Over the past 30 years I have watched with interest as massive technology advancements have changed the face of retail. I've seen first-hand from one of my first roles with IBM just how the PC revolutionized retail practices and forced a tectonic change in the way that consumers purchased products.
Technology has brought many rewards, but with systems often implemented over a long period of time and added to with bespoke solutions, many retailers do not now have consistent end-to-end visibility, usability, manageability and most importantly, integrated business processes. By adding more applications and capabilities over time, the initial simple but powerful solutions like the AS/400 and 4680 POS from IBM no longer provided the required enterprise framework. Add to this the complexity of the internet commerce channel and you have a mess. So today, retailers have trouble enabling true omni-channel capabilities and cannot yet make best use of the information they have to optimize their operations.
This has now reached a critical point. The speed of innovation means that where once we could take several years to deploy a new ERP system, retailers now need to be constantly on top of, or even ahead of, the technology game. Retailers need to look hard at where they see themselves five or even ten years from now, which is difficult considering the constant pressure to keep afloat and respond to the current needs of the business. What retailers need is a new view of their infrastructure and application framework with the clear objective of developing a single version of their data across the entire enterprise. Winging it with loosely integrated legacy operating systems and ERP solutions will not get you to the finish line!
There are several ways to strategically build the required infrastructure and application framework, although today I believe Microsoft offers a great solution to the core questions we all ask ourselves: 'what does having this infrastructure really mean?'; 'how do I know what is required and how will I build a roadmap to get where I want to go?'; 'what will this undertaking cost and am I guaranteed the outcome will be as predicted?'; and 'how do I get my business to operate as a dynamic business with integrated and interoperable business processes?'
Although complex, everything starts with the architecture. This architecture provides the structure that enables a company to achieve the fully automated and dynamic operations required in today's business environment. Microsoft has already done most of the heavy lifting by providing products that are designed, developed and deployed to work seamlessly with each other, based on this architecture. Think of Microsoft Office; this is an example of an everyday software platform that seamlessly integrates and interoperates vast amounts of information.
In retail, having the ability to leverage a foundation which provides the agility to connect all business processes and entities is critical to being able to compete going forward. More importantly, the use of this persistent information for all employees and customers is the real key. Even having information locked up in a huge data warehouse typically only reserves the right of information access to a few, much less to all, which is what is required. It is the merging of real-time information with business process that provides retailers with the structure to create a differentiating business model not using someone else's 'best practices', which could also be used by any competitor.
In addition to the interoperable operating system and platform products, being able to operationally use in real-time all of this data is a must. Web services, specifically a retail web service gateway designed for omni-directional movement of data is a required function. Data will always be disparate, structured and unstructured and will only get more this way. Having this next generation foundation allows software developers, system integrators and customers to take control and to focus on the innovation required in today’s highly competitive and quickly changing retail landscape.
The good news is you do not have to do all of this in one big gulp which is what is still being promoted by large ERP vendors. Most importantly mid-sized retailers are now more in a position not seen for many years to take advantage of today’s new technologies. Why? Because mid-market retailers still sitting on these old AS/400’s and Unix based systems who have not been able to afford the massive investments required from the large ERP vendors can now have it all for a fraction of the price and time. With the right vision, strategy and plan you can achieve this admirable position in a controlled and cadenced environment while actually saving expenditures and improving bottom line.
Congratulations to Raymark customer Saks Fifth Avenue for being selected among Apparel magazine's Top 40 Innovators. The winning companies got their creative spark on by looking at their business in new ways - taking a fresh approach to solving problems that were impeeding growth, or developing new products for consumers that they didn't even realize they needed.
Saks continues to transform the customer experience by embracing technology that can improve and accelerate the shopping process. They worked closely with Raymark to customize their mobile clienteling solution, and will be using it to ensure that Saks associates are better equipped to up-sell and cross-sell, finding customers whatever they need or want from anywhere within the Saks enterprise.
Raymark is very proud to be innovating alongside such a forward-thinking retailer.
The entire article can be downloaded on the Apparel site at http://apparel.edgl.com/reports/2013-Top-Innovators86135
The traditional POS is dead. Today’s customer expects an experience when they walk into a store – and that extends to the POS. Gone are the days when the POS was simply a transactional device that served to process a payment and usher customers out of the store as quickly as possible. With retailers increasingly focusing on customer centricity, today’s POS serves as a valuable tool that store associates can and should be using to build relationships.
