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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Focus on the four fear factors of festive shopping

ETP Omni-channel Retail Solutions

There is plenty of advice out there for retailers on how to get ready for the shopping frenzy that they experience and if managed right, enjoy during the festive shopping season every year. Buzzwords such as mobile optimization and omni-channel experiences are good to hear, but when it comes down to milking the cow during the most revenue generating part of the year, the transaction is at the heart of the holiday season shopping experience.

Customers worry about price, secure transactions and right product availability when spending their festive dollars both online and offline (in-store) and they are depending upon you to dispel those fears. For retailers, that means addressing the four fear factors that concern shoppers:

Product: To realize maximum profits, it is of optimum essence to plan your pre-season and in-season omni-channel merchandise and inventory right. Even at a time when the offline and online are merging to enhance shopper experiences, customers prefer to complete their festive shopping hassle free, one stop. So it is vital to stock the right product in the right channel and the right quantity at the right time. This will also help you to get through the entire festive season effectively, avoid stockout situations which usually result in unhappy or lost customers and ensure that you do not end up with excess stock at the end of the season.

Pricing: With many retailers offering similar products across multiple channels, shoppers are spoilt for options. In this situation, price usually becomes the deciding factor between a sale and a no-sale. Hence, along with the right inventory, you need to price your merchandise right across each channel. Additionally, you need to analyze the profit margins on individual seasonal products. If you can’t make a profit after the season is over with the left over merchandise, you may want to consider offering a markdown on the time sensitive products during the season.

Promotions: A steady number of shoppers are seen to be actively planning their festive shopping early, looking for deals and promotions to compare their best buying options. They have more locations to purchase from, both online and in-store including pop-ups, more discounts to compare and more information at their fingertips about the products they want. Hence, it is imperative that you plan, roll-out and modify your festive promotions and campaigns early as well as on the fly in-season.

Protection: With a plethora of transactions taking place due to the rise in shopping activity during the festive season, it is necessary to protect shoppers’ payment card data and ensure secure transactions across channels. You must take measures to make payment card transactions safe for your customers, no matter which channel they use for buying from your retail business, by employing a payment application that helps you do just that by protecting the heart of the festive shopping experience – the transaction.

ETP’s Omni-Channel Retail Solutions can help you put to rest all the above fear factors effectively and efficiently. The ETP Merchandise Planner helps you plan and manage cross-channel merchandise and inventory taking cues from previous seasons and industry data. It also enables you to manage pricing for all your products across each channel. The ETP Accelerator equips you to define, plan and roll-out retail promotions based on your business rules, and start, stop or modify them on the fly. The ETP V5.5 Omni-Channel POS solution is certified as PA-DSS v3.1 compliant by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). It means that retailers can now feel more secure with the ETP V5.5 POS solutions to provide a secure payment card-related transaction process for their end users.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

How well do you know your omni-channel customer?

Online, offline, mobile. e-commerce, m-commerce, brick and mortar; these things are beginning to blur more and more, because, really, only one thing matters: Your customers - and your customers are digital! It doesn’t matter if they’re in your store with phone in hand or browsing on a tablet from their couch. They want one seamless experience. So do you know your omni-channel customers well to provide them with that experience?

How well do you know your omni-channel customer?

Sources: Thinkwithgoogle.com, Business2community.com

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Payment Card Data Security at the Point-Of-Sale (POS)

As retail businesses adopt more omni-channel retailing methods such as e-commerce, m-commerce, social selling, and mobile payments, standard online and mobile payment frauds also pose a problem, exposing confidential information and credit card data of the customers. Hence, businesses and governments are under increased pressure to prioritize data security. To address such issues related to financial data theft and hacking, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) was formed on December 15, 2004, that released version 1.0 of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a proprietary information security standard for organizations to increase controls around cardholder data. 

PCI DSS represents a minimum set of control objectives which may be enhanced by local, regional and sector laws and regulations. Additionally, legislation or regulatory requirements may require specific protection of personally identifiable information or other data elements (for example, cardholder name), or define an entity’s disclosure practices related to consumer information. Examples include legislation related to consumer data protection, privacy, identity theft, or data security.

The Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) is a subset of the PCI DSS.  The PA-DSS applies to software vendors and others who develop payment applications that store, process, or transmit cardholder data as part of authorization or settlement, where these payment applications are sold, distributed, or licensed to third parties. In order to ensure that all sensitive cardholder authentication data is secure, PCI requires merchants, banks, and all other parties that use a third-party application for processing payments to select one that meets the PA-DSS standard.

The following chart details what is required to be PCI DSS compliant (and therefore what a payment application must support to facilitate a customer’s PCI DSS compliance).

ETP Retail Software Solutions - Credit Card Data Security at the Point-Of-Sale

The ETP V5.5 Omni-Channel POS solution is certified as PA-DSS v3.1 compliant by the PCI SSC. It means that retailers can now feel more secure with the ETP V5.5 POS solutions to provide a secure payment card-related transaction process for their end users. 

