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October 8, 2015

Delivering differentiated customer experience in Omni-channel apparel retail

Conventionally, apparel retailers have segregated their customers into those who shop in-store and those who shop online. However, these differences are blurring as the tech-savvy and personalized experience seeking customer expects a holistic retailing landscape. The shift from traditional apparel retailing approach of 'Brick against Byte' to 'Brick in favour of Byte' has to be rapid and disruptive, rather than gradual and conservative. Thus, the heart of Omni channel retailing lies in the holy matrimony of customer's expectation and retailer's capabilities. 

Continue reading "Delivering differentiated customer experience in Omni-channel apparel retail" »

January 9, 2015

Deciphering the right ecommerce model for India

ecommerce Models2.jpg

















Multiple ecommerce models have evolved in the market starting from Pure Inventory Model (capital intensive) on one extreme to Pure Market Place Model on the other (technology based agent model that is light weight on capital).  In US 3 models dominate the space, they include

-      Pure Inventory Model

-      Hybrid+ Model- ex: Amazon

-      Pure Market Place Model - ex: eBay

However in India, while the market initially started off with Inventory led ecommerce model the capital intensive nature of business, concerns from stakeholders on profitability and scale as well as threat from International bigges like Amazon has led to emergence of new class of ecommerce Model namely

  1. Hybrid Model
  2. Managed Market Place Model

Each model has come into existence for similar reasons but with different intentions. The Managed Market Place Model has been adopted by Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon to circumvent FDI Laws and bring foreign money to beef up capital. While there are debates on whether it is legal to bring FDI under the Managed Market place model, for the time being it is seen as a quick source of much needed capital for these companies.

On the other hand Myntra (in early 2014) also introduced (but did not switch completely) to a Market Place model while retaining the Inventory based ecommerce model. Per one of the earlier announcements from the company, Myntra will continue to operate both models (one needs to read this with caution as Myntra got acquired by Flipkart in mid 2014) - src: www.economictimes.com

       Sell premium and private label brands through inventory model

       Sell Local and Boutique Brands through Marketplace model

While managed market place model is one sure way to scale profitably without needing too much capital and providing right level of control towards customer experience, there are still multiple problems to deal with

       Limited or Lack of control over Product availability and quality  from third party sellers

       Humungous task of managing a large supplier base that is fragmented and Limited ability of 3rd party suppliers to scale and meet demand fluctuations

       Delays in shipment and marginally higher shipping costs as multiple products in an order needs to be fulfilled from multiple suppliers consolidated at a Fulfillment center and then and shipped to customer

       Loss of competitive advantage over the long run as the technology platform offering (for managed marketplace) can be replicated by other players leaving little or o differentiation between various players in the market

Managed MarketPlace.jpg











In my view the model followed by Myntra** in India (hybrid model) or the one followed by Amazon in US (hybrid+) has greater appeal over the managed marketplace model for the following reasons

       Provides leverage to sell premium and exclusive brands through their own inventory

       Focus on private labels and improve margins

       Provides an option to the company to scale and sell other products/categories (from their own inventory) when 3rd party sellers are not providing the right quality of product or service

       Utilize marketplace to derive trends and insights on new products and gaps in current offering and use the Inventory model to exploit those gaps.

       Strikes a fine balance between Capital Requirements vs control on product quality, inventory and fulfillment

hybrid model.jpg











To summarize, in the near term the market in India will move towards the Managed Market Place model for ecommerce for obvious reasons. However once the restrictions on FDI in online retail (B2C) are removed and when capital is available at acceptable rates most players will settle for a 'hybrid' model where Inventory and Market Place models will co-exist on their ecommerce platforms allowing players to exercise right amount of control on product quality, inventory, price, fulfillment and order tracking. Think about a hybrid model where high value-low volume and designer goods are sold through inventory model and categories that have high volume/low value and low margin goods are sold through marketplace model.

Other interesting proposition to consider would be that of Brick and Mortar retailer like Reliance Retail or Tata*** to build or acquire one of the ecommerce platforms and provide a compelling business case. A player like Reliance Retail has the following advantages

       Established supplier network for multiple categories as they already operate various formats like Fresh, Hypermart, Digital and Fashion - helps scale the business faster

       Faster rollout into Tier-2 and Tier-3 markets by leveraging well established store network in these cities.

