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By Antony Edwards, Eggplant

Every day seems to bring another headline about a web site being down or an app being unavailable — from Instagram to J.Crew to Walmart, it’s clear brands are failing their customers.

Rather than waiting for an outage — and the accompanying social media backlash from infuriated customers and potential loss of revenue — retailers must understand the warning signs that their app is a problem and make the necessary adjustments before it ends up in the ER.

Key to this is proactively tracking and monitoring a handful of key indicators. Retailers can easily become overwhelmed trying to monitor everything, but by focusing on three key areas they can better understand their app performance and take action before issues snowball into business-critical problems.

1. Ratings slip

Don’t ignore the noise and try to explain away why your rankings are slipping. If your reviews are starting to go south, that’s usually a clear indicator that you need to look into what the source of the issue is and fix the problem before it escalates. Defect, slow performance and poor usability can all be fixed, but you have to do it quickly. Don’t just assume that it is a few disgruntled customers — it’s essential that you listen and react to the feedback before the potential problem spreads.

Look to see if there is a correlation with the ratings slipping and an increase in support tickets from users, or an increase in defect/request turnaround time from your team. The upshot of it is to value feedback as a way to keep your app and your brand healthy.

2. Your app is losing its appeal as a destination

Pay close attention to the length of time users spend on your web site or app. If users do a brief fly-by rather than exploring your app, then that’s another sign that something could be wrong. If people open your app, make a very linear journey and leave, that’s a concern. Why didn’t they hang around? If they did that in your brick-and-mortar store, you’d worry. Whether the customer is in your physical store or its digital counterpart, you want them to browse and see what else is available so you can upsell and foster deeper engagement. You want to see people exploring your app looking for products and promotions.

Keep an eye on back-and-forth user journeys. People browsing is what you want but people just hitting the back button and then clicking a different button probably means they didn’t understand your app and you have a usability problem. Also, absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, so keep an eye on the time between visits, and if it starts to significantly extend from days to weeks, this is also an indicator of a problem.

3. Conversion/revenue starts to slide

If conversion rates start to nosedive, then that’s another sign that your app is potentially failing your business. You need to look into the source of the issue and see if the number of abandoned baskets is increasing. Also, if conversion is down but usage is growing, then there is a problem that warrants immediate investigation.

If retailers keep these three red flags front of mind, they can stay ahead of potential app outages, thereby reducing any negative impact on customers and their brand. In retail the customer experience and basket conversion are key, and the performance of your app is critical to both, so it’s time to rethink your approach to delivering an app experience that continually delights.

Antony Edwards, is COO of Eggplant. He is a proven product and technology leader with extensive experience in enterprise software and mobile computing. Before Eggplant, he served as CTO of The Global Draw Group. Prior to that, he was the EVP of Ecosystem and Technical Services at mobile operating system specialist Symbian. While at Symbian, Edwards was a founder of the Symbian open-source foundation.

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The retailer-as-a-tech-company dynamic has been heavily influenced by Amazon (and Alibaba in China), and has further been prompted by Walmart’s continued investments in AI, robotics and VR, among other technologies. In the latest example, this week Lowe’s brought talent and technology under its own wing to mesh with existing operations, acquiring a retail analytics platform (and team members) from Boomerang Commerce.

As these retail industry titans spend millions of dollars figuring out how to gain additional share of wallet through their own technology advantages, how should the rest of retail go about delivering on this transformation — especially given the high costs often involved?

This week, the RTP editors share their thoughts on the continued merging of retail and tech as a way to spur innovation, and explain how retailers can effectively absorb technology into their enterprises.

Adam Blair, Editor: It’s been one of the most interesting developments of the past five to 10 years: the number of retailers that have moved from being consumers/users of technology to being acquirers-developers-and-even-resellers of technology. I doubt there’s any one “right” way for retailers to make such a transition, not least because the retail industry is so varied and technology changes so quickly. But here are three basic guidelines: 1. Make sure the data you already routinely collect in-house (sales, customer demographics, product preferences, buying patterns, etc.) empowers whatever technologies you build or acquire — and that the new tech doesn’t duplicate things you already do. 2. Particularly with an acquisition, make sure you’re getting not just the solutions but also the people whose expertise and energy make the tech valuable. Even if you don’t hire them outright, keep them on as consultants so they benefit you, not your competitors. 3. If the technology proves valuable, follow Kroger’s lead and monetize it — as long as doing so doesn’t conflict with your core business.

