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Omnichannel

The Path To Unified Commerce

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The Path To Unified Commerce

While the business pages buzz with glowing reports of climbing revenue driven by a unified consumer experience – now even seamlessly integrated with the customer’s daily life, many retailers just need to know where to start.

Behind the single brand your customers see there can still be a big divide between store and digital, constrained by legacy infrastructure and a cultural resistance to embracing change.

Here in Australia, we read about omnichannel success stories in the US - like Macy’s revelation last year that its customers who shop across channels are eight times more valuable than single channel shoppers.

These rewards don’t come easily:

Macy’s underwent a major journey of organisational change to become deeply customer-centric and support this new world of ‘micro-moment’ shopping.

There are local heroes too. Myer’s latest results show its online business delivering revenue increases of 70%. The rise in profitability, outstripping sales growth, was attributed by CEO and MD Richard Umbers to Myer’s recent omnichannel efforts, in particular expanding instore iPad services and investing in click and collect capabilities.

In 2015, more than two-thirds of retailers from over 45 countries surveyed by the global National Retail Federation expected to increase revenue, margins and brand value thanks to omnichannel.

Yet it is no surprise at all that the road to customer centricity has twists, turns and potholes. According to a November 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal, half of all consumers picking up in store had problems collecting.

And the logistics only get more interesting when you venture into more ambitious omnichannel territory like real-time inventory checks and cross-channel returns and promotions.

So how best to avoid costly pitfalls, and the corresponding negative business fallout? Australian retailers of all sizes are examining their organisational structures and working to establish internal commitment to improving the consumer experience – and ultimately, to place the customer at the heart of operations

Becoming truly customer-centric often starts with the purchase. Technology is a key enabler, allowing Sportscraft, Saba and JAG customers to click and collect, browsing and purchasing online at leisure but still taking home must-have new releases the same day.

Mecca and Michael Hill first established accurate real-time inventory visibility (so consumers can find items in stock at nearby stores). Over time, they added technology to make social content shoppable.

Linking to photos shared by consumers on social media builds customer engagement, and embedding product data and purchase capabilities into social content opens up a brand new channel for purchase .

The best advice is to move at your own pace. Useful things to consider at the start are:

  • Map the ideal customer journey and interaction points for your brand – make the ideal state your roadmap.

  • Execute incremental changes: start small, use pilot trials, measure success and engage with stakeholders across the business to deliver real results.

  • Start by providing real-time inventory visibility to enable your customers to buy across different channels.

  • Investigate click and collect and shipping from store to add flexibility in purchase and fulfillment.

It takes commitment to build the cultural change required, but the rewards justify the effort.

L2Inc data published in 2015 contrasted net sales for ecommerce pureplays (77 cents on the dollar) with omnichannel players offering online purchase and in-store return: 95 cents on the dollar, replacing lost revenue with incremental in-store spend during the return process.

Offering both in-store pick-up and in-store returns delivered even greater value as shoppers exchange and add to their purchase.

The omnichannel buzz isn’t dying down, but it is changing, with talk about moving beyond channel concepts altogether into an uber-unified customer-centric world of ‘digical’ or ‘phygital.

There are plentiful opportunities for Australian retailers to leverage emerging technology to serve the customer better, faster and more efficiently.

Originally posted at http://www.ragtrader.com.au/advisors/unlocking-new-channels

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Micro Mobile Moments

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Micro Mobile Moments

Consumers no longer go online, they live online... People are spending significantly longer online, however, that time is no longer made up of a few long sessions, it's now driven by short bursts of online activity. Previously idle moments like waiting for the bus, standing in line or sitting through TV commercials are now filled with digital engagements. The customer journey has changed into hundreds of what Google defines as 'intent-driven micro-moments' with each one an opportunity for brands to shape customer decisions.

Google recently quantified this through their Consumers in the Micro-Moment research, which identified:

  • 80% of Australians say they now access the Internet more often, but in shorter bursts
  • 81% of Australians say their smartphone searches are more focused on the information that they need immediately (like finding store locations, choosing where to eat or finding directions), compared to their desktop searches
  • 95% of users will turn to their smartphone for immediate information, ideas or advice
  • 71% of people who used their smartphone to search whilst instore trust online reviews more than the word of the sales person

Digital commerce provider Demandware recently highlighted a similar trend in their shopping index which measures digital commerce growth and is based on analysis of the shopping activity of over 200 million shoppers across 1,300 websites worldwide generating billions of dollars in revenue. They identified that phones are the driving force of digital commerce growth and shoppers are doing more than just browsing via their mobile - phones accounted for 94% of the year-over-year increase in traffic, 74% of the growth in items added to an online shopping bag and 47% of order growth.