       Availability of capital from parent company which will help scale the business. Deep  pockets and easy access to capital ensures staying power in the low margin online business

       Omni channel support by leveraging stores as fulfillment centers ensuring faster deliveries and improved customer experience

Clearly these are exciting times for online retail in India. The extent to which any model succeeds will depend on positive policy changes, efficient usage of available capital, trust quotient, scale, optimal customer experience and supplier network management and tight control on operations (price, quality, availability, fulfillment and returns).

* Includes Control on Product Quality, Inventory, Price, Logistics, Fulfillment and Tracking

** Myntra got acquired by Flipkart in Mid 2014 and hence their business model might be subject to change

*** Tata has already made investments in Bluestone, UrbanLadder and Snapdeal in 2014

December 18, 2014

What can retailers learn from consumers' online behaviors in shaping the in-store shopping experience?

Jane is walking through her local market when she passes by the hair products aisle and she remembers that she's running low on hair gel.  She wants to try a new, higher-end product, but making the selection is daunting, and she is not sure which product to buy.  She wants to do some quick comparison research before she spends 30 dollars on a product, so she takes out her phone to read relevant product reviews.  It takes a while to locate all the products, and reading the many reviews for the various products are overwhelming.  After five minutes of frustrated searches, she decides to settle with her generic option.

For the average shopper today, Jane's experience is likely to be a common one.   Indeed, a recent consumer survey found that the majority of people prefer to begin their journeys online, with 88% of shoppers webrooming--or looking at products online first, before purchasing in-store.  Such practices are not relegated to just high value purchases like electronics alone; modern day digital shoppers are increasingly price and value conscious, and they are used to easy access to reviews during their online shopping experiences, hence they tend to be less impulsive while purchasing, than ever before. 

It is the job of retailers then to meet consumers' increasing demands for external sources of information during their in-store shopping experiences.  To do so, retailers must focus on enhancing capabilities on mobile devices.  For example, to help shoppers like Jane, retailers can attach QR codes to products which allow consumers to easily access reviews for the product by simply scanning it with their phone.  On the same page, there can be reviews for related products as well. Also included must be tools to help Jane locate a product she indicates interest in. 

Repeated surveys indicate that despite the usual habit of starting shopping journeys online, consumers still overwhelmingly prefer to make actual purchases in-store.  Leveraging mobile content to supplement the traditional in-store experience, can create a simpler and faster journey that caters to the consumer's demands and save him/ her time. 


1)     To know more about providing seamless and engaging in-store customer experience, meet our experts at Retail's Big show 2015. Schedule a meeting now. Visit www.infy.com/NRF15


 

Digital wallet and self-check-out - are they the answer to shorter check-out queues.

Market Size projections for Mobile Wallet Range from $41 B (per Forrester Report in 2013) to $64B (emarketer report in 2014) in US by 2017.  There is an even more impressive report card for Global Mobile Wallet market with estimates ranging from $ 191 B for 2017 (ABI Research for NFC Mobile payments) to $ 1602 B (Transparency Market Research, Oct 2014) by 2018 with a CAGR of 31% from 2012-18.

As we debate the correctness of various estimates, the writing is clear - these are well and truly exciting times for Mobile Payments in general and Digital Wallets in particular.

While there is a huge potential to transform the payment space, even at current levels of maturity the market is crowded and fragmented (at least in the US) with many players aiming to take a slice of the pie - see image below on who the players are and what are the various types of offering  (US Context)

DigitalWallet Ecosystem.jpg























Image1: Overview of Different Types of Wallets and Players


One would imagine that with the plethora of options,the awareness and adoption rate will be quite high, however the reality is quite contradictory - there is a high awareness (~ 80% in US) but a dismal adoption rate (< 20% in US) (src: Yankee Group 2014 report)

So what is really the problem - does the wallet not provide the convenience or benefits? Are consumers worried about security and data privacy?

Let's now consider the benefits of a Digital Wallet. Many proponents of the digital wallet will argue that usage of wallet results in shorter check out queues. While there are really no proven data points to quantify the actual saving, on the contrary there are some examples where different digital wallets have failed miserably on usage and performance that they had to be discontinued eventually ex: Starbucks Failed Square Wallet Rollout in 2012. Also, more importantly there's nothing particularly inconvenient about traditional card payments at POS / checkout. Given this kind of a scenario, the Mobile Wallet as a replacement of Credit Card with marginal improvement in checkout times will not be a great business case.