Glenn Taylor, Senior Editor: Maybe retailers don’t have to specifically acquire a tech business, or even invest in one, but they had better start hiring like one if they want the brains required to understand what shoppers think. It starts by looking at computer science and software engineering graduates, or recruiting those who are already employed at agencies. Many retailers already get this: “Software developer” was the third-most-common job in retail in 2017, rising from the eighth most common in 2013, according to LinkedIn data. These developers often have a handle on cloud services and customer data platforms, and they can be vital to improving both the front end (think mobile experience) and back end (think supply chain optimization) in a way less tech-driven employees cannot. The Lowe’s acquisition seems like an obvious move to go tit-for-tat with its biggest competitor and rival The Home Depot, especially given the latter’s technology investments. Overall this is good for every party involved. Last year, Home Depot hired 1,000 technology professionals at its Atlanta, Dallas and Austin tech facilities, all of whom are specifically versed in software engineering, system engineering, UX design and product management.

Bryan Wassel, Associate Editor: One possible change to retailers’ relationship with technology is that shoppers may own their own personalization tools, rather than let retailers take care of it. This possibility was raised in a Harvard Business Review article pointing out that travel booking services, which take a wide variety of criteria into account to deliver the cheapest and most efficient trips, could eventually be applied to shopping trips: rather than pick out ingredients for a meal or outfit themselves, shoppers could use outside programs that find the cheapest and easiest collection of purchases that get them what they want. Performing curation without retailers’ input could turn modern personalization trends upside-down — rather than looking at an individual shopper’s past purchases, retailers would need to look at what’s trending nationwide and what their competitors are doing to try and stock the right products at the right prices. This would require a whole new set of solutions and associated algorithms. As a result, retailers would do well to remain agile with their technology choices, and keep an eye on related industries to see how their strategies develop.

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By Jeremy Witikko, Cisco

Retail is not what it used to be. With so many new, enriching and interesting things to do in this world, traditional shopping just doesn’t have the shine it used to. Consumer expectation and interest have shifted from browsing and pondering what they might be interested in, to making split-second decisions and moving onto the next thing. Shoppers are increasingly mobile, hopping channels frequently. All the data readily available empowers them to look for product availability, pricing, personalized recommendations, and ultimately what is the most frictionless way for a retailer to fulfill their need. As traditional shopping has changed with the rise of distribution methods and data availability, consumers are perpetrating this change by opening up more to retailers. Eager to share more data, insights and information like never before, in exchange for hyper convenience. Consumers want their life optimized.

Today, we’re seeing an exponential growth in home delivery services. Whether the delivery services are owned by the retailer or not, or owned by the quick serve restaurants or not, it seems everyone is getting in on home delivery as the next-best fulfillment option. With this new channel comes tremendous reward and tremendous risk. Do you compete on shipping costs? How quickly can you deliver the products, will the products “go bad” in transit, and will inventory support the delivery demands? Not everyone is doing it well, and it’s not the right answer for everything. However, it absolutely has a place in the new retail landscape. While it is the latest “big thing,” home delivery only remains a part of the overall interest from the consumers’ perspective.

This year at NRF, we introduced the concept of “optimize me” as a way of demonstrating the level of intelligence, anticipation and reaction that consumers are looking for from their most trusted retailers of choice. The concept is simply, know me, know what I have purchased in the past, what my tastes are, and recommend a way to get it perfectly right for me every time. Help me further my brand loyalty. Many consumers are inviting the retailer to sit at the dinner table with them and literally asking them to be an extension of their close personal friends and family. They’re doing this in exchange for convenience and improving their quality of life. 

Consumers will gravitate towards services that are a net benefit in their life, not a drain or something perceived as time-consuming and prone to errors. An intuitive network is absolutely critical for retailers to sit with their customers, see them and then enable brand engagement by gathering insights from their interactions no matter where they have browsed, shopped, or purchased from in the past. And because everyone is looking for this now and expecting retailers to be smarter, the window of opportunity to respond is measured in seconds, not minutes, hours or days.  

To compete in this new market, we have to connect all the dots, no matter what channel or method our shoppers have used to touch our brand.