They also identified the trend towards consumers engaging in short bursts of activity - the index shows that duration of shopping visits on mobile devices decreased 37%, whilst cross device shopping increased 10% between Q2 2014 and Q2 2105. 

This presents a number of opportunities for marketers:

  • Create a connected strategy for cross device shopping and allow shoppers to pick up where their previous ‘micro-moment’ left off
  • Tailor your customer journey to meet consumer’s 'I want to know', 'I want to do' and 'I want to buy' moments - either via products of services that provide customer utility or via content that answers their questions
  • Use personalisation on key customer touchpoints such as email or websites to accelerate the customer journey deep into their shopping experience

In short, mobile devices are changing the way we do things and where we do them.

Learn more via Demandware’s Shopping Index or Google’s Micro Moments research.

Consumers no longer go online, they live online...

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Digital Distruption For Retail Stores

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Digital Distruption For Retail Stores

Digital tools and communications continue to influence instore shopping experiences. Deloitte's latest report Navigating the New Digital Divide indicates that digital interactions influenced 40% of instore retail visits in Australia during 2014.

Whilst the level of influence may not be surprising for many retailers, it highlights how digital is rapidly changing the way customers shop and make purchase decisions. Digital and traditional channels are blending and complementing each other along the whole retail customer journey.

Australian shoppers have a similar level of digital influence to those in the US and Canada and are ahead of most European countries. Deloitte's survey ranked digitally influenced retail sales as follows - US (49%), Canada (41%), Australia (40%), Germany (30%), The Netherlands (30%) and the UK (27%).

Digital tools will continue to be crucial to the future of the store, not simply contributing to its demise as some have predicted. Of Australians that are digitally engaged, 65% use digital tools before heading into store or making a purchase decision, with an additional 31% using digital tools during their shopping trip. The top activities that Australian shoppers complete during their shopping trip are comparing products, accessing product information and checking product availability.

The trend is clear - customers are completing substantial research and have a desire to know significant product details before making their purchase decision. All of this research acts as a significant opportunity to drive customers to the store.

The upside for retailers is clear, customers using digital tools and devices before and during their shopping trip convert at a 25% higher rate and have a higher average order value than those that don't.

My key takeaways to succeed in the digital-physical fusion:

  • Measure digital engagement along all customer journey touchpoints – simply measuring online channel sales misses the bigger picture as digital has a significantly broader influence on retailers' success.
  • Incorporate digital into your instore experience - over thirty percent of customers use digital tools whilst instore to compare products, prices, reviews or participate in experiential activities. How can you leverage this interest to assist in their purchase and after sales experience?
  • Base your strategy on the buying habits within in your retail segment - the level of customer research, interactivity and expected after sales relationship will differ dramatically depending on your category or product.
  • Align organisational incentives - it's imperative that there is no conflict between stores and digital sales or servicing channels. Be guided by how your customers choose to interact with your brand.

Fundamentally, retailers must understand their customers’ path to purchase (across time, devices, channels and technologies) to build a series of digital touch points to meet their needs along the way.

View a summary of findings from Deloitte's research below, or read the full research here.


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Net-A-Porter’s Social Shopping - The Net Set

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Net-A-Porter’s Social Shopping - The Net Set

Net-A-Porter recently announced that it will launch its own mobile (and Apple watch) based social network called The Net Set. The platform combines user images with products and leverages image recognition software to recommend the closest product match from Net-A-Porter’s range, then offer that item for purchase. It’s an interesting play by Net-A-Porter and continues their push into content and publishing where they are already leaders in this field via their shoppable print Magazine Porter. Both of these initiatives see them building and managing a platform themselves, therefore minimising reliance on existing media channels and deepening customer engagement. 

