NEW YORK -- Even though a growing number of customers go online to help them make shopping choices, Terry Lundgren says 90% of purchases still happen at the store—a fact that keeps retailers in the game, but only if they stay in the “path of purchase.”
Speaking at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Show in Manhattan, the chairman, president and CEO of Cincinnati-based Macy’s said the overall customer experience—including online and mobile interaction—are extensions of that decision-making path. As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers must find ways to integrate themselves into that process.
The tradeshow floor offered many ways to affect the customer experience, showcasing everything from real-time tracking of what people buy to reinventing the products and services at the store.
Here are seven themes that stood out:
1. Tracking Items
Through the use of sensors and tracking devices on shelves, pegs and mounted over the sales floor, retailers can track tagged items as they enter and leave the store for real-time (or close to it) inventory auditing. Jose Avalos, director of visual retail for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, showed examples of shelving sensors that indicated when products left the shelf or were placed in the wrong area, as well as the packaging tags that with scale can cost less than a cent.
2. Customer Engagement
Technology that can enhance the customer experience can include interactive mirrors capable of showing what customers look like wearing a new necklace. This mirror also allows the customer to send a photo to social media with her choice “virtually” around her neck. Avalos of Intel said they are in partnership with numerous companies to enhance customer engagement at the store.
3. Data Development
The biggest benefit retailers receive from what is being called the “Internet of Things”--where sensors are in everything from home refrigerators to store shelves--is the data needed to improve supply chain. The challenge is to create the kind of reporting tools that spot hot products and trigger reorders. In the Intel booth, Avalos and partnering vendors showed how retailers can follow customers when they take jeans into the fitting room, thereby identifying hot-selling lines and sizes.
4. Cloud-Based Offers
More and more providers are reaching out to offer innovative technology solutions based in the cloud. One such offer was a pick-up locker service from Apex Supply Chain Technologies, Mason, Ohio. Tim McCoy, senior vice president of global sales for Apex, said much of the back end of handling online orders, giving staff access to lockers and then providing customers with codes to open the lockers happens via a third party online.
5. Mobile Solutions
Software solution providers and application developers have aligned with platforms like Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft to work with retailers on mobile solutions. Michael Levine, vice president of products and marketing for Photon, San Jose, Calif., was in the Microsoft booth talking about their ability to help craft solutions. Taking part in the Intel booth, Nona Cusick, senior vice presidents of consumer products, retail and distribution for Capgemini, Marlborough, Mass., also spoke of working with retailers to help them visualize and execute their c-store-specific solutions. While these steps may not reinvent the store, she said retailers may have specific ideas of using mobile phones to entice customers into the store or create novel in-store ways to promote products, but just need technical guidance and support.
7. Improving Checkout
At the NCR booth, exhibitors with the Duluth, Ga.-based company were showing several point-of-sale (POS) devices. One was a self-checkout that could swivel to become a cashier-assisted register. A second was an in-pump, Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV)-equipped device that gives the retailer control over the content on the 12-inch TV display. A third was a line-busting, plastic-only point-of-sale (POS) device that is mounted away from the main cashier counter.