Being PCI DSS compliant means that, ETP V5 software does not retain, block or store and securely delete any sensitive payment card validation data, provides secure authentication features and facilitates secure remote access to the payment application while maintaining a log of all payment application activity. The PA-DSS certification for ETP V5 Suite is especially significant for customers of ETP Store (POS) and ETP MobileStore (Mobile POS) solution, as ETP V5 is one of very few retail software solutions to be PA-DSS compliant on the market.

“Keeping our customers secure and successful is the number one priority for ETP. We continually push beyond the ordinary and develop omni-channel retail software solutions with secure payment applications that protect wireless transmissions, facilitate secure network implementation and remote software updates and encrypt sensitive cardholder data over public networks,” said Naresh Ahuja, Chairman & CEO, ETP Group. “PA-DSS accreditation is by no means a simple task. However, by accomplishing it, we make it easier for our customers around the world to apply for PCI PA-DSS certification, where the use of compliant software solutions is a key element of demonstrating their ability to protect sensitive card data.”

For more information on ETP V5.5 Omni-Channel POS solutions, click here.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Pop-Up Retail: Understanding the value of opportunities

The impressive growth of pop-up retail can be seen in the fact that it was a zero dollar industry in 2003 but flourished into an 8 billion dollar industry in 2013. Pop-up continues to drive innovation and offer several strategic opportunities thus adding a new dimension to retail.

Some of the strategic opportunities presented by pop-up retail:
1. Retailers can target a niche audience.
2. Chance to experiment with an economic alternative to full-scale retail set-up.
3. Allow retailers to test new products, concepts, and markets.
4. Derive valuable consumer insights economically and with minimum inventory.
5. Retailers can create buzz and imprint their products on the customers’ minds.
6. Tap into “massclusivity” and stimulate consumer curiosity with elements of surprise and urgency.
7. Clear old inventory and stock.
8. Aggressively promote merchandise around a finite duration of time such as season, festival or holiday.
9. Create a learning center for customer

Retailers have been quick to explore the popup retailing concept:
- In 2003, Target pioneered the pop-up model with a 1,500 sq.ft. store in New York City that for showcasing designer Isaac Mizrahi’s women’s clothing over five weeks.
- Nike created a Runner’s Lounge in Vancouver with free massages, snacks, drinks, and the opportunity to test their new line of shoes designed exclusively for running.
- Collaborating with global brands – Adidas, Levi’s and Sony Ericsson, MTV promoted limited edition apparel and high-tech electronics by setting up pop-up stores in German cities for a week at a time.
- Exploring the idea of a traveling pop-up store, Gap fashioned a school bus with 60’s themed apparel and accessories.
- E-commerce retailer, Bluefly.com opened a brick-and-mortar store in New York to unload slow-moving stock in a temporary boutique.

To set-up a successfully running pop-up store or site, retailers need to employ the right pop-up technology. Web-based point-of-sale (POS) and mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) integrated with customer data and inventory management tools using the right retail software will enable the pop-up store staff or self-serve kiosks to answer customer queries and access real-time information about product availability and provide superior customer experience. Retailers must ensure strong security measures at the pop-up locations for protecting transaction data going across the network while providing connectivity.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Retail Insights (Infographic)

The retailers that will move ahead of the pack in the coming year are those that can deliver a consistent, clear, clean, simplified, and seamless message across all channels.

Retail Insights Infographic

Retailers looking into the future can be sure that no matter what trends and technologies are coming, an omni-channel strategy that is propelled by data and streamlined by automation will lead the way. Keep an open mind about innovations in omni-channel technologies in the future.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Team ETP shares its domain expertise and builds valuable partnerships

ETP has, over the years, participated extensively at industry events and trade shows focused on retail technology solutions. At these events, ETP has been constantly building long-term partnerships with market leaders, customers and prospects in the retail space. Through its various engagements at retail and technology events, ETP has been sharing its invaluable domain expertise acquired over more than 25 years of being associated with the retail industry across the Asia-Pacific, India and the Middle East.

With the fourth largest population in the world and a booming economy that is spurred by a growing number of millennial smartphone users (i.e., in the age group of 18 to 30 years) connected to the Internet, Indonesia is fast approaching a “big bang” for ecommerce in terms of scale and profitability. ETP was the Main Sponsor at the recently concluded Customer 360 – from offline to online – How to get your company ready  event held in Jakarta, Indonesia on 27th October 2015. At the event, the ETP team interacted with leading Indonesian retailers from different verticals such as PT. Mitra Adiperkasa (MAP), Everbest, Lee Cooper Indonesia, Depo Bangunan, Pasaraya, Kawan Lama, Electrolux, CODE inc., Trikomsel and many more, to share and understand perspectives on how to navigate the dynamic demographics where online and offline merge in retail and how retailers can gain from the benefits that e-commerce offers in the ‘brick-and-mortal’ retail world. 