Another notable recent social commerce launch is LikeToKnow.it which was launched by RewardStyle in 2014 and is used by brands such as Matches, UrbanOutfitters and Vogue. LikeToKnow.it makes brand and user Instagram feeds shoppable by sending an email with the product featured in any Instagram posts that have been captioned with the LikeToKnow.it URL. The functionality requires registration and is very similar to Like2Buy, another shopping work around that bypasses Instagram’s current commerce and external linking limitations.

If The Net Set app gains traction, Net-A-Porter is uniquely positioned since it will provide a more consistent user experience, minimising the impact of customers bouncing from social network to the site and back, as well as potentially mitigating issues around cart abandonment and inventory availability. Net-A-Porter’s recent merger with Yoox should also enable them to scale and fund required growth in technical infrastructure, user acquisition and inventory range.  


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Netshoes Tiny Pop-Up Store

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Netshoes Tiny Pop-Up Store

Netshoes, a Brazilian eCommerce sporting goods company has recently launched its first physical store. That 'store' was so tiny that is was squeezed in between two other shopfronts on one of the most popular shopping streets in São Paulo. The pop-up store essentially made over 40,000 products available in a space slightly larger than an iPad. It also exposed the brand to over 35,000 daily passers-by.

The campaign execution is pretty simple and a good PR opportunity for an online only brand. This is further evidence of pureplay retailers continuing to test new retail formats

What other dormant space exists in city centres, malls or airports that could be transformed for your brand?
 


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Top 50 People In eCommerce 2015

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Top 50 People In eCommerce 2015

I'm excited and hugely humbled to be included in Inside Retail's inaugural Top 50 People in eCommerce list. My inclusion is also great recognition for my colleagues in the Michael Hill digital team and their continued success.

A judging panel of eight industry experts selected the Top 50 based on their level of industry influence as well as their active involvement in the digital strategy and implementation for an Australian-based eCommerce business. Other consideration factors were innovation, the individual's impact, market size and value. 

The list is a great sign for the continuing maturity of the Brisbane digital scene with other local talent being nominated including Nathan Bush (Super Retail Group), Michael Gillespie (Domino's Pizza) and Cameron Parker (ex Blackmilk).

The Top 50 is filled with people and businesses that I personally admire and respect including Jane Cay from Birdsnest, the team from Shoes of Prey, Justin and Lex from Surfstich, and the boys from Vinomofo. The calibre of people on the list is high and shows great signs for the continued growth of online retail in Australia.

View the full Top 50 People In eCommerce 2015 list.


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TopMan Personal Shopping Experience

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TopMan Personal Shopping Experience

Topman have recently launched an online personal shopping program to provide personalised style advice, demonstrate the latest trends to customers and provide online purchases.


From the Topman site, customers can either book a physical appointment at the flagship Oxford Circus store or schedule a video chat shopping consultation. After the online appointment, customers are redirected to the Topman site where they can purchase items they selected in the session just like a typical online transaction.


As part of the scheduling process, Topman requests your sizing information, the reason for your styling session ("holiday shop” or a "seasonal update") and allow you to upload reference images of yourself and styles that inspire you.  This information allows one of the Topman styling squad to make tailored recommendations to meet your needs.


The underlying technology and execution of this experience is relatively straightforward and aligns well with the TopMan brand and target audience.
Topman is poised to launch the digital personal shopping experience to customers all over the world following the UK trial.

See an explanation of the service below:

Meet the Topman personal shopping team:

Personal shopping has featured in Topman's flagship Oxford Circus physical store since 2011:

Topman's sister company Topshop have recently developed great social selling campaigns and social instore selling during London Fashion Week.

What other industries could benefit from a personal touch?


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Interactive Store Hoarding

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Interactive Store Hoarding

New York fashion label Kate Spade has created a personalised shopping experience by embedding touchscreens within a construction hoarding at an upcoming store in New Jersey.

The resulting experience merges online and offline worlds, enabling customers to engage with products in new ways and helps Kate Spade maximise exposure and potential sales.

Shoppers interact through touch screens, responding to typically whimsical Kate Spade questions such as – “Sparkle: a little or a lot?” and “Dream dinner party: pizza on fine china or desert served first?” – before being given personalised product recommendations and the option to purchase digitally with complimentary shipping.

As well as making the most of previously wasted retail space whilst store renovations are underway, the brand is also able to capture data on relevant local customers for subsequent instore events and promotions once the store opens.

