The Latest Scoop on Wireless Retail

Beth Wanner

Recent Posts

Staples Goes All-In With Omnichannel Strategy

From Sears’ announcement this week that they’ll be offering in-vehicle returns and exchanges to Staples’ roll out of a slew of new customer-centric technology services, it’s clear that the race to achieving an omnichannel experience is on. 
 
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Sears Delivers Curbside Returns & Exchanges

Today, September 17, TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez shared Sears' newest addition to its attempt at climbing back into relevancy and winning over consumers. The struggling retailer will now be offering a curbside returns and exchanges service where customers won’t have to leave the comfort of their own vehicles. 

One could easily argue Sears may be too little, too late.

 
As Sarah noted, traditional retailers are all racing towards the goal of bringing online convenience and experiences in-store. With many stores beginning to offer in-store pick up, ship to store, ship to home and drop ship options, Sears will be the first major retailer to offer a version of these features to returns and exchanges. 
 
But will innovations such as this one be enough to rescue Sears? Walmart, Foot Locker, Macy’s, Sephora and other brick and mortar heavyweights are investing liberally in attracting consumers and pushing a more omnichannel experience across in-store, online and mobile platforms. With deeper pockets and more solid footing in their respective categories, one could easily argue Sears may be too little, too late.
 

Retailers who aren’t paying attention will be the ones paying the price down the road.

 
Nonetheless, whether Sears can bounce back or not, consumers can expect to see these types of services roll out in all sorts of forms sooner rather than later as competition gets tighter. Retailers who aren’t paying attention will be the ones paying the price down the road.     

 

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Daily Dose of iQ: New App Adds 'Name Your Price' Button to Any Website

Forbes contributor and Retail Minded founder Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle wrote Saturday (Aug. 23) about PriceWaiter, a startup that creates a “Name Your Price” button for a business’ website -- basically turning any e-commerce site into something like Priceline or eBay (see above screenshot from PriceWaiter website).

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Multichannel Inventory

In a recent article published by Retail Touch Points, Foot Locker’s growing success has been attributed to their multichannel strategy that has focused on inventory visibility.
 
Foot Locker has implemented endless aisle and drop ship concepts to pull together their omnichannel efforts. The article covered a lot of interesting trends that we’ve seen popping up all over the retail landscape.

I sat down with Tara Bartlett, iQmetrix’s Director of Marketing, to discuss what lessons can be pulled from Foot Locker and applied to other retailers.
 
'How Foot Locker is Winning the Race with Inventory Visibility' talks about the importance of allowing customers to shop how they want to shop by making their entire inventory available to their customers and their stores. Endless aisle concepts are great for offering consumers your entire product range but what are some back-end benefits for the retailers?
 
Tara: One of the biggest benefits endless aisle offers retailers is a more efficient use of space. Retail space is expensive and the more retailers can cut down on cost per square foot the better for their bottom line. With endless aisle, retailers can keep more stock in the back of the store, at their warehouse or even with a supplier if they have a virtual inventory program in place.

They no longer have to find a spot on the shelf for all of the inventory they carry, endless aisle quite literally offers a digital extension of shelf space so that the retailer can provide a less cluttered, more pleasant shopping space while still giving consumers more product choices.
 
When the opportunity to sell that product comes along the retailer doesn't miss out on that sale.

Another benefit to endless aisle is when a retailer pairs it with a virtual inventory program through suppliers. In this case, the retailer doesn’t carry the risk of carrying the inventory (it’s sitting in the cloud as part of the supplier’s virtual inventory program) however they can still provide the expanded product options to consumers. This works especially well for the unique and specialty items (like the size 13 purple Jordan’s in the Foot Locker example) that the retailer typically wouldn’t carry in stock but that when the opportunity to sell that product comes along the retailer doesn’t miss out on that sale.
 
Overall, in order for endless aisle to be successful the retailer needs a tight inventory strategy and program in place and the right solutions to seamlessly manage inventory across multiple channels. A 360 degree view of inventory is a must for cross-channel inventory alignment. 
 
Foot Locker has implemented ship to store as well as ship to home. Beyond convenience for the consumer, why is it important for retailers to offer some sort of drop ship option for today’s consumer? 
 
Tara: Thanks to Amazon, consumers have become accustomed to fast, convenient and flexible product shipping options as part of the online shopping experience and in response, retailers now want to offer those same options in-store. This helps retailers both compete with online shopping options as well as enhance and complement their own eCommerce experience (for example consumers can reserve products online and pick-up in-store).
Adding ship to store and ship to home options brings the eCommece experience consumers are accustomed to in-store.
Consumers now get the best of both worlds, they can visit a store to touch and try products, have access to product experts while still having the expanded product availability eCommerce offers and flexible ways to get the product. 
 
The company states they are doing a number of things to blur the lines between stores and online such as connecting their stores and their internet sites so that the same events and activities shown online will also be in stores. What are some other strategies retailers can implement to bring online in-store?
 
Tara: With smartphones and tablets being such a prevalent part of our everyday lives, consumers can access product information anytime, anywhere and this has changed their expectations of the in-store experience.
Bring the online experience in-store by offering interactive touchscreens throughout the store that provide relevant, useful product information that the consumer can use to make an educated purchase decision.
Interactive, self-serve touchscreens offer a better experience than a website, displaying rich product images and videos, reviews, pricing, inventory availability and options to ‘alert a sales rep’ for customer service, all on a screen size where they don’t have to zoom and squint to see the info. The interactive touchscreens can be strategically placed according to product or solution zones featuring focused content that both educates the consumer about product options and also helps the retailer sell specific products and upsell.                                  
                                                                                                                          
                                       
 
Ideally, the displays are pulling content from a centralized product library that also powers the retailer’s eCommerce site so that consumers are seeing the same branding, messaging and product info online as they are in-store for a consistent experience.
 