Naresh Ahuja, Chairman & CEO, ETP Group, presented his views on the emerging retail technology for retailers to activate seamless operations that control all the customer touch-points and enhance the omni-channel brand experience.

ETP booth at Customer 360 event
Naresh Ahuja (centre), Chariman & CEO ETP Group with Arun Samak, CIO, PT. Mitra
Adiperkasa (MAP) and David Irawan, CIO, B&B Incorporated

ETP participated at the 17th Asia Pacific Retailers Convention & Exhibition held from 28th-30th October 2015 at the impressive Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City in the Philippines. The team successfully networked with several leading retailers from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines such as APRINDO, Primer Group, Rustan’s Group, PowerMAC, BLIMS Fine Furniture, Watch Republic and many more, to exchange their thoughts and learnings on how omni-channel retailing is disrupting the world of retail and on the new business models, strategies and technologies necessary for expanding retail business in Asia and in the global market.

ETP at the 17th Asia Pacific Retailers Convention & Exhibition, The Philippines

ETP also attended the Middle East Retail Forum and the InRetail Summit events held in Dubai, U.A.E. from 27th-28th October and from 14th-15th September 2015, respectively. Both these events brought together the who’s who of retail in the Middle East. Discussions and networking sessions at the events showcased the trends and opportunities that are making the Middle East an attractive marketplace for leading retailers across the globe, the retail dynamics in the GCC, customer centricity and omni-channel retail. The ETP team wrested optimum leverage of the opportunities that the events provided to strengthen its existing relationships with leading retailers from the region and build new ones.

At the India Retail Forum held in Mumbai, India on 15th-16th September 2015 that witnessed a gathering of more than 700 of the region’s sharpest minds in retail and retail realty businesses, ETP’s team of domain experts connected, collaborated and created outstanding concepts for harnessing the future of retail in the omni-channel era and building the roadmap for customer centric retail organizations through technological innovations that enable the modern retailers to delve deep into the consumers’ minds and offer them a hassle free, grand, unified shopping experience across the ‘phygital’ retail landscape.

ETP was the Technology Insights Partner at the South East Asian Retail Innovation & Technology Summit  held in Jakarta, Indonesia on 16th-17th October 2015. At the event, esteemed speakers and delegates from retail, realty, technology and finance businesses shared their experiences and knowledge on investment opportunities, channel strategies, product marketing, supply chain and technology innovations for the mobile-first generation.

Varun Suri, Program Manager, ETP Group speaking at the event

Varun Suri, Program Manager, ETP Group, presented his views on Business and IT Innovations Asian Leadership – Focusing on Demand Chain Management. He emphasized on the importance of customer-driven operations rather than supplier-driven operations. Consumers do not wish to spend precious time in deciphering complex promotions or applications, they would rather pay more and be instantly gratified. Ease and simplicity needs to be permeated in every retail process to deliver on customer expectations.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Are Pop-up Stores Adding a New Dimension to Retail?

According to Pop Up Republic, a marketing support company that caters exclusively to pop-up shops, “a pop-up store, also referred to as ‘flash retail’, is a shop, a restaurant, a collection of shops, or an event that opens quickly in a temporary location, often occupying abandoned storefronts and vacant mall spaces and is intended to operate for a short period of time.”

The beginning of the 21st century saw the first pop-up stores emerge across the U.S. and in Europe. The last few years have witnessed a rash of pop-up stores as they are perceived to be inexpensive alternatives than year-round rentals that can generate a lot of retail buzz for brands when required. For example, they are often strategically placed during the holiday season for shoppers or put up just in time for the launch of a major product.

The latest versions of pop-up stores are accompanied with more elaborate displays, high-end signage, sophisticated POS systems, latest mobile commerce functionalities, and more interactive and engaging experiences that nurture useful customer-retailer conversations. Retailers who understand that consumers rush to and embrace the various kinds of pop-up spaces, have come to view pop-ups as a strategically innovative and legitimate channel of connecting with their customers.

Today, retail in-store customers can browse through comparative pricing data right from their mobile devices. Whether the consumers are walking into a retail store to buy a product after carefully researching about it online, also known as “webrooming”, or whether they are looking at products in the store with the intention of buying it online, also known as “showrooming”, shopping is evolving at a rapid pace.

Pop-ups are the perfect avenue for online stores to make flash appearances and provide a look and feel of their products to shoppers and if done properly, have them become intrigued enough to buy them online.  A brick-and-mortar retailer can set up a pop-up for showcasing or launching a new product with minimum inventory.

The line between the online and offline world is blurring at a swift pace and the retail industry needs to keep up with the evolving shopping habits of the consumers. Pop-up retail will prove to be a catalyst in this direction.