So now let's look at critical success factors that will help in adoption and in providing better benefits to customers. These factors fall under 3 different heads:

1. Superior Customer Centric Design -Foundation of any good mobile wallet offering
2. Address Customer and Merchant Concerns

Key Concerns.jpg






Image2: Key Concerns


3. Provide Value Adds

Value Adds.jpg







Image3: Key Value Added Functionality


In short rather than limiting the benefits of the wallet to just faster checkout times (yes this is absolutely needed but it is the bare minimum), the focus has to be more on looking at the digital wallet as a customer experience enhancement platform with built in components to address concerns and provide value adds so as to enable smooth payments by the wave or tap of a phone.

The success of any digital wallet program will depend on the extent to which it scales across the 3 dimensions of design, handling concerns and providing value adds to customer (see image below)

Attributes of a Good Wallet.jpg
















Image4: Attributes of a Good Digital Wallet Solution

 

To know more about Digital wallets and how your innovation investments can help you achieve business value meet our experts at Retail's Big Show 2015 (Jan 11 - 13, 2015) Schedule a meeting now. Visit www.infy.com/NRF15

 

 

 

 

Sales-Consultant, not Salesmen in the brave new Digital World

 

Picture this scenario - a passionate photographer wants to buy a high-end laptop for his work. He goes to websites of all the top manufacturers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus, and compares various products within his price range. This enables him to short-list his query to 4 laptops. He goes to various e-commerce websites to check the offers present there, and reads up all the 350 odd reviews across the 4 products. But since he intends to buy a high end laptop, he prefers to buy it from the shop, as he wants to see the product before he buys it, and even though price is slightly higher in-store by 1-2%., He  also wants to see which other add-ons are suitable for him.

This customer is what an omni-channel customer looks like. They enter the store with consideration-set ready and researched, and they come in ready to buy, unless the store is giving him a reason not to buy.

The salesman in this case will need to be well-versed with different makes, significance of technical specifications, advantages of having higher RAM over a better processor, and details of after-sales service. He would also need a tablet wherein he can compare the laptops and discuss if the customer needs better Video-RAM or a better Hard-disk capacity. In case the salesman knows a bit about photography, he can even convince the customer to buy a good quality printer/scanner along with the laptop.

Thus, an omni-channel customer looks for a shop where he can find sales consultants, and not salesmen. These sales consultants need to be aware of what is being said by the reviewers across platforms, and need to be aware of the latest technologies. They need to know not only the price of Xbox-One and PS4, but also the price of games popular on these machines.

In case the customer is happy with his experience, this shop will be his first visit when he wants to buy an upgraded lens for his camera, or when his younger brother needs a new laptop for his MBA.

Every retailer knows the importance of the Lifetime Value of a customer. The importance of Life Time Value is probably best explained by using the Amazon Kindle example. A Kindle Fire costing $200 has components worth $165 according to estimates*. The margin is no-where close to covering the R&D expenses. Yet an average Kindle owner spends $433 extra per year on Amazon**, making Kindle a very profitable business.

Thus, providing -customer-centric information, without actively selling, can convert a walk-in into a repeat customer with high Life Time Value which results in a satisfied customer and a satisfied retailer too.

 

 

To know more about how retailers and sales associates can leverage all forms of innovation to decipher and deliver on customer needs and wants, meet our experts at Retail's Big show 2015 (Jan 11 - 13, 2015). Schedule a meeting now. Visit www.infy.com/NRF15

April 30, 2014

Empowering the Store Associate

Today's hyper connected digital consumers are modeling their own shopping experience. They are discerning, demanding and have more access to information than ever before. Enabled with mobile and ubiquitous connectivity, they can compare products, access price and product information, check availability, get reviews from friends, whether online or inside the store.  While retailers continue to engage consumers across channels, it has become imperative for retailers to invigorate the in-store experience to meet today's consumer demands and leverage their front line--store associate to effectively impact sales.

 

Enabling store associates to become brand advocates can go a long way in personalizing consumer engagement in stores and differentiating on service. But the reality is that consumers have access to more information than store associates, adversely impacting their ability to be effective. Also, Omni channel initiatives like ship from store, buy online pick in stores requires retailers to use store employees for a range of new tasks such as picking, packing, while ensuring they continue to deliver superior consumer services.