Engage with Customers at Each Stage of the Purchase Process
According to RIS News, a major development in the POS space this year is the integration of more loyalty programs and customized advertising and marketing promotions. The goal is to engage with customers at each stage of the purchase process; from driving impulse consideration, all the way to the final purchase.
As customers grow increasingly accustomed to making online purchases, their in-store expectations are changing accordingly. If brick-and-mortar retailers are to successfully compete with their online counterparts, they must offer customers incentives to visit their stores. Often short on time and looking to make the most sensible purchase, customers are more likely to shop in stores that optimize their experience-to-value ratio. They are interacting with a brand through many different channels, and store associates are expected to have instant access to customer and product information stemming from each of these channels. As the POS moves away from its traditional, centralized position towards becoming a mobile customer service tool, it must be truly integrated into the rest of the organization. By providing knowledge of the enterprise across channels to associates on the store floor, at the point of decision, those associates become empowered to provide the type of information and service that leads to customer retention, upselling and cross-selling.
The POS is Moving Away from Simply Being a Transaction-Processing Solution
Offering promotions and conducting suggestive selling at a centralized register when the customer is ready to pay and eager to leave is a missed opportunity for enticing them to select additional items before they are ready to perform the transaction. Moving forward, different verticals will each have their own unique deployment of in-store devices. This will be dependent on the supporting business process required to create the ultimate experience for customers in that space. However, regardless of the vertical, the POS is moving away from simply being a transaction-processing solution towards becoming an added touch point retailers can use to enhance and solidify their customer relationships.
The concept of installing a solution that requires continual updates is a thing of the past. SaaS/cloud-based delivery means the application runs remotely and the device retailers are using is continuously connected. Cloud delivery for the POS will allow smaller retailers to benefit from the latest technology without the upfront financial and infrastructure investments required from a non-hosted POS deployment. Should those retailers decide to grow, this type of delivery is also highly-scalable.
Real-time access to data makes decision-making easier than ever
Cloud-based delivery eliminates the inefficiencies associated with data polling, as well as facilitates the adoption of omni-channel retailing. Real-time access to data makes decision-making easier than ever, and means that the entire organization is being fed the same information, regardless of the channel they are operating in. Most retailers want the various departments and channels that make up their organizations to operate seamlessly, yet don’t align their business goals with their technology. The concept of installing a solution that requires continual updates and rebooting of the POS is a thing of the past.
Cloud POS solutions can deliver a reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) as great as 55%
Lower total cost of ownership is another reason more retailers are moving towards cloud-based delivery vehicles for their POS. According to a four year study conducted by Hurwitz & Associates, cloud POS solutions can deliver a reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) as great as 55% compared to traditional, on-premises solutions. This is due to a combination of low upfront investment, reduced infrastructure costs and minimal upgrade expenditures.
Rich user experience, more rapid, manageable approach
As innovation continues to occur at a rapid rate, retailers will become increasingly weary of investing in technology that could easily change within a short period of time. Overall, SaaS/ cloud-based delivery vehicles provide the benefits of a rich user experience using a more rapid, manageable approach. A 55% reduction in TCO, rich user experience, PLUS not having to worry about infrastructure or upgrades? Yes, please!
Discover what industry expert and Raymark Senior Vice-President Will Roche has to say about customer loyalty, and whether or not it even exists...
I remember speaking to a department store retailer many years ago about what exactly customer loyalty was, and he said to me, "Loyalty? If you want loyalty, buy a dog!" I have never forgotten that phrase, and it still makes me laugh. What does having a loyal customer mean?
The complete article can be found here, or on Loyalty 360 where it was recently published.
Adoption Requires Simple, Efficient, Value-Added Payment Methods
The simpler retailers make it for customers to complete a transaction, the more readily new payment technologies will be adopted by both the sales associate and the customer. Retail staff needs to be trained on how to facilitate payment, and customers need to be incentivized to use the new technology. If payment methods are simple, render staff more efficient, and provide value to the customer, ROI will be a natural bi-product.
Fragmentation of the Payment Market Creates Opportunity for Retailers
While it would seem that the global surge in smartphone use would lead to mass adoption of new payment technologies, there are some factors that are inhibiting their acceptance on a larger scale. One such factor is a fragmentation of the payment market, whereby standards still need to be developed and consumers need to be educated on the methodology behind those standards. This fragmentation includes the ongoing struggle between conventional payment processors such as Visa, MasterCard and AMEX, and mobile vendors who are eager to capitalize on emerging technologies. This competitive landscape leads to reduced transaction costs for retailers, which could then be passed on to customers in the form of rewards for using the new technology. Opt-in promotions could be used to incentivize those customers who allow certain identifiers to be tagged at the point of purchase. This would break down the barrier to adoption until mass adoption is achieved, while permitting retailers to obtain additional customer profile information from willing participants.