This retail ecosystem calls for systems and applications to be connected like never before, enabling consumers to share data in real-time, and retailers to process information in real time at the edge, to make a recommendation and act in a matter of seconds. Wherever the data resides, in the cloud or on the edge, or even on a device right next to our customer, the power is in rapidly connecting the dots to optimize the shopper’s life experiences.

Jeremy Witikko is the Business Strategy and Development Lead in the Industry Office of the CTO at Cisco. He has extensive experience in Innovation, Leadership, IT Consulting as well as across multiple industries including Retail, Consumer Package Goods, Aerospace, Medical Device and Manufacturing. Witikko has had 20+ years of providing advisory services to executive management and helping define strategy, vision and pragmatic approaches to execution. Additionally, he has an impressive track record in partnering with C-Level Leadership to lead innovation engagements, identifying industry disruptive and game changing opportunities.

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By Praveen Kanyadi, SpotCues

Retail operations are the backbone of every store, regardless of whether it’s a small business or a large big box retailer. These systems include everything from managing inventory and staff to maintenance and customer data — any activity that keeps the shop running smoothly.

While consumer-facing advances are essential, many retailers have yet to make critical investments in back-end operations. Continuing inefficiencies on the shop floor are causing some store chains to fall behind the competition, largely due to an inferior guest experience and dated brand image.

Brick-and-mortar retailers must optimize operations to sustain themselves, ensuring the seamless functioning of all customer-facing and back-end activities. By running all systems like clockwork, both stores and customers benefit. If a store is well-stocked, clean, neatly arranged and staffed with highly trained personnel, shoppers grow to trust and prefer its brand. Add personalized offers and easy-to-use technology, and the footfalls will only increase.

However, the complexity of retail operations makes implementation a challenge. Stores must contend with numerous hurdles, including:

Paper-driven processes

The daily operations of most stores still rely heavily on paper. This manual process is cumbersome and time-consuming for store associates but, most importantly, makes tracking noncompliance in real time impossible. It also limits any historical insights and data-driven decision making.

Deskless communication

Associates on the floor have a deskless job. Communication is a vital aspect of operations and traditional channels aren’t available to these workers. Most don’t even have a corporate email address.

Training among attrition

Retail has among the highest attrition rates across industries. The constant churn makes training a huge undertaking. The struggle to provide meaningful employee engagement contributes to the issue as well.

Project management

Day-to-day operations involve several ad-hoc and repeating activities. Managers find it difficult to track and stay on top of these tasks, and there’s minimal visibility for corporate leaders into daily tasks.

Overall, the most pressing deficiencies caused by a lack of back-end technology are restricted visibility into noncompliance and inefficiencies in operations — not to mention the inability to respond in a time-sensitive manner.

The ideal retail operations ‘recipe’ can help retailers optimize their shop floor with three steps: automate operations, onboard the right tools and make data-driven decisions.

1. Automate operations on mobile

Retailers need to convert manual process such as store opening, closing and audit lists into digital checklists. This enables store associates to conveniently complete the to-dos from their phones and save significant time compared to entering this information manually.

A mobile-based task management solution makes it easy for operation leads to create ad-hoc tasks or schedule recurring activities and assign them to relevant staff. The staff members can then easily update the status of the project on the go from a mobile device. All stakeholders receive real-time notifications on progress.

In terms of training, mobile-based learning platforms can significantly reduce the onboarding time for new employees and expand skills through easy, intuitive access. These programs come with gamification features to boost participation and increase engagement. They also provide live tracking as staff members make their way through the material.  

2. Onboard the right tools and micro-app technology

It’s hard to find a vendor that provides all the automation capabilities within a single platform out-of-the-box. Often, retailers end up with a very fragmented approach and a proliferation of apps that employees need to install. Training becomes more challenging, as users need to adapt to different interface styles, and initiatives start to flounder. The best platforms provide both core capabilities and the extendibility to integrate with other leading digital products.

Enterprises sometimes need a suite of apps tailored to meet the needs of a variety of functions. Essentially, these are a collection of micro-apps. As the name suggests, micro applications are lightweight apps built for a specific purpose. They contain only truly necessary features, are relatively inexpensive and are easy to learn to use.

Walmart recently announced the rollout of a suite of micro-apps for its employees to facilitate day-to-day tasks. These apps will enable store associates to look up inventory in real time or instantly find out which products have arrived in store (which, in the past, had to be entered manually).