 

To address these challenges, retailers can adopt a 3 pronged strategy to unleash the potential of store associates

 

  • Begin with institutionalizing in-store business processes, to assure consistent experience across product categories, departments and associates with varying skill sets. Secondly, store associates need be given access to critical information like 360 degree Omni channel consumer profile (including preferences, purchase and browse history, wish list, social media interactions etc.,), rich product data (including ratings, reviews, comparison charts etc.,) , new trends, enterprise wide product availability to be able to add value to consumer's buying process. This will not only enable a more meaningful dialog but also enable associates to provide personalized suggestions / recommendations based on consumer preferences, likes/ dislikes, purchase & browsing history  and drive upsell cross sell based on what is being purchased today. Also, retailers can come up with a comprehensive communication strategy ensuring that the in store interaction with associate continues post visit through emails on new product launches or invitation to store events. 


  • Build a scalable, flexible, integrated consumer engagement platform to house business processes, powered by a common data model and services to render sales and service information to any device / form factor. Equipped with mobile or tablet device, store associate should be able to tap into this platform and engage with consumers helping them select products, provide custom promotions, instantly order leveraging global inventory while allowing the consumer to pay and checkout in the aisle. Store mobility initiatives which enable back office supply chain functions such as receiving shipments can positively impact their operational effectiveness.


  • Last but not the least, adequate provision should be made to train store manager and associates on the best practices, business process , workflows and tools to  increase adoption and deliver higher value to consumers . Whether it is process of inviting consumers for store events, balancing in-store customer service with fulfilling orders or aligning store processes to meet pick up SLA's for online order fulfilled from store, providing training assistance goes a long way in improving sales efficiency and effectiveness.


Investing in empowering store associate to provide truly personalized service can yield higher conversions, improve store traffic and increase average order value while bolstering brand loyalty. I'd love to hear your experiences, challenges faced, impact on business and IT while deploying solutions to enable store associates




Continue reading "Empowering the Store Associate" »

April 24, 2014

Omni Channel Retailing -Are you prepared to win?


I wanted to buy a new smartphone and my brand engagement began with a Facebook recommendation from a friend who kept raving about his new possession, Galaxy S5. Interested, I googled the phone on my tablet, went to the product site to understand new features and also watched its video on You Tube. After reading expert and user reviews on CNET and exhaustive price search, I ended up buying it online from Best Buy, and picking up the same day at a store next to my home.

Today's empowered digital consumer has dynamic, non-linear shopping journeys.   They are demanding and have more power and choice than ever before. With rapid evolution in consumer buying behavior, emergence of new technologies and constantly changing competitive landscape, retailers need to rethink their business and operating model to stay relevant. As retailers transform, they will need to focus on 4 key dimensions to successfully convert an anonymous buyer to an engaged consumer.

  • Delivering consistent Consumer experience: Consumers expect the retailers to know and inspire them at every touch point, make shopping easy and convenient while valuing them for their loyalty, influence and life time value. For this, retailers need to know their consumers and their interactions across channels, engaging them early with inspirational content and easily searchable rich product information, providing access to enterprise wide inventory alongside personalized offers and flexible payment, shipping, and return options. Retailer will need to understand different paths to purchase and be there at every touch point to optimize the buying process.
  • Flawless Execution to match consumer expectation of product assortment, location, price, delivery and service. Retailers are taking on several measures to bring in agility in their supply chain. For example, leading retailers are now shipping products for online orders from stores closer to consumer to not only improve delivery time but also reduce shipping costs Retailers are also accessing social network data to refine demand forecasts and localize assortments. Retailers are leveraging predictive analytics to ensure inventory availability at the right place and time to minimize stock outs and reduce mark down.
  • Retailers also need an integrated, flexible and scalable digital platform powered by a common data set and technology services hub, ready to be tapped into from anywhere and any device. Such a platform will enable integration of business functions often spread across different departments and enable a single view of the customer, order, product information, inventory and price across channels. This foundation is crucial in driving consistent experience as consumers suspend and resume transactions across channels. This will also bring in increased agility to add new capabilities and onboard newer markets.
  • Last but not least, organization structure needs to align to reduce channel silos. Several leading retailers have created roles like 'Head/VP of Omni channel' as a step towards eliminating channel boundaries. Other retailers have reorganized by brands in order to deliver a unified customer experience across channels. Changes in the operating model also ushers in new processes, system, and shift in roles and responsibilities which needs to be managed deftly.

