On the 26th of December the New York Times published an article titled: Her Job Requires 7 Apps. She Works in Retail. It’s about a day in the work life of several young men and women employed by Old Navy in its Manhattan’s 18th Street store. What’s so special about it? It is regulated by technology: as the title says, there are seven smartphone apps used in the store. And the smartphones are supplied by the employer.
One lets you know if the item requested by a customer, not available on the shelf, is stocked in the warehouse (and where). One prepares a shipment in real time to the customer's home; in case unavailability in store and warehouse. One records sales, offering metrics updated to the second, with which salespeople can decide whether to "push" one sector more than the others or to devote themselves to customer relations instead of pressing on pure sales. All the employees who work for Old Navy on 18th Street also have wireless headsets and walkie talkies to communicate with each other. Among their most precious tasks is that of convincing customers to register, in exchange for promotions and updates, in order to collect data for the company database (age, address, payment method, etc.), a flow that will go to dictate future targets. A fourth app is dedicated to click and collect requests; a fifth launches alerts when a shelf is empty; a sixth rules the e-commerce shipments from the store, which also acts as a proximity warehouse. We have not been able to find the seventh in the text, but perhaps you will be more fortunate.
The first reaction, for an Italian who reads about this digital parade, is to think: nobody here has these "things"; the second: all this is alienating.
The first statement, which is mostly correct, depends on the fact that these very expensive solutions are tested first in the flagship stores of New York and London. When they land in old Europe it's up to Paris and Berlin. Finally, Milan, knowing that the Italy’s resistance to high-tech is proverbial and that such innovation requires an exhaustive re-training of the workforce, given our rate of digital illiteracy, among the highest in Europe (after us only Bulgaria, Greece and Romania).
The second statement is understandable but, for once, unjustified: we’re not talking of Amazon bracelets, which tell you if you can go to the bathroom and how many seconds you have to go through the warehouse and find the toilet paper someone has Prime-ordered. Those employed by Old Navy are the tools of real omni-channel, those that make online and offline one thing, which allow you to save precious minutes that you can use serving customers. You won't be able to do without them for a long time, in particular inside large single-brand stores (think H&M) in which it is difficult to find what you are looking for, difficult to have assistance without chasing busy clerks, impossible to receive advice, unpleasant to move among the chaos of items thrown at random by the curious, between queues at the cash desk and queues at the dressing room.
This kind of Retail is agonizing: it’s more convenient to order on Amazon and make a return in case of error. The "7 Apps" Retail will win: one not afraid of investing in facilitating and non-alienating technology. To invest in the preparation and "culture" of its operators, who in Italy are still seen as gears to be exploited and not as those wheels capable of moving the "physical" part of Retail away from the fender of online Marketplaces.
Should you adopt an omni-channel approach?
If you want to improve the management of communication between the different sales touchpoints of your Brand, the answer can only be "YES!". The interaction with your customers will benefit, and they will experience a greater feeling of continuity throughout the shopping experience.
Today more than ever it is paramount to collect and track every single activity related to the interactions between Brand and Customer: this is the reason why more and more companies are approaching the so-called omnichannel retail software. These tools are nothing more than platforms capable of supporting management in various areas, from commerce to marketing via finance, thanks to the cross-channel monitoring of the customer journey.
What are the benefits?
Omnichannel retail software allows you to:
- quickly collect and send sales and orders data in order to consistently manage product information and define customized rules for restocking sales channels;
- if integrated with the CRM, store and analyse various informations obtaining reports customized for every branch of the company. This returns a series of added values such as pre-scheduling discounts, analysis and improvement of the customer experience and the efficiency of customer support;
- collect, centralize and make real-time customer information available to all branches or stores (personal data, coupons, loyalty program, gift card)