The micro-apps are also designed to streamline store operations through insights. For example, associates can instantly see when a product went out of stock and identify the root cause, such as staffing issues or shelf capacity.

3. Make data-driven decisions

Without a robust digital architecture, retailers cannot benefit from the vast amounts of customer, employee and product data available to them. This type of information underpins the success of many tech-forward companies, like Netflix and Google, and the same idea works in a retail context.

For example, converting audit lists to digital checklists enables operation managers to track noncompliance in real time and take necessary action. Also, the availability of historical information allows for data-driven decisions and helps measure individual store performance.

Retailers must automate operations and develop real-time communication capabilities to drive operational efficiencies, stay compliant and optimize performance through data. A mobile-based store experience — both for customers and employees — enables these aspirations. As long as leadership teams select the right platforms for their stores, the investment will surely pay off in the form of increased consumer loyalty and profits.

Praveen Kanyadi is Co-Founder and VP Products at SpotCues, a micro-app platform that helps organizations rapidly mobilize their workforce. Kanyadi is an experienced product leader who has successfully led product teams, hired and mentored product managers in Fortune 500 companies and startups. In his previous role at Yahoo, he built social experiences that reached over 750 million end users. In the past five years, Kanyadi has extensively worked in developing mobile-based solutions in the B2B and B2C space and these solutions have been deployed at large enterprises across the globe.

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Retail TouchPoints successfully wrapped up its fifth Retail Innovation Conference last week, and there was no shortage of insights shared throughout the three-day event. The agenda included top-notch content, such as how to combine iteration and innovation to build a disruptive retail experience; how next-gen CEOs are approaching physical retail strategies; and best practices for AI implementations. The 500+ attendees left the event with plenty of inspiration that they could bring back to their retail businesses.

The RTP editors share insights into their biggest takeaways from #RIC19, and why they matter in today’s retail environment.

Adam Blair, Editor: I had many positive takeaways from #RIC19, including the wide variety of speakers delivering on-target, relevant content; the exciting physical store experiences on display at Hudson Yards; and as always, the attendees’ hunger for relevant information (which we hopefully satisfied). But what’s staying with me right now was a statement by Amy Shecter, CEO of Glamsquad, who was a panelist at the Strategies For Strengthening Businesses By Empowering Women Leaders session. At the session’s start, Shecter noted that the audience composition for events with these types of titles are, almost without fail, 90% female. (I looked around and confirmed that males were definitely in the minority in the room). It’s great that women in retail can get practical advice on how to make their voices heard in order to leverage their unique strengths. However, the apparent lack of interest from men in what women have to offer was more than a little disheartening. Guys: we have to do better.

Glenn Taylor, Senior Editor: Since there’s always so much chatter regarding what Millennials are doing (or not doing), it was refreshing to hear insights on the demographic that subvert typical expectations. Kasey Lobaugh’s insistence that Millennials, like all other generations, “behave more like their income than their age” gets away from the typical generalizations about the demographic, and shows that there’s still plenty of nuance in how any generation is spending their money. It’s easy to narrow down the Millennial audience based on statements like “prefers experiences over things” or “have short attention spans,” but to tack onto what Lobaugh said, a shopper living in New York City and a shopper from Louisiana are likely not going to have the same shopping habits. During the same session, Doug Zarkin of Pearle Vision offered comments that provided additional refinements beyond income level, specifically toward marketers trying to reach Millennials. With more purchasing options and information than ever before, Millennials are forcing retailers to put greater effort into building trust — a differentiating point that consumers of all ages are likely to appreciate.

Bryan Wassel, Associate Editor: With all the talk about data’s roles within omnichannel and its importance in delivering a strong retail experience, I was particularly interested in Ruth Crowley’s take on the subject in her Bringing Innovation To Life To Create A 360⁰ Experience With People For People session. Too often, the data itself is seen as the endpoint, instead of just another tool that can be used to design a broader, more coherent experience. Additionally, her acknowledgement that data “should not validate someone’s opinion, but it should inform the process” stuck with me. She also noted that no shopper goes home to their friends and talks about what a great omnichannel experience they had — they are interested in that experience resonated with them, not whether every piece of their journey was cleverly connected to another part. Again, this was a reminder that all the buzzwords and technology are just pieces of the puzzle, and they represent individual steps in the larger process of creating a great customer experience. Even when we’re talking about the latest innovations, it’s good to have a reminder that they are enablers — not the end goal themselves.