Omni channel transformation has a profound impact on an organization's value chain. Hence, it is imperative to have a clear vision and a multi-pronged strategy focused on consumer, operations, technology and change management to be successful. What strategies have you focused on to enable Omni channel? I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially challenges faced in transforming your organization.













 




    1. Continue reading "Omni Channel Retailing -Are you prepared to win?" »

      April 8, 2014

      To Pause (POS) or Not

      In a recent study done by University of Arizona and Demandware it was highlighted that Traditional POS systems at Brick and Mortar stores are not able to keep pace with the expectations of digital consumers and the retailer's response in the form of omni-channel strategies.

      The reasons are not hard to see; today's POS systems are no better than siloed systems that have stores as boundaries and cannot look outside to support many of the retailer's omni-channel aspirations. Thus the tools and software available as part of traditional POS are falling short of supporting some of the key initiatives like

      ·        Single view of customer (or the 360o customer view),
      ·        Cross channel inventory visibility
      ·        Looking up inventory in nearby stores or
      ·        Assisted Selling and Product personalization
      ·        Personalized Offers

      Also added to that these traditional POS devices have a cyclical re-haul  which is to happen in the next 2-3 years -perfectly coinciding with the thinking of several CIOs to see if they should replace the Traditional POS systems.

      So what are the alternatives that CIOs or Leaders have -

      Option1: Extension of current POS to bridge the Gap

      One easy way out for retailers is a natural extension of current capabilities and investments to support future needs. Some POS vendors like NCR, Epicor and Oracle already offer capabilities like Assisted Selling, targeted up-sell and cross-sell and mobile POS.

      This option is characterized by (View image) leveraging existing investments to a large extent, lower cost, Faster Time to market, Incremental Change management and clearly Short Term Focus.


      Option2: Overhaul of the current system in favor of a common customer transaction suite

      A compelling alternative would be that of extending the best in class digital commerce architecture to support store operations. This solution will help connect all channels and implement an integrated solution that will provide a common view of customers, products, inventory, price, promotion and order information. This will also help address other in store opportunities like guided selling, and locate nearby store inventory to save the sale.

      This approach is generally characterized (View imageby a Flexible Architecture that can scale to support future needs, Significant Initial Investment, a Big Bang Approach to replace existing POS systems, Training and change management initiatives that are needed to support such a big bang and finally has a Long Term Strategic focus.

      In the not so distant future we might as well hear from the best in class digital commerce platform vendors like hybris, IBM WCS, ATG and Demandware about the emergence of a new class of enterprise software - we can call it the 'Customer Experience Management Suite' or 'Integrated Customer Transaction Platform' covering all customer touch points (from stores, desktop, mobile, tablet and Call Center) and providing truly seamless experience. 

      However replacing the Traditional POS systems cannot happen overnight nor is it feasible. Some of the broad questions below need to be answered before we can arrive at meaningful answers and way forward


      1. Risk perception of Retailers: What if it means putting all the eggs in a single basket for retailers and if they perceive a higher risk in doing that then that's a huge impediment to deal with.
      2.  Complement or Supersede - Given that traditional POS is entrenched and is a proven model, should retailers look to complement investments in Traditional POS with that from the new customer platform?
      3. Applicability for all types of Retail: Will the new POS platform be suited for all types of retail businesses? Definitely the opinion seems to be divided here - will it be more suited for High value transaction businesses compared to high volume transactions
      4. Security Concerns:  The security and PCI Compliance for traditional retail POS further augmented by Video Surveillance puts it ahead of Mobile POS and make the current offering fairly robust with very few incidence of violations. Unless the new platform is able to match up the security aspects of incumbent it is going to be a hard bargain.
      5. Reliability: Given that the new Mobile POS will run on Wireless network, questions around matching the reliability and availability of existing POS system needs to be addressed
      6. Tenders: Again Traditional POS is designed to accept multiple tender types like Cash and card at a bare minimum. Support for multiple types of tenders needs to be built in
      7. Purpose of Use - Self Service or Assisted: How should mobile POS (based on digital commerce architecture) be used in stores?  Should it be left for self-service as standalone kiosk for customers to checkout and complete payment or should it be used by the Store Associate as assisted selling tool? Or should it be a combination thereof?
      8. Business Process Re-Design / Standardization: Right from re-defining the roles of cashiers and store Associates to designing new business process ranging from providing common inventory visibility, uniform chain level pricing, common promotion definition & delivery, Guided selling, Deliver to home and many more - there is a whole lot of Business process and Role alignment that needs to be thought through and designed.
      9. Training needs: Identification of Change management and Training aspects needs to be done upfront. This will help address various aspects like for example, in an assisted selling scenario (using a new mobile POS platform) determine when exactly to approach the customer to assist and close the transaction? Approaching too early might result in wasted opportunity as customer might have other items or approaching too late will mean wasted opportunity. The roles of cashiers needs to be re-evaluated- How to reskill the current army of cashiers and deploy them as trained store associates to help in clientiling or assisted selling
      10. Choice of Technology: Several options exists for retailer that needs a very careful consideration
          1. Platform Options
            • Extension of current Platform with value added use cases
            • Re-haul of existing platform in favor of Table POS
            • Re-haul of existing platform in favor of an integrated Customer transaction platform driven by digital commerce architecture
          2. Other considerations:
            • SAAS vs On-premises
            • Single tier vs n-tier
            • Rich Website like UX vs traditional POS like UX / features
            • Global Platform vs Localization Needs (store specific, Brand specific)
            • Point to point integration vs Open Standards based Integration with ERPs