Offering convenient check-out options from self-serve to mobile POS will also help retailers bring the online experience in-store. 
 
Foot Locker is a major retailer with access to significant resources. As their last paragraph describes their efforts at “winning the multichannel race” how can smaller retailers compete? Are omnichannel strategies only for the big guys?

Tara: Retailers of all shapes and sizes should be looking at their omnichannel strategy. If they are trying to deliver the best possible consumer experience across more than one channel, whether or not they are even familiar with the term omnichannel, the concept remains. Consumers are using multiple channels to interact with retailers and retailers need to recognize this and come up with a strategy.
 
It’s not just the Macy’s, Walmarts and Best Buys of the world that need to be thinking omnichannel and it’s also not just the big guys who can afford it.

Omnichannel is simply about connecting your channels and ensuring consumers can interact with you when and how they want. The trick is to have the right solutions in place and make sure they too are connected. Whether you are working with an ERP or a simple POS, a sophisticated eCommerce platform or a free web template, you just need to ensure that there is a platform that is enabling your solutions to share information.

The smartest omnichannel retailers are integrating back-end and front end processes with centralized commerce platforms to deliver consistent information and a consistent experience.
 
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Daily Dose of iQ: Amazon's 'Video Shorts' Sell You Something on Every Video

Mashable reported Monday (July 28), on a new platform Amazon has created to merge e-commerce and online video watching. It's called "Video Shorts" (seen above).

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Omnichannel Retail: Is a Mobile POS switch really necessary?

Mobile POS seems to be the latest buzz in the retail industry. Many studies have recently been published looking at the adoption plans and readiness among retailers and the results are mixed. 
 
One of these studies, Your Last Traditional POS, produced by RIS News, found that when retailers were asked about their intentions to switch their current IT system, 12.8% flat out said they have zero intention to implement mobile POS and 53.8% said  “it is too early to tell” if they will make the change. On the other hand, a third of retailers expressed definite plans for mobile POS.
 

One third of retailers are committed to offering a mobile POS. Are they on the right track?

So what does this one third of retailers know that others do not? 
Today, mobile solutions are more a part of our lives than ever before. Consumers rely on their phones more and more and that ease of instant, endless accessibility has made consumers increasingly demanding. Retail must shift in order to accommodate these demands. Mobile POS gives the consumer the connected, boundary-less experience they now expect. Stores that do not make this investment run the major risk of being left behind.
 
Despite the study’s assertion that retailers have to decide between keeping their traditional POS or making the leap to mobile, incorporating mobile POS doesn’t have to mean an overhaul to your current system. Many POS systems offer satellite mobile POS systems on iPads or iPods that are mostly transactional. This allows for sales staff to move throughout the store while you still maintain your main POS system behind the counter. This gives you a really flexible system and requires very little change.
 

Mobile POS implementation needn’t be complicated or overly expensive; it should, however, meet consumer demands for speed and convenience.

 

Deploying a mobile POS system can be as simple as ordering the hardware and obtaining software. Beyond that, retailers should also consider staffing levels and store layout to maximize the new mobility of their sales staff.
 
The way trends in retail are going, making the move to incorporate mobile POS in one way or another seems to be a competitive requirement. The important take-away is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or overly expensive but it does need to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced consumers.

 

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Getting the Most Out of Consumer Insight

By now, most companies realize the importance of gathering data and consumer insight. It’s never been easier to pull in various forms of information, numbers and trends. Now the problem is, what do you do with all this precious data? How do you ensure it’s being interpreted correctly and that the right actions are undertaken based on the findings? 
 

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Daily Dose of iQ: 'Google Now' Reminds You What You Want to Purchase

Google's virtual assistant, Google Now, wants to help you remember what it is you were shopping for online and where you can get it in store.  Google's search app now offers location-based reminders to notify you when you are near a retailer offering an item you had previously searched for.  
 

Google Now also offers retailers a competitive edge against web-only giants like Amazon   JR Bookwalter - Techradar

 
According to a recent Techradar article by JR Bookwalter, "...search results will appear as a Google Now reminder card, complete with product details and pricing sorted by where the item is available in your vicinity, even if you happen to have forgotten you wanted it in the first place."
 
The feature joins a suite of other location-based services offered on Google Now from nearby attractions to traffic and transit alerts but I could foresee some potential flaws.  Will Google Now alert me when I'm out in public that I had previously searched for foot odor cream (for a friend of course...) and was now near retailer?  
 
The reminders are an interesting idea but I sure hope that in addition to having the option to turn the notifications on, there will also be the ability to personalize which products you've searched for are ones you'd like to be alerted about in the future.  
 
For retailers, any extra push to get customers through the door will undoubtedly be welcomed.  

 

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Creating the Ultimate Wireless Retail Space

With the growing popularity of online shopping, are traditional retail stores headed the way of the dinosaur or will a new shopping experience emerge? 

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Elavon Whitepaper: EMV is the Future of Payments

Elavon, an iQmetrix payment processing partner, has released a whitepaper detailing the exciting changes that EMV adoption will bring to the U.S. payment industry.

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