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By Samir Addamine, FollowAnalytics

Retailers are trying to make up for lost time — and regain lost customers — by creating high-tech offline experiences that match the ease and convenience of e-Commerce. However, despite the fact that more and more retailers are focusing on the e-Commerce experience, relatively few have turned to native apps to try and attract customer interest. As people continue to get comfortable with the idea of carrying out transactions on their phones, smart retailers will make sure that every potential purchasing journey, whether it’s on the mobile web or in a mobile app, is able to give the customer the personalized, seamless, and cohesive experience they desire.

In 2018, Forrester released a report estimating that smartphones would be responsible in some way, whether as a research tool, way to compare pricing, or method of purchase, for over one third of all retail sales in the U.S. During the 2018 holiday season, the biggest shopping period of the year, mobile platforms were responsible for 51% of the traffic to retailers’ web sites, as well as nearly $42 billion of spending.

But at the same time, mobile users can be fickle. Research from Google indicates that those who have a negative experience while browsing a mobile site are 62% less likely to make a purchase from that brand in the future compared to those who have positive experiences. In other words, it doesn’t matter how good your marketing is or how beautiful your site looks on desktop; if you don’t offer your users a good mobile experience, you won’t be getting their business.

Now, you might be asking, what is the benefit of having a mobile app versus a web site optimized for mobile? Why spend twice the amount of money and effort to build two separate things that essentially fulfill the same function? The answer is that both are equally important. People will most likely end up navigating to your mobile web site first, but a mobile app can help encourage brand loyalty while increasing the amount of time that a person spends engaging with your product. On top of that, having a mobile app will help retailers make their offline experiences more relevant and engaging to users, as they will have the opportunity to tap into data on their customers’ preferences and habits.

Let’s take Starbucks as an example. They arguably already have a good deal of brand equity, along with loyal coffee drinkers who don’t need any additional encouragement to visit a shop. But those who have the app are treated to a whole range of exclusive deals and games designed to encourage them to visit the shops more often. On top of that, the Starbucks app also allows users to order their drinks ahead of time and pick them up from the nearest location. It’s possible that Starbucks also could provide such an experience on their mobile web site, but it’s so much simpler to design an app that can support such functionality without being limited to the constraints of a smartphone browser.

In fact, Starbucks’ app, which also doubles as a payment system, is responsible for more than 40% of in-store mobile payments, more than Google, Apple, and Samsung Pay; eMarketer estimates that more than 23 million people paid using the app in 2018 alone. While not every app needs to have that kind of functionality — and indeed, most of them shouldn’t — Starbucks’ success shows the benefits of having a native app.

Another advantage to having an app available for download is that there’s a better chance of the brand remaining top-of-mind. Whenever someone scrolls through their phone, they’ll see the icon and immediately think of the brand, whether or not they’re looking to make a purchase at the time.

An ideal app helps bridge the divide between online and offline channels. They also help retailers gather a more complete idea of their customers’ needs and habits, from the products they’re more interested in buying to the circumstances that will cause them to go into the store. In the case of Starbucks, users ultimately have no choice but to go into the physical location to pick up the product they’ve ordered. But for other retailers, many of whom are struggling with maintaining foot traffic to their stores, being able to convince people that there is an advantage to shopping in-store, whether it’s a financial or experiential one, is vital.

Samir Addamine is a serial entrepreneur driving innovation in the mobile apps industry. Prior to founding FollowAnalytics, he was a senior executive at Framfab, part of Publicis, where he built mobile apps and developed mobile strategies for enterprise companies, as well as a founder of mobile agency Clicmobile. At FollowAnalytics, Addamine has overseen the company’s inclusion in Gartner’s first Magic Quadrant report on mobile marketing platforms, as well as the development of the company’s mobile data wallet and new mobile app development platform.

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Real-time data is one of the most significant assets in a company’s supply chain management toolkit. Visibility of real-time data is key to ensuring efficiency and reliability in your supply chain and is also essential to protecting the supply chain against unanticipated disruption. Having visibility of all your shipments at all times, and having an awareness of delays and risks, enables proactive action to be taken instead of the need for a reactive response after those delays have already impacted the delivery of your goods.