      It is now fairly evident that it needs a long drawn process where the pros and cons need to be weighed in before a final decision. For the near future we can safely assume that new POS (Integrated Customer Transaction Platform) at best might at co-exist with the enhanced versions of Traditional POS and not end up replacing it altogether.

      However in the long run once the benefits from the new systems are realized, when the risk-reward equation has been hashed out and after enough pilots validate/fail to validate the hypothesis and long after store associates are adequately trained and when Mobile Payments become main-stream - we can for sure say that the new POS platform (with much lower incremental cost) will have sufficiently replaced the existing ones.

      In my view we are 5 years from that point of inflection, but that's good enough a time for the likes of established Traditional POS players like Epicor, Oracle, NCR SAP, Microsoft and Retalix to take rearguard action and have a compelling solution offering to stifle progress of Digital Technologies in their own turf. Whichever way the pendulum swings, it's a very interesting space to observe and act in the next 18-24 months as it is bound to have far reaching impact on the future and landscape of POS technologies and solution offerings.

      November 18, 2013

      NowCommerce - We want it fast!!!

      Online shopping has continuously been gaining grounds. Today, this selling channel is competing head-on with the brick and mortar channel. In wake of this competition, e-tailers are continuously working towards reducing their fulfillment times by targeting ever elusive issues like 'Same day delivery (SDD)'. SDD popularly referred to as NowCommerce, implying online retailing of goods that can be delivered within hours of ordering.

      Continue reading "NowCommerce - We want it fast!!!" »

      October 22, 2012

      Are you Game?

      I was intrigued when my son walked up to me with a request to order a pizza he had made on ipad game app from Dominos. The fun and excitement of playing the game coupled with pride of self-accomplishment was inescapable in his eyes...we did order the pizza and it was clear that Dominos now had a new Gen Y consumer.

      Continue reading "Are you Game?" »

      September 30, 2012

      "Mobile Apps For Faster Shopping Sprees"

       "Google Indoor Maps" has opened a whole new opportunity to retailers whereby they can enable their customers in getting easy and quick access to the products that they're looking for. In brief, "Google Indoor Maps" allows a person walking inside a store to navigate his travel within this indoor location just like what she(/he) would have done while driving a car using a GPS

      Integrating these maps with Retailer's own mobile application (app) and tagging a store's aisles by "Product Categories" on these Google Indoor Maps for a large format store, going down to category of products available by Brands may be just the beginning of the thought as to how Retailers allow their patrons to directly reach out for the product that they are looking for rather than wandering through store departments or searching for a store associate which for some shoppers may be time consuming or even frustrating.