The impressive growth of pop-up retail can be seen in the fact that it was a zero dollar industry in 2003 but flourished into an 8 billion dollar industry in 2013. Pop-up continues to drive innovation and offer several key opportunities thus adding a new dimension to retail.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Why retailers need to leverage the power of social media

The online world is nothing but a humungous super-complex web of connections that has made the communication process quick, easy and omni-dimensional. Social media has taken the process of communication through connection to the next level which is popularly referred to as engagement.

Social media is an integral part of people’s daily lives today. More and more people are getting onto various social media platforms each day to connect with their friends, peers and colleagues. In the last few years, people are also connecting with the brands they like and businesses that offer these brands through social media. Further, the usage is not just limited to connecting and communicating. Most people are also using it as a means to opine and review products or services and to express their thoughts, beliefs and experiences. In a way, these tools have given people a power to speak and be heard. As such, social media engagement has become a necessity in most customer facing businesses such as retail.

Retail today is more of a customer driven business. Most of the retailers and retail brands are aligning their business models and strategies to become more customer-centric by tailoring their products and services to suit the needs and demands of their customers. Those who haven’t done so, need to move in this direction swiftly or they will not be able to sustain and compete. However, this can only happen if the retailers know and understand their customers better. To gain these insights, retailers need to rely on appropriate technology. This is where social media can be leveraged to their benefit.

Retail and social media

Retailers can use social media platforms to solicit feedback - both positive and negative, from customers. This provides valuable insights into the customers’ desires, enabling the retailers to better understand their customers’ expectations and try to exceed them through better customer experience and relationship management.

Retailers can not only listen to and monitor what their customers - both current and prospective, are talking about, but also they can engage directly using social media as a channel for establishing relationships with the customers. Furthermore, shoppers are increasingly using social media platforms to seek advice and recommendations about products to help them make better shopping decisions.

Retail brands and businesses can also make use of these platforms to pitch their products highlighting the features and benefits, to create awareness and provide essential information either through regular updates or advertisements on social media. Retailers can also plan customer-centric marketing campaigns and promote them on social media platforms to reach vast audiences in no time.

Nowadays, social media applications can also be used for shopping directly. With omni-channel retailing coming into play, social media becomes an essential channel for retailers to service customers. Yet, this is not all. Due to innovations in mobile technology, the rate at which people are getting onto social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and many others using handheld mobile devices is rising exponentially, making social media an extremely powerful medium.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

5 questions – before investing in retail Business Intelligence (BI)

Big data eliminates the uncertainty out of the enterprise, provided the right software and tools are used to break it down into accessible bits of information. When deduced and used correctly, it helps retailers identify the pain and gain areas of business. It also provides actionable insights into customer behaviors, demographics, brand affinity and the ability to create targeted campaigns.

But will Big Data give you the right data? Ask the following before investing in retail BI solutions.

Who is your customer and how effectively can you reach out to him?
While Big Data can help you be more strategic in customer engagement, it is necessary to ascertain who your audience is and how will you reach out to them. Once you have understood this, you can allot the necessary KPIs to the data project and establish the foundation of success.

Does it provide the crucial 80/20 analytics?
Retailers and marketing teams understand the value of deriving the 80/20 analytics. On average, 20% of your customer generate 80% of your top-line revenue. So, while you might be able to acquire information on thousands of customers, it is more important to know your top customers. Understanding their traits and ticks would potentially surge revenue and recommendations both.

Do I have the employee strength to support it?
The influence of emergent technology permeates all industries. There is often high pressure and anxiety related to ‘Big Data’ adoption, as a business process. In the eagerness to obtain the latest technology software and application, retailers tend to miss the long-term requirements of the system. . The BI application phases are to be supported by people, within the organization, with the right skill set to derive value from the vast enterprise data and validate system results.

Do I have the company culture to sustain it?
Big Data technology wielded as a demonstration of competitive advantage will only take you so far. Deep and comprehensive planning is essential to understand the levels of analytics needed by the current and projected business scope. 

Is it social?
Social media integration with the BI system is crucial to not just accumulate, but also to validate CRM data. It helps generate a community-based correlation and engagement with customers. Both business functions, BI and social media, feed information to each other. This helps you reach out to a bigger circle of potential prospects with targeted campaigns and communication.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Omni-channel Technology Solutions for your Retail Business

Retail has been transformed by technology - driving greater personalization for consumers, more conversions for retailers, and more traffic on multiple retail channels. Omni-channel retailing has become the norm in the industry and customers expect access to retail brands through multiple channels, at their convenience. Omni-channel retail adaptation continues to grow further as customers embrace emerging technology and its multiple access points. Your omni-channel presence and perceptivity, and not just your product, makes or breaks your brand image today.