While supply chain professionals understand the value of visibility and the necessity of making proactive decisions, the majority of retailers still lack the required level of visibility to enable those decisions to get made. Only 14% of retailers have completed supply chain digitization projects, according to Gravity Supply Chain’s latest research. It’s surprising that such a significant proportion of companies still rely on legacy systems and slow manual supply chain processes in today’s digital era.

Legacy systems lack a real-time view of data and typically get segmented into different silos. This segmentation results in lengthy manual data management processes getting relied upon to provide an understanding of what is taking place throughout the supply chain.

The lack of visibility inhibits decision making which often impacts delivery fulfillment, and can lead to poor service that fails to satisfy customer expectations, significantly impinging the bottom line. Fortunately, retailers can access supply chain visibility by implementing a digitized platform.

Digitization Is An Essential Component Of Delivering On Consumer Expectations

Customer loyalty is dependent on how effectively retailers can meet the expectations of consumers. Up to 34% of consumers say having the right product in stock is critical, and 29% say the variety of products available is most important to them, according to JDA’s 2018 Global Consumer Survey. It’s unequivocal that getting the right products to the right places in the shortest possible time frame is vital to delivering on consumer expectations.

Research by NRF and IBM suggests the stakes are even higher when it comes to the expectations of younger generations, with 68% of Gen Z consumers stating that a wide choice of products is the most important factor when choosing where to shop. Undoubtedly, investment in supply chain digitization will pay off by enabling businesses to deliver on those expectations, and it seems that despite the low uptake in digitization, businesses generally agree. More than half (53%) of supply chain executives see the supply chain as a growth enabler, according to one Accenture study.

Further research performed by McKinsey suggests that on average, companies that aggressively digitize their supply chains can expect to boost annual growth of earnings before interest and taxes by 3.2% — the most significant increase from digitizing any business area — and annual revenue growth by 2.3%. To remain competitive, retailers should be investing in supply chain digitization projects that will provide them with the visibility they currently lack. 

Real-Time Visibility Delivers Real-World Benefits

By breaking down rigid data silos, a digitized supply chain platform allows data from various touch points within the supply chain network to flow freely, providing complete visibility. Valuable insights can be shared and digested throughout the business, and are available not only to individuals but also to multiple users including stakeholders, sales and marketing, along with the board, at every stage of the supply chain.  

By using live data feeds from land, sea and air shipments, the right platform can provide visual updates of cargo moving in real time, enabling businesses to track cargo from origin through to destination throughout the entire journey. The chosen solution should also include the functionality to notify the business of shipment delays ahead of time, allowing for timely decisions to get made, and averting potential disruptions.

The right platform will further feature powerful search and filtering options that allow users to access specific insights from the data provided in real time. This tool will support informed decision making, while an inbuilt message and chat functionality will promote discussion around insights and events occurring within the supply chain. The provision of a forum for discussion within the platform enables business-wide decisions to become aligned more quickly, overcoming supply chain challenges more efficiently. These conversations can also get held with external stakeholders across the supply chain network.

Gravity Supply Chain’s research found cost to be one of the most significant barriers for retailers that have not completed supply chain digitization projects. However, the initial investment in supply chain digitization will rapidly pay for itself — provided the chosen solution provides the necessary functionalities as mentioned earlier — through enabling increased speed-to-market and on time, in full deliveries. By delivering on consumer demands, and having the right products in the right place at the right time, retailers can benefit from stronger sales and increased profits.

Gravity Supply Chain Solutions CEO Graham Parker commands more than three decades of experience from working in the supply chain industry, learning first-hand how the traditional linear supply chain model has grown obsolete. His impressive career history encompasses having worked at a global 3PL and a leading UK retailer, managing both domestic and international supply chains across multi-channel routes to market. He also spent a considerable period within buying and sourcing operations and found this incredibly useful when evolving process and logistics changes to meet ever-changing consumer demands.

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By Jeff Winsper, Black Ink Technologies

There’s a rising tide of online competition for independent dealers, but there are a few choices retailers/dealers can make to try and get, keep and grow their customer base. One of those techniques is called BOPIS — Buy online/pick up in-store.