      One of the best supporting feature on Google floor maps, is the ability to guide the user by individual floor's plans, whereby a large multi-level retail stores can also be covered easily and therefore we feel that some of the immediate exploits can be in the large scale Store or say Super Store

      Let us try to understand how one such Retailer app may make the life a Retailer's clientele much simpler and the shopping experience much better. Assume the scenario that our loyal Customer "Louise" is entering such a Large Super Store for her weekly purchases which runs across several departments of the store like fresh produce, dry grocery, apparel, cleaning supplies, bath-ware, electronics, sports goods and the list goes on. Soon after she has parked at the store, Louise logs-in to the Retailer's own native Mobile app on her smart phone. The Retailer's app upon invocation on her smart phone, detects her geographical location and the store that she is visiting today via Location Based Services (LBS) wherein this specific store's latest tagged maps can be pulled and displayed on Louise's phone's screen

      To make the whole shopping trip faster, Louise has keyed in the shopping-list beforehand in the app and a route map is prepared for her upon her check-in into the store via this app. This route map is based on the latest movement of shelves/racks in the store.  Such a guided walk cuts down the Louise's walk through the aisles a short, easy and a confortable one

      Louise was looking for a shirt for her son, but the size small does not appear on the shelf today... does the store have it? No problem... the check would be a quick one by Louise quickly getting to know this via her mobile app. Moreover, if it is not available in store right now, the app prompts her with an easy and quick site to store order which she can pick up during her trip next week 

      Another use for this app+google maps eco-system can be to integrate with the floor maps and publish current vacancies/next available time slots/expected wait times in Large Store's sub stores like ophthalmologist shops, saloons etc.

       

      This Large Super Store's sub stores are very frequently publishing a status of a vacant customer spots/seat available or unavailability of the same on the floor map which when viewed by Louise, will give her an idea whether she needs to do the shopping first or go to the sub store for a quick visit to the hair salon

      While these are just some of the initial thoughts, when pursued actively this specific technology can be utilized in umpteen ways to boost the store sales and to guarantee customer satisfaction. Overall, sky is the limit when one starts documenting the concept of such a solution/product. Customer purchase/return history and loyalty points can be utilized to highlight offers/deals when customer is approaching a specific aisle or when she has been looking for a specific product for some time

      This article has been contributed by Ashutosh Kaushal - Senior Consultant (Sterling Commerce - Infosys Ltd). You can reach Ashutosh at Ashutosh_Kaushal@infosys.com.

       

      Leveraging Social / Consumer Genome for Merchandising

      Most retailers traditionally leverage sales data from POS terminals to analyze buying behavior. In some cases, loyalty card data is also used to determine appropriate assortment decisions. These data sources and their corresponding analysis have proven reasonably helpful, though they don't convey the whole picture. With the recent explosion in social and consumer related data on the web, there is a wealth of information that Retailers should be exploiting and incorporating into their merchandising decisions, primarily around assortment and space.

      Social/Consumer genome related data provides rich insights into needs, wants and buying behavior of individuals. This data when combined with demographic and geographic data can provide a good map of consumer wants and needs for a given market for a set of product categories.

      A major input into merchandising decisions / assortment plans is to determine consumer buying behavior to identify what products sell and what potential products could sell to increase sales. Based on this analysis, assortment decisions of inclusion/exclusion or allotment of space are provided. The means to identify this buying behavior was typically the use of POS data or data from Nielsen/IRI that provided good basis for WHAT was being purchased. When married with Demographic data, there was a good proxy for WHY the products were being purchased. Even when rigorous correlation and clustering analysis is carried out, the determination of buying behavior and the reasons for the same were proxies at best.

      Now with the availability of consumer genome or social genome information, the analysis of WHY purchases are being made and what is being purchased with identification of latent and express needs becomes even more accurate as there is clear expression of wants and needs. This will significantly enhance the quality of assortment and merchandising decisions as the degree of error/approximation is reduced.

      There are however some pitfalls to the use of this data. We cannot solely rely on this data as web usage and consumer/social genome information may not fully represent buying needs and wants for the entire market population. This data usage has to be married to traditional sales analysis to augment the decision making process.

      There are no tools / application products in the market place that provide truly integrated capabilities. The holy grail for optimized merchandising would be to integrate social/consumer genome data effectively into the traditional clustering analysis and thereby into the assortment planning process. This might be a challenge for some of the retailers who struggle with traditional approaches. Asking them to adopt more advanced analytical approaches to incorporate social/consumer genome data would be a challenge.

      The key would be to devise suitable technology/process platform augmented with robust analytics shared services that can leverage necessary data to enable optimized merchandising decisions.

      This article has been contributed by Amitabh Mudaliar (Group Engagement Manager - RCL Infosys). You can reach Amitabh at Amitabh_M@infosys.com.

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