Customers expect a uniform and meaningful experience across all retail channels and instant connectivity to retail brands regardless of how and when they connect with the physical stores. They expect retailers to know what they want and how they like to make their purchases. Shopper expectations identified in an recent IBM survey showed 59 percent of shoppers want retailers to demonstrate that they “understand” them, 64 percent expect retailers to know what products they like, 61 percent want retailers to know the types of offers they prefer, and 59 percent want retailers to tell them when frequently purchased items are going on sale. Further, 54 percent said they expect retailers to know if they are new or returning customers, and 53 percent want retailers to maintain a cross-channel history of all purchases so they can receive personalized offers.

Thus, the need of the hour for retailers is to get closer to the customers through all channels, offline and online. Retailers need to drive traffic to the brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce platforms simultaneously. Marketing campaigns must be aligned to the right retail channel with the right message at the right time and right price. Customer data can be used to provide predictive analytics for a strong promotions foundation. Incorporating integrated technology allows enterprises to explore successful offerings that link online and physical shopping. 

Retail solutions such as the ETP V5 are fundamentally integrated with omni-channel capabilities that simplify business processes and offer retailers the power to create highly targeted, immensely effective and easily measurable marketing promotions; thus, allowing retailers to determine their return on investment (ROI) and improve their bottom line.

ETP V5 Retail Software Solutions comprise of the omni-channel store solutions, omni-channel promotions planning, omni-channel merchandise planning and omni-channel business analytics.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Point-of-sale Security - how to avert retail cyber attacks

retail POS security

As point-of-sale systems adopt new-age retail POS software, retailers will have to brace themselves with the security threats that may come with it. Devices that handle credit and debit card information are at a constant threat from cybercriminals who want to steal such data.

New and emerging retail POS and retail CRM technologies are enabling retailers to exceed customer expectations. The customers in turn demand greater convenience and value. Greater convenience comes through greater connectivity between retailers and customers across multiple touchpoints be it channels, locations or devices. And such gratifying levels of connectivity offer convenience not only to consumers, but also to cybercriminals.

Lately, connected point-of-sale (POS) systems are being highly targeted by cybercriminals and specially-designed viruses for such purposes are further indication that all kinds of connected devices may be susceptible to attack now.

For more than 80,000 customers around the US who bought a $5 footlong sandwich at Subway, the second largest fast food chain with over 32,000 outlets in 90 different countries, it was a ticket to having their credit card data stolen by a band of Romanian hackers who later pled guilty to having stolen payment card data from the point-of-sale (POS) systems of hundreds of businesses, including more than 150 Subway restaurant franchises and at least 50 other retailers, using 'sniffing' software to make illicit charges. And those retailers made it possible by practically leaving their transaction information freely open to the Internet, letting the hackers ring up over $3 million, as mentioned in this article.

The cyber attacks on US retail giants Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels Stores - which involved malware on POS systems - had a profound impact on sales and consumer confidence in the safety of credit-card information at retail POS terminals. Potential hauls for successful cybercriminals provide plenty of motivation to target POS.

"Retail cybercrime is the crime of the future," says Dave Marcus, director of security and communications at security software firm McAfee. "Instead of coming in with guns and robbing the till, criminals can target businesses, root them from across the planet, and steal digitally."

As retail businesses adopt more omni-channel retailing methods such as e-commerce, m-commerce, social selling, and mobile payments, standard online and mobile payment frauds also pose a problem, exposing confidential information and credit card data of the customers. This means that retailers could soon find themselves being attacked both online and on the high street.

Despite this worrying trend, by translating the same principles of security from the real world to the POS network, a security defence strategy can be put in place to prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to your sensitive, valuable data.

The ‘POS’tulates to be followed to avert cyber security attacks on retail POS system are:

• Create a response plan that will potentially address the incident of a cyber-attack. Test the execution of this response system on a periodic basis.

• Perform a thorough audit of data that is sensitive and confidential to keep a record of their storage locations on the network as well as their instances and volumes. This gives an understanding of where the valuable information is available.

• Get rid of any unauthorized instances of the sensitive data based on the company’s information governance policies, so that the exposure of such data is minimized.

• Create and regularly update standards of normal activity for each of their endpoints.

• Employ specialists who deal with information security to proactively fish out anomalies in real-time reports that are generated. These should be considered as signs indicating that the network’s security has been compromised and the attackers have access to the data.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Are you working on your customer experience shelf life?

Retail Software Solutions

The advent of modern technology has added a new dimension to the way retail businesses operate. There has been a significant shift from product or operation based retailing to a more customer centric one. Focus on customer experience has become the new norm and the prime necessity for every retail business for sustenance and growth. This is a new challenge for retailers – to constantly meet expectations and thus sustain the customer experience ‘shelf life’.

Customers today, have the power of choice - a widespread range of products and alternatives, an unending list of retailers and multiple channels to shop from - they can choose from and use several permutations and combinations, thus forcing the imperative need for retailers to constantly deliver the best customer experience throughout the retail customer journey.