Better Safe than Sorry
Security is another rampant concern surrounding new payment technologies. Customers need to be reassured that the payment methods they are being encouraged to use are secure, and that their personal information will not be misallocated. Retailers that address this concern in a clever way and guarantee that customer information will be treated with respect are infinitely more likely to see an upswing in the willingness by customers to accept new technology.
Twice as many high-income shoppers ($150k+) as lower-income shoppers (less than $25k) would use a digital wallet via mobile phone
According to a June 2012 study from Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group (CGC), if PayPal offered a mobile wallet, 4 in 5 consumers would be open to using it.Another study conducted by RIS News indicated that twice as many high-income shoppers ($150k+) as lower-income shoppers (less than $25k) would use a digital wallet via mobile phone.These are powerful statistics. They reveal that customers, especially customers with more disposable income, are open-mindedto embracing new payment technologies if the reasons to do so are well presented and the result is a better overall customer experience.
New mobile technologies must provide ROI for retailers and value to customers if they are to be readily adopted. Educating both store associates and customers on the benefits of using new payment technologies is critical to deriving maximum return from the deployment. Store associates must view the payment methods as useful assistants that facilitate their jobs, and be taught how to help customers embrace them. Conversely, customers have to be instructed as to what the payment methods offer, why they should be using them, and why they should continue to use them. Without proper endorsement from management all the way through to the customer, long-term adoption will be hindered.
The simple answer is that retailers cannot protect their old “cash registers”. As with anything, to grow they must change and adapt. Tablets, along with kiosks, interactive digital media and various forms of self-checkout are what the future holds and are what will prevail in most retail environments. Customers are increasingly coming to expect an omni-channel experience from retailers, and the POS is no exception.
According to Forbes Magazine, “The traditional brick and mortar location remains at the heart of the retail operation, but many organizations may find that the technology running these locations is not up to the challenge.”
The Traditional POS Equates to a Missed Opportunity for Customer Engagement
The traditional POS equates to a missed opportunity for customer engagement, something that is imperative to the coveted cross-selling and up-selling desired by retailers. Offering promotions at the register when the customer is ready to pay and eager to leave is much less likely to result in a greater mean basket than enticing them to select additional items before they head for the cash. Finally, capturing data at the POS leads to longer queues, which are the single largest drivers of negative word-of-mouth. However, using the mobile POS to capture data and feed information back out to the customer DURING the sales process rather than AFTER actually improves the customer experience rather than creating a deterrent. The customer is happy because they are receiving personalized attention, and the retailer is happy because they are obtaining valuable information and improving service, two factors that are crucial in increasing customer retention and sales.
Customers are More Likely to Shop in Stores that Optimize their Experience-to-Value Ratio
As customers grow increasingly accustomed to making online purchases, their in-store expectations are changing accordingly. If brick-and-mortar retailers are to successfully compete with their online counterparts, they must offer customers incentives to visit their stores rather than purchase similar items from a website. Often short on time and looking to make the most sensible purchase, customers are more likely to shop in stores that optimize their experience-to-value ratio. While not yet ready to abandon in-store shopping in favor of strictly online purchasing, the speed and convenience of e-commerce presents an attractive option for time-starved customers. Why should they bother walking into your store if they can purchase a similar item online from one of your competitors? The answer is service.
The Traditional POS Served the Needs of the Retailer, the Mobile POS Must Serve the Needs of the Customer
Implement technology that promotes relationship-building, and customers will come. Remove cumbersome line-ups and missing inventory from the equation, and they will love you. Make it easy for them to buy from you, or they will buy from someone else. It seems simple enough, but many retailers today are reluctant to move away from what they know. That reluctance is costing them customers and sales. The POS of the future should improve the customer experience, promote consultative selling, and broaden the scope of where and what a retailer can sell. Retailers looking to evolve need to be on board with adopting a new type of POS.The traditional POS served the needs of the retailer; the mobile POS must serve the needs of the customer.
Hello Retail World!
Over the next twelve months, we will be publishing a retail question every two weeks that is on the minds of the retailers, analysts and industry experts we exchange with frequently. As thought leaders, we will be providing Raymark's viewpoint on the topic, and encourage you to engage with us and provide us with you input as well.
