.

Consider data analytics; two years ago Macy’s Inc. had no team focused solely on the field, according to Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren. “But now we do,” Lundgren told a Retail’s BIG Show panel discussion on “Building Tomorrow’s Workforce: How Retailers Are Attracting and Retaining Talent.” The keynote also included Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., and James Rhee, executive chairman and CEO of Ashley Stewart. It was moderated by Bill Brand, president of HSN.

“We have to embrace new thinking to meet the demands of this new workplace,” Brand said. “We must experiment.” And, he said, we must collaborate.

The NRF Foundation’s new RISE Up education and credentialing program, mentioned during the session, is one such effort at collaboration. The initiative, already backed by more than 20 companies, is aimed at helping people acquire the skills needed to secure jobs in retail and advance into promising careers, regardless of education, background, economic means or age.

“What we all know is that change is constant,” Brand said. “In the next five years, they say retail will change more than in the past 50 … . Now is the time to think and act differently.”

Members of the panel spoke about ways their companies are doing just that. Foran talked about numerous Walmart efforts to change with the times: The Pathways entry-level training program offers basic skills; there are plans to build 200 training academies by the end of the year; and the company is raising pay rates, working on retention and ensuring associates have the right technology to do their jobs.

“We know if we can get the army of Walmart to march, it will not just be better for Walmart, but better for the industry as well,” Foran said.

Rhee, meanwhile, spoke about the importance of culture and loyalty. Plus-size fashion and trend retailer Ashley Stewart was founded to provide women a boutique-like setting in urban areas, and has long stood for values like respect and empowerment. But it hasn’t always operated on the best business sense.

James Rhee, executive chairman and CEO of Ashley Stewart Rhee became CEO in mid-2013 as the company was headed toward bankruptcy (its second in just over three years), and by championing kindness, transparency and focusing on the core customer, the company is thriving. Ashley Stewart also has a highly engaged — and loyal — customer community.

“I know the industry is going through a lot of change,” Rhee said. “I hope it’s some form of encouragement that what was arguably one of the worst businesses could reinvent itself around something as basic as loyalty and friendship.” As for the employees, the minute they felt safe, they became leaders. Lundgren, for his part, said ongoing training, regardless of level, is a key component in retention. He also noted how crucial it is to keep sharing the stories of the retail opportunity and of individual company culture and progress. “Those are the things that make people say, ‘I think I’d like to work for that company,” he said.



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The Internet of Things
The Future of Retail IoT more then Beacons


Omnichannel is so 2016, with mPOS, staff handhelds/wearables, camera analytics, inter-active mirrors with AI, chatbots, & VR already shaping up as this year’s overused retail tech buzzwords.

At least that's according to ABI Research, whose new report outlines important trends — including 3D sensing — that it believes, while still under the radar, should be top priorities on retailers' technology agendas as they move toward a “smart” retail future.

“Without doubt, mPOS, staff handhelds, camera analytics, beacons, and more all will play key roles in the future of smart retail,” said Patrick Connolly, principal analyst at ABI Research. “But there will also be a number of very important trends that will go largely unnoticed this year which retailers should be aware of and plan for in order to drive new revenue opportunities."

In its report, “Smart Retail: Predictions for 2018, ABI Research identifies a number of key trends that will shape in-store retail IoT:

• Dynamic pricing technologies
• 3D sensing
• Handset-based SLAM technologies
• Attribution/retargeting
• Next-generation labels and signage
• PWAs, the physical web and the death of native app
• Real-time, in-store inventory management
• Customer and product analytics

Many of the technologies focus on the digitization of the store, whether through its customers, staff, inventory or the physical store itself, ABI noted.

“By combining these technologies with the industry's current hot topics, they will provide ways to deliver new services to customers, streamline processes, measure performance, & drive new revenue,” ABI said. “This is an essential first step in facilitating the move to retail IoT.”



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Driving Post-Holiday Sales
Tips for maintaining the momentum of service and sales after the holiday season.


During the holidays, most retail stores have a strategy to deal with the impending influx of people and sales. They pay extra attention to their exterior and interior decorations, inside displays, and customer service. Everything is intensified since the holiday rush brings more customers to serve and merchandise to sell.

But why should this plan end when the holidays end?

If anything, stores should be focusing even more on their holiday success factors AFTER the holiday season is complete. Our White Paper presents three tips to leverage the effort you’ve already invested to help drive post-holiday sales.

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