As the National Retail Federation (NRF) 105th Annual Convention & Expo came to a close last week in NYC, attendees from all walks of retail life recognized that the industry is immersed in an exciting evolution.
According to Constellation Research analyst Guy-Frederic Courtin in The Three Big Retail Themes Coming Out of NRF 2016, one of the major themes weaved throughout the show was the “Continued Evolution of the Store.”
“What that entails is how are retailers with both a brick-and-mortar and e-commerce presence rethinking stores—not only the technologies, but the business processes,” Courtin wrote. “It’s about how to reinvent the store so it becomes more of an asset than a liability. How do you train employees? How do you look at new business models like order online, pick up in store? There are going to be some new business processes, ones we haven’t even thought of yet, that savvy retailers are going to start testing out.”
Modernizing Retail with Mobility
Mobile apps and digital sales platforms are catalysts for the evolution of both brick-and-mortar and shopping experiences. In Big Idea Session “Modernize the Retail Experience with Mobile Devices,” three retailers—Ascena Retail Group, Belk and Luxottica—shared the unique stories of how their businesses embraced mobility to drive value for both customers and the organization.
All three retailers use mobile devices to enable store associates to search for inventory, order online, provide information to customers and punch time cards. Mobile devices allow retailers to capture what VMware AirWatch vice president Blake Brannon called “mobile moments.” Store employees can deliver relevant content and information when the consumer wants it the most.
“(Mobility) does allow engagement,” said Scott Hatten, Ascena’s director of store technology. “It bridges the gap between the customer and the associate. Instead of just wondering whether that item is in stock, we can stand there with the customer, show her the product in another color, another size and speak to her about it right there. We can capture her in the moment. We can capture the sale