This approach isn’t truly a “pure play” e-Commerce method, because the buyer does make the commitment to go to a store to pick up the inventory. Let’s call it a hybrid model. BOPIS can be sponsored and executed at the OEM/Brand level, by providing the digital “air cover” to promote its product and eventually drive traffic to each of their representative dealers (to fulfil the transactions). The inverse approach can happen too, in which the responsibility for the customer’s experience falls on the local dealer that has its own digital BOPIS web asset (branded at the store level) offering up key brands available to be “bought” online.

BOPIS implementation is seemingly making traction for all age groups — especially the elusive digitally oriented younger demographics. Of all the various digital engagement options available (such as check local store inventory, scan-and-go and mobile payments to name a few), BOPIS is the most widely adopted according to an Alliance Data Analytics study called “The Great Divide — Connecting Brands to the Real Needs of Today’s Consumers.”

Of course, some organizations are not ready for actually collecting payments online and are modifying the process to being more akin to “Reserve Online and Pick Up In-Store.” The experience would be similar to an e-Commerce buying process, however they would put in a credit card number simply for symbolic commitment (the merchant wouldn’t charge the card until the goods are physically exchanged at the POS). Nevertheless, this approach still is more effective than not having any online purchasing option, and is more seamless to implement than pivoting to pure play e-Commerce.

One of the challenges facing smaller independent retailers is not being able to understand how to process and display their on-hand inventory online, in real time, to avoid consumers’ frustration at assuming what they bought online actually was available in stock. Connecting your Dealer Management System (DMS) that manages the POS is one way to bridge the gap.

Lastly, independent dealers are not necessarily prepared (technologically speaking) to provide the internal IT resources required to complete the cycle. The OEM/Brands seemingly are not either, despite the consumer’s desire to utilize a more digital approach — which is a growth opportunity staring them right in the face.

Hardware dealers seeking to get, keep and grow their customer base investments are required to meet the needs of growth requirements. Take a hard look and ask if you are truly an expert in retailing, in addition to IT development. If the answer is clearly “no,” then outsource the function so you can focus on what you do best.

Jeff Winsper is the President of Black Ink Technologies, which helps the premier manufacturing industry sell more, faster and smarter. The SaaS platform provides more visibility across the entire supply chain — from a manufacturing plant, to distributor, to territory managers, to dealers, to the local marketplace. Black Ink combined the best of CRM, business intelligence, geo-mapping, data management, industry-specific data, and pre-built library of statistical models in one easy to use and affordable platform. This helps accelerate customer acquisition and customer relationship management — and that helps the OEM, their distributors and the dealer grow. Connect with him @jeffwinsper, jwinsper@blackinktech.com and on LinkedIn.

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By Chris Ryan, Experian

It’s an all too familiar scenario — a consumer recognizes an online purchase they never approved, and has to dispute the charge and reset their password. Often this leads to frustration for the consumer and days of investigation and ultimately a loss to the business — both financially and reputationally. This situation is a common occurrence within retail — an industry overrun by a high volume of fraud attacks.

And while there are hundreds of different fraud schemes, many attacks can be attributed to a not-so-new technique called credential stuffing. With billions of stolen identity records and credentials available on the dark web, criminals can simply visit a retailer’s web site and start testing to see which credentials work. Fraudsters literally “stuff” the login page with hundreds of thousands of credential combinations. More importantly, the criminals can make the login requests appear to come from different IP addresses, helping to circumvent fraud prevention measures designed to capture events from a single source. This makes it harder for retailers to identify legitimate user activity from a credential stuffing attack.

The scheme preys upon people’s tendency to reuse online credentials. There is a measurable likelihood that a set of stolen credentials will allow access to retailer’s web site. Basic computer scripting automates the login attempts to enable the volume needed to find those that work. To make matters worse, the compromised retail credentials may have been stolen elsewhere — anywhere — making the retailer vulnerable to someone else’s security lapse. In Experian’s 2019 Global Identity & Fraud Report, businesses indicate that usernames and passwords are the most widely used authentication tools that they rely upon. The environment is ripe both for stealing credentials and providing web access where they can be used.

Retailers need to break the cycle by adopting more advanced technology to protect online accounts — particularly device intelligence.

Do More With Device Intelligence

Common tools used to assess the risk associated with online devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) are not effective against credential stuffing. Device intelligence must do more than just track cookies and identify other characteristics that are common to many devices. Criminals know how to manipulate cookies and alter device characteristics to evade detection. The goal should not just be recognizing a familiar device, but being able to identify suspicious activity on devices that are unfamiliar.