Every product has a shelf life, some last long and some don’t. So also, the customer experience has a shelf life; but unlike products, retailers can work towards extending its length and retaining it. To do this, retailers need to quickly adapt to latest industry trends. They must enhance their business models by allowing infusion of emerging technologies in their operations. Below are a few tips on how this could be done:

-         having omni-channel capabilities for ensuring overall presence
-         using mobile POS counters for quick customer service
-         acquiring and using customer feedback to enhance the shopping experience
-         employing effective CRM solutions to foster brand loyalty
-         planning and executing customer centric marketing and promotions campaigns
-         using the right tools for merchandise and inventory management
-         engaging with the customers using social media and other channels
-         capturing, analyzing and integrating real-time business data to

In this dynamic, technology influenced and highly competitive retail environment, it is essential for retail businesses to stand out and surpass the competition in delivering and sustaining customer experience thereby, working towards longer customer experience shelf lives. This will enable retailers to not only retain existing customers, but also acquire more by virtue of goodwill fostered amongst the current ones.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Understanding the 5 stages of the retail customer journey

It is of prime importance for retailers to track the retail journey of their customer in order to make the right moves and provide better customer service. It gives them an opportunity to align their strategies effectively to the customer journey road-map. Given the latest developments and innovations in retail, the customers of today are spoilt for choice and options. All this seems to make the customer journey very complex, however it can be construed that the journey traverses 5 fundamental stages.

Research – The trigger to every purchase is the intention to acquire that particular product that is desired or needed. This leads the customers into the first stage of the journey, which is research. They research the various aspects of the desired product such as its cost, features and specifications, alternatives and so on through means and methods available. Additionally, they also research about the retail companies offering these products thus making it important for the businesses to have an omni-channel presence, be relevant and have an edge over the competition when the customers are researching.

Identification and Consideration – Once the research is over, customers analyze the information they have gathered. Based on their inferences, they narrow down their options for the product as well as for the retailer from whom they intend to procure it. Further, they compare the options they have narrowed down to and consider the one that they feel is the best. The impact that the retail businesses manage to cast during the customers’ research will decide whether they fall into the consideration bracket of the customers or not.

Transaction – This is where the customer acquisition is realized. It is at this stage where the actual purchase happens – the customers buy the product and pay the stipulated amount for it. Though it looks like a simple process of give and take between the retail businesses and the customers, it is not merely that. There are other aspects that make the process complicated and critical leading into the next stage.

Experience – From the customers’ point of view, if the transaction process was simple, easy, engaging and left a positive influence, it can be said that they have had a good experience. This is very important for the retail businesses as customer experience is one of the key ingredients in establishing a retailer-customer long-term relationship.

Retention – After establishing the relationship with the customers, the retail businesses need to build on it further. The longevity of this relationship could very well be the ability of the retailers to retain and extract more revenue from the existing customers. Thus the criticality lies in not only delivering the right experience in terms of deliverables and processes, but also sustaining those efforts and even exceeding the expectations at times. This will help foster loyalty among the customers and build goodwill through positive word-of-mouth, which the retail businesses can benefit from.

So is your retail business making the right impact at every stage of the customer journey?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Emerging retail trends in Southeast Asia

Emerging retail trends in South East Asia

The retail markets of Southeast Asia today offer a range of opportunities, depending on investor appetite for risk and maturity. Favourable demographics including a young earning population and the region’s high tourism potential contributes to rapidly growing economies and mature retail markets that in turn lead to the creation of new shopping venues of all shapes and sizes. In the coming years, as the region's consumers become more affluent and its cities expand, following are the top retail trends in Southeast Asia:

Consumers today expect quick and personalized customer service. They expect retailers to deliver a wider range of products, faster, through meaningful and targeted mediums. Omni-channel retail technology allows retailers to know exactly where their inventory is, to whom they can make it available and when it will get there, regardless of which channel is calling for it. This helps retailers to offer the best level of service to their customers.

Integrated back-and front-end systems
Retailers in Southeast Asia will continue to focus on ensuring their back-end supply chain operations are fully optimized and streamlined and are aligned and synchronized with their store/online operations and associated front-end systems. This will help improve product availability and order accuracy, reduce fulfilment costs, and improve service levels.

Fast and flexible fulfilment
Few retailers in Southeast Asia are currently offering next day delivery to customers, two-hour click-and-collect, or ship-from-store services. For this to be possible, retailers need to have a 360 view of their channels and maintain accurate demand planning. Omni-channel retailers with this level of insight into their inventory and customers will seamlessly control product, people and processes to dispatch and fulfil orders quickly and profitably.

Social shopping
The increased use of instant messaging platforms and m-commerce in Southeast Asian countries will see more shoppers embracing social shopping. The next development will involve retailers using social channels to take customer orders. The retailers who succeed in this difficult market will probably be those who see social media as a viable retail platform.