This week's question is:
Are today’s POS solutions equipped to meet the needs of today’s empowered omni-channel customer? What functionalities are/will be most important in effectively serving this customer?
The answer is no! Most POS solutions in use today are not meeting the needs of this new customer-centric, omni-channel world. Traditional best-of-breed POS systems that are interconnected with disparate backend systems are a prescription for problems, especially with regards to latent information. Delivery of real-time visibility, usability, and manageability of customer, inventory, pricing and sales information at any point of business is the most important functionality required in any POS solution today. The traditional cash wrap and POS hardware configuration are a thing of the past. Store associates require a mobile tool kit of information driven by business processes that utilize today’s innovative workflow capabilities. To create store experiences that not only satisfy but delight customers, personnel need to have instant access to any and all information in an easily-consumed and repeatable format. This means total convergence of customer and product information.
Consumer-driven trend offers enormous cost-savings when compared to traditional cash register POS systems
According to RIS News, “the most widespread trend that will be taking over in 2013 will be the integration of advanced-mobile options. Not only do tablet or smartphone POS systems streamline service and enhance guest satisfaction, this consumer-driven trend offers enormous cost-savings when compared to traditional cash register POS systems.”
The needs of today’s evolving technology and user landscape require the ability to connect to more than the functionality available through a traditional POS. They create a need to connect to any data source, and to easily feed that data out to the organization. Data must be aggregated from a variety of channels into a single user experience, and customer information should be driving all decisions and activities at the store level. This requires much need for hybrid solutions that can piece together all the elements required to build the perfect in-store experience, both for store associates and customers. Store associates must be armed with easily-accessible, in-depth customer information that facilitates up-selling and cross-selling by providing them with knowledge of the enterprise across channels directly on the store floor – at the point of decision.
POS Solutions Must Become Less Transactional and More Transitional
As customers grow increasingly accustomed to making online purchases, their in-store expectations are changing accordingly. Moving forward, POS solutions must become less transactional and more transitional, guiding the customer through the shopping experience in a seamless manner that fits into their omni-channel lifestyle. People, not product, are now at the center of the retail enterprise. Retailers who understand that concept and build their POS strategy around it will be well-positioned to capitalize on what the future has in store.
We are back from NRF, and what a show it was! We stood out in more ways than one, and we wanted to share the experience with all of you.
· The invitation that was sent to prospects and customers prior to the show featured a video of Stephen White from Buffalo inviting other retailers to visit us at NRF. We realized how effective this was when several people recognized Stephen as he entered our booth, identifying him as “the customer in the video.” We love it when our customers say great things about us and are happy to promote Raymark!
· We had a new booth this year! The open concept and ample seating space were a huge hit, as were the coffee and water we served to our guests. All of these combined elements conveyed a welcoming vibe that helped our customers and prospects feel at home. We received excellent feedback from everyone who visited us, and some of our customers even came by the booth after show hours (while others were leaving and dismantling) to hang out with us and have some drinks. The booth definitely helped us deliver on our customer centricity message. It was packed from morning to evening
· We had the look! This year, our look was coordinated, and we rocked it! We were wearing black or dark suits, black shirts, and ties or scarves in Raymark red! This helped create a unified look, allowed visitors to identify who was part of Raymark’s staff, and extended our image beyond the booth when someone ventured out onto the show floor. What a great-looking group!J
· Bags! We handed out goody bags for the first time! People loved them! They created buzz and I was asked numerous times, “what do I have to do to get a bag?”
· Finally, all of the factors above helped draw retailers and partners into the booth, but our products and people are what truly wowed them. Retailers were blown away by the deep functionality and innovation behind our products, and our people did a magnificent job of conveying the richness of our solutions.
Check out some of the pictures taken before, during and after the show.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to Raymark’s success at NRF, including those of you behind the scenes that help make our products and strong customer relationships something to be proud of.
What a great way to start the year!
Raymark concluded another highly-successful trade show with its stunning exhibit at Equipmag 2012. Equipmag was held from September 11th to September 13th in France, and attracted nearly 500 exhibitors and 20,000 visitors! The show's focus was on innovation, and resulted in a remarkable arena of trends, concepts, ideas, materials, technologies, and solutions.
Equimag 2012 consisted of events around innovations that embody the customer experience, as well as an entire section dedicated to mobility.
Raymark received an outstanding response to its customer-centric offering, and our Personal Shopper was awarded with a prize for innovation.