Credential stuffing attacks have been effective because retailers rely upon device intelligence that lack the layers of depth necessary to identify attacks in real time. Tools that look beyond generic forms of device intelligence can make the difference between protecting the consumer and getting hacked by a cybercriminal.

Effective protection requires device intelligence capabilities that go much deeper into a device, to mine characteristics that not only make a device unique but are impossible to be altered even by the most savvy criminal. Combined with knowledge of skilled professionals who monitor these trends around the world, this approach to device intelligence is a retailer’s best defense.

Retailers should also understand that fraud prevention extends beyond any one method. The combination of device intelligence with additional technology such as biometrics can help retailers protect people’s information and provide a low-friction experience.

Just as fraudsters have their own tools to carry out fraud attacks, retailers should leverage advanced data and technology to counteract these behaviors. The full potential of device intelligence has proven to be effective and secure at protecting businesses and consumers. While fraudsters will continue to evolve and explore alternative vulnerabilities, retailers can minimize the threat by continually innovating and leveraging advanced technology.

Chris Ryan is a Senior Fraud Solutions Consultant at Experian. He delivers expertise that helps clients make the most from data, technology and investigative resources to combat and mitigate fraud risks across the industries that Experian serves. Ryan provides clients with strategies that reduce losses attributable to fraudulent activity. He has an impressive track record of stopping fraud in retail banking, auto lending, deposits, consumer and student lending sectors and government identity proofing. Ryan is an expert in consumer identity verification, fraud scoring and knowledge-based authentication. His expertise is his ability to understand fraud issues and how they impact customer acquisition, customer management and collections.

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With a jam-packed agenda that includes Store Tours at Hudson Yards and insights from 50+ retail experts, the 2019 Retail Innovation Conference, May 6-8 in NYC, is almost here. Execs from top brands including Macy’s, Wayfair, Brooks Brothers, Walmart and Lowe’s are on tap to speak, granting attendees a front row seat to learn about game-changing technologies and tactics driving success across all touch points.

The RTP edit team shares what they are most looking forward to about the event.

Grab your ticket today!

Adam Blair, Editor: There are many things I’m looking forward to at #RIC19 — including an agenda chock-full of fascinating presentations and the chance to catch up with old friends — but I’m most eagerly anticipating the Hudson Yards Store Tours that will take place Monday afternoon, May 6. I always learn a ton during these tours, and it’s great to see the cutting edge of retail innovation in a real-world setting. In particular, I’m interested in visiting lululemon, especially since they are widening their focus to men’s apparel; b8ta, to get the inside scoop on how they gather data about every aspect of the browsing/shopping experience; and Neiman Marcus, because of their reputation for both showmanship and high quality. And because my fellow “tourists” will be sharp-eyed retail executives, they are sure to ask a lot of provocative questions.

Glenn Taylor, Senior Editor: The CEO Exchange panel has me intrigued for two reasons. One, I spoke with the moderator, b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby, last year about the company’s business model and its work with traditional retailers, so I’m looking forward to the topics and discussion points he’ll bring to the table. Two, I admit that I’m unfamiliar with the other companies on the panel: 3DEN, Batch and Iris Nova. Seeing fresh faces that are unafraid of developing outside-the-box brick-and-mortar strategies is always a good thing, and I personally am excited to get a more in-depth look at how each company has introduced its own quirks into physical retailing. And I hope the rest of the audience takes inspiration from the chat, especially considering it will be the closing panel of the event.

Bryan Wassel, Associate Editor: The most interesting panel for me is, Why Loyalty Programs Aren’t Working And How Shinola Used Customer Insights To Create A Non-Traditional ‘Loyalty’ Strategy. Loyalty is a very, very vast topic (as demonstrated by our top 10 list on the subject), and shoppers are constantly bombarded by emails, push notifications and social media outreach from every retailer they’ve ever interacted with. I’m curious to learn how a successful program like Shinola’s has managed to cut through the chaff and actually grab people’s attention, and how that was translated into an actual sales lift as opposed to nebulous brand awareness. It’s one of those subjects that everyone talks about but few people actually seem to understand, so I think this discussion represents an excellent opportunity to showcase innovation being used to solve an age-old problem.

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