See the interactive store hoarding in action below:



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New Retail Formats

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New Retail Formats

The future is a digital-physical fusion

Some suggest that the continued rise of digital technologies will make the role of local retail stores obsolete. However, recent Ipsos research and leading real world examples suggest that the relationship between digital and in-store shopping is far more nuanced and interconnected.

One of the key outcomes from the research was that consumers visit stores for much more than just the purchase transaction - they want a more informative, entertaining and customised experience. The research indicated that shoppers are significantly more likely to shop in stores where they get personalised product recommendations as well as exclusive offers.

In short, we expect more than ever from retailers and want them to anticipate our needs as we progress through a purchase journey. Welcome to the return of retail theatre!

 

Digital to Physical Transition

Leading digital retailers such as Warby Parker and Bonobos are continuing to launch physical stores, but not in a traditional manner. Andy Dunn, Bonobos CEO states "we were wrong at the beginning. In 2007 we started the company, and we said, 'The whole world is going online only. All we're going to do is be online.' But what we've learned recently is that the offline experience of touching and feeling clothes isn't going away."

Bonobos are a great example of using unique physical spaces with their Guideshops, which provide customers the ability to determine sizing and be styled by experts instore, all during a personalised appointment (you'll even be offered a cold beer from the fridge). Items are ordered on behalf of the customer and are delivered directly to their home or office.

Bonobos have also recently launched Groomshops which allow guys that are getting ready for that special occasion to have as much fun as the Bride - think Say Yes To The Dress for dudes.

Warby Parker’s physical locations provide a similar level of brand experience and product interaction. Their store in Chicago includes a video jukebox corner, a resident portrait photographer and of course the ability to try all of their glasses on before ordering.

Digital leaders are leveraging the scalability and functionality of their digital/ eCommerce infrastructure for efficiency and using their physical spaces to showcase amazing brand experiences. This provides a great mix of customer experience and operational efficiencies (with online distribution centres managing the logistical aspects such as providing the stock holding and shipping).

 

Physical Leveraging Digital

There are many great examples of digital technologies transforming physical businesses. I've previously highlighted how retailers like Kate Spade and Sportschek are creating immersive digital experiences.

Nordstrom and Walgreens are widely recognised as established retailers that are leading the way in their omnichannel execution. The key tenants of both of their strategies is their achievement of inventory visibility across multiple customer channels as well as leveraging their stores as assets for customer interactions.

 

The Future Is A Digital-Physical Fusion

Many terms have been created to describe the phenomenon of merging physical assets and digital enablement tools – digical, digital-physical fusion and phygital. Fundamentally, consumers will continue to have high expectations about how they shop. Successful businesses are mapping their customer experience journey to understand how digital technologies can support and enhance each customer interaction.

Combining physical and digital assets promises to transform nearly every aspect of every industry. Are you ready?


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eBay’s Quest To Reinvent Retail

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eBay’s Quest To Reinvent Retail

US based fashion label Rebecca Minkoff started as an online only brand in 2005 and opened their first physical boutique in Tokyo in 2012.  Recently, they have partnered with eBay to launch their version of the ‘connected store' to showcase eBay’s latest technology for reinventing instore shopping. The SOHO flagship store has an interactive mirror which allows customers to create a 'try on’ wishlist and receive a notification when their selected items are waiting for them in the change room. It also identifies items as they are being tried on and makes matching product recommendations (functionality that is usually reserved for online retailers).

The technology doesn’t stop with the interactive mirror though. In addition, the store features a ‘connected wall’ display (a 122inch ultra high definition screen) which shows lookbooks and fashion runway footage. Infrared sensors mounted in the ceiling are used to monitor how users engage with the wall. Merchandise tags are equipped with RFID to track which items customers try on and provide real time inventory availability. Employees use iPads to take payment and handle instore customer requests, whilst customers are able to checkout with PayPal using the interactive mirrors.

This is another example of eBay’s strategy to become a venue for all commence - not purely online retail - which has seen it integrate with physical retail destinations, where the vast majority of retail transactions still take place.

These kinds of immersive digital experiences will continue to be expected by customers as mobile device usage becomes ubiquitous and technology such as RFID enables retailers to build captivating instore experiences. These tools also provide businesses with a richness of data as customers progress through the shopping ‘funnel’ and provide real time insights usually reserved for online stores.

Is this the return of retail theatre? See the store in action below.



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