Hyper targeting
Big data analytics in retail has advanced immensely, making it possible to track customer transactions, online conversations and shopping habits in real-time. Through this, brands can understand better how to service their customers and engage them sustainably.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The last mile in customer engagement

As the retail market becomes bigger for the global consumer, a premium is placed on creating extraordinary brand experiences. That is what keeps the customer relationships intact in an increasingly competitive arena. Following are a few examples of how brands have managed to carve out a superior brand image and relationship quotient with the customers.

Anticipatory service at the Apple store begins for customers even before they arrive in the flesh. With the Apple store app, a customer can schedule an appointment with the store staff – who will be able to prepare for their arrival at the Apple store and be available to personally guide them. The results are benefits for customer and company alike. For the company, the benefit is level scheduling of demand, a Lean process principle. For customers, the app eliminates wait times and promises undivided attention, something hard to find elsewhere in retail. Then it gets even more personal.

While IKEA’s print offering is its most enduring piece of content marketing, it only scratches the surface of the brand’s exemplary content marketing efforts, which are many and varied and all revolve around one common mission: to improve people’s everyday lives. “We really look at how people live their lives at home,” says Christine Scoma Whitehawk, Communications Manager for IKEA U.S. “So, we really start with the customer, and try to see what’s important to them… And then how can IKEA help them so that we are truly partners in making their life better at home every day.”

Starbucks is masterful at wrapping its product in a deeply-textured in-store experience. The choice of furniture and fixtures, the names of its drinks, the messages on the cups, the graphics, it's all been studiously crafted. It creates a unique ecosystem of customer interactions, attention to smallest details with quality products, all weaved together. It ensures value fulfilment across multiple channels. “The mobile-order-and-pay, a totally unique technology, is the single most important innovation that Starbucks will introduce this year.” says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Top 5 questions - before investing in merchandise planning technology

The average consumer has changed. Retail has changed to keep up with consumer expectations. And, new technologies are continually evolving to change buying behaviours all over again. The only element that remains constant in the cycle of change is executing a customer-centric, interactive and personable brand experience. Effective merchandise planning helps you deliver just that!

Can it provide an omni-channel presence?
A customer expects seamless and consistent brand experience in-store, online, through mobile apps and social media. To remain accessible to the customer on multiple channels requires omni-channel planning and forecasting. Products, promotions and pricing has to be consistent across all retail channels – reinforcing customer trust, purchase frequency and loyalty.

Can it crunch Big Data?
Consolidated enterprise data in the form of Big Data is run through a common analytic engine to gain actionable customer insights and understand purchasing behaviour. Merchandise analytics can be used to ascertain trends and future market potential in different seasons, occasions and allow intuitive management, reducing lead times.

Is it working with real-time information?
Retailers need to provide on-trend, timely and precisely-priced merchandise as and when the customer demands it. Accurate demand planning in a highly competitive marketplace is key to optimize product lifecycle and profitability. Real-time visibility and control of business operations helps make quick strategic procurement, promotions and placement of merchandise.

Is it scalable?
When business is changing and growth is happening around the world, around the clock, your software systems and processes need to be agile. Merchandise planning, in an expanding enterprise, needs to be as cohesive as it is comprehensive. Flexibility in the system architecture leads to optimized assortments and optimal merchandise cycles.

Does it provide stable automation?
The most elemental and important feature is the stability of the merchandise planning process. All functions mentioned above can only be productive when the system platforms are aligned and stably connected to enterprise operations. It can drive superiority in the supply chain and competitive advantage in customer demand.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Online in-store – shopper’s paradise

Retail Mobile Technology

Smartphones are getting smarter and making their users more savvy shoppers. Today, customers research, review, compare, purchase products online and in-store. Research shows more than 80% shoppers use their smartphones in-store, while shopping. The customer’s mobile is the starting point of most shopping journeys. It begins with searching about the various categories of interest. The search leads to the customer browsing deeper into the product information, while in the physical store, and ready to make the purchase.

Most shoppers use their phones to ascertain pre-shopping information like searching the store location and timings, comparing prices and understanding the store or brand specific promotions and ensuring the product availability at the store. Customers who use mobiles more often buy more. This is seen across product categories like health and beauty, electronics, home care and appliances. Browsing through substantial product information and reviews surreptitiously influences customers positively and removes any doubts regarding a purchase. Sometimes, customers also buy experience enhancing accompaniments for the selected products after reading about them online.

Mobile technology in retail is impacting a broad spectrum of business functions such as campaign and promotion management, customer service and acquisition, retention and loyalty management, space planning and optimization, operational processes, demand and supply forecasting, inventory management, security management, etc. Retailers are focusing strongly on mobile connect and analytics to gain actionable customer insights out of the enterprise data. For this, mobile technology like mPOS and beacons are being introduced into the retail store to deliver superior shopping experiences.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Top CEOs redefining the rules for new age retail

Nike CEO Mark Parker talks about being the Goliath in a David market. “The last thing we want is to be a big dumb company that feels we can put a swoosh on something and people will buy that. Our management approach hasn’t come from studying and reading business books. It’s more intuitive, from the culture of sports. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve. How do you adapt to your environment and really focus on your potential? To really go after that, you have to embrace the reality that it is not going to slow down. And you have to look at that as half full, not half empty. Companies and people look at the pace of change as a challenge, an obstacle, a hurdle, we like to look at it as opportunity: Get on the offense.”

Speaking on the changing landscape of retail, Macy's Inc. CEO Terry Lundgren isn't losing sleep over how he's running a retail empire in an age of booming internet-based commerce. He says “A bifurcated view of the retail environment – one in which brick-and-mortar retailers fight against a rising tide of internet retailers – doesn't paint an accurate picture of how the average retailer shops. Rather, at least for Macy's, the two are complementary tools used by consumers. The customer starts with a device, then they want to touch the product or sit in the sofa. Afterwards, they might walk out of the store and buy it online."

Omni-channel retailing has become the norm in the industry and customers expect access to retail brands through multiple channels as per their convenience. The physical and digital platforms are blending to create an ecosystem that delivers instant value, information, products, services, payment options, rewards, cash-back, discounts, recommendations and updates to the customer anytime, anywhere. Walmart's CEO Doug McMillon, elaborates further, "I want us to stop talking about digital and physical retail as if they're two separate things. The customer doesn't think of it that way, and we can't either. One customer can shop with us in so many different ways - in stores, on their phones, at homes or a pick-up point. I get excited about what our technology team is now capable of. As we add new capabilities and join these unique assets together effectively, we're going to have something special."

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Top New Technology Innovations

“I believe that every life is valuable. That we can make things better. That innovation is the key to a bright future. That we are just getting started.” – Bill Gates

It is said that every generation owes itself one glorious revolution. It seems technology is impervious to this timeline distinction - from the steam engine to the printing press, from the stapler to the smartphone, it is destined to revolutionize our day-to-day lives, generation after generation. It is making clean energy at 1/100th the cost, eradicating diseases, saving and even creating new lives a tangible possibility.

The top new technology innovations of the 21st century (so far!):

DNA technology is helping produce miraculous fixes and even modify mutations that cause life-threating diseases. It is also increasingly used in criminal investigations, nanotechnology and gene-splicing.

(Image courtesy www.dnatesting.com)

Solar technology is often imagined as solar panels installed atop the roofs of industrial and residential buildings. But, research teams are focussing on applying solar energy in various forms like solar roadways and solar power in space.

(Image courtesy www.extremetech.com)

Connectivity is perhaps the most experienced form of new technology today. It is only going to be better, faster with hyper connectivity weaved into and across daily appliances at home and offices, transport modes and entertainment.

(Image courtesy www.discovery.com)

Online classrooms are providing the most important educational foundation that everyone needs, no matter their location, social stature, physical and mental limitations.

(Image courtesy www.wired.com)

3D printed bridges, self-driving automobiles, virtual reality, bionic prosthetics, artificial intelligence and robotics – the future of technology is as comprehensive as it is engaging and incessant.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Shake the Status Quo – Boost Retail Conversions

If retail was to be summarized in numbers, the key statistic would be the sale conversion rate. While determining the financial health of the retail business, it is vital to ascertain the conversion rate out of the total incoming traffic in the store. A steady incline in conversions is usually linked with increased in-store traffic in the future. The challenge lies in mastering the sophisticated combination of attracting more foot traffic and delivering personalized attention to individual customers.

Store display – How many times have you entered a store just because it looked intriguing and just too appealing? It happens. And it can happen for your store, if you put your best out in a spectacular display. Creative brand and product imagery can help a small kiosk win over a sprawling showroom. Excite passing customers with interesting display and incentivizing signage. Keep them changing as per seasons, occasions and promotions, to counter visual fatigue. In an overcrowded marketplace, if you could manage to get the prospects into your store – half the battle is won!

Sales training – This might sound very basic and an existent part of retail business, in varying degrees. But in the customer-centric retail arena, just warm greetings and polite pointing don’t make the cut. Your in-store sales staff and customer support agents need to be groomed, trained and empowered with the right technology to consult customers with confidence. When a customer is treated with a truly personable experience, it becomes the key distinguishing factor for her to return to the store instead of using other channels to make the purchase, next time.

Customer feedback – One of the best trends followed in the present social media age is being vocal about your likes and dislikes. Customers vociferously review, critique and comment on various subjects, including their retail experiences. Online/offline surveys work to an extent but it can’t be your only medium of accumulating customer feedback. A substantial, savvy and trustworthy multi-channel presence wins favor with all kinds of customers. It induces and initiates conversations that engage customers and prospects alike. Through this, retailers derive actionable feedback which helps fulfilling customer expectations and nurtures brand loyalty.