Physical retail hasn't gone away just yet, according to Ken Silay, director of technology research and innovation for Chico's FAS. Now more than ever, retailers must leverage metrics in the moment and analyze physical data to make decisions. This was the overarching theme of the day at the 2014 Store Experience Symposium that kicked off the 13th annual Retail Executive Summit in Del Mar, CA last Wednesday. Joining Silay were Naomi Gross, professor, assistant chair and FMM at Fashion Institute of Technology, Shelley Kohan, VP of consulting for RetailNext and Sahir Anand, VP of research and principal analyst for EKN Research.
"Retail is a rapidly evolving process," noted Silay. "Retailers must not go back to their roots, but keep moving forward. Think of change as a catalyst, don't allow themselves to be victims." There are many technology enablers in today's retail environments, according to Silay, including quick network speeds and distributed order management. We're quickly approaching the transaction of the future, including: mall geofencing, recognition in-store, retrieval of a suspended order, recommendations to increase order size and the ability to locate an item in inventory to complete a sale. But what do retailers have to do to make transactions like this occur?
Today, it's all about meeting the needs of the customer, "retailers must think of innovation not as a technology but as a mindset," commented Gross. "You have to keep the lights on and the doors open – so what can you do to get there?" To begin, create a holistic view of the customer, leveraging multiple sources of data to add dimension to who your customer is.
Begin to optimize what technologies are already owned – are functional users optimizing the existing capabilities? Are you getting the biggest bang for the buck with what technology is at your fingertips? Also, there is never enough transactional data, be sure to guarantee marketing has access to various inventory levels, otherwise they may be pushing promotions that cannot be fulfilled.
"At the end of the day, retailers just want to maximize the customers they have," said Kohan. "Translate the path to purchase into the customers' mind and experience." Retailers should begin to focus on five key elements to drive top line growth: personalization, associate-customer engagement, shopping experience, optimization of traffic flow in-store, and driving traffic to stores.
With these new technologies, the key is motivating associates and customers with carefully crafted upliftment plans, according to Anand, this will help to infuse customer relevant new-age systems into the stores. "Technology can only be an enabler," said Anand. "It has to motivate, it if doesn't it isn't truly adopted. Technology is what will bring the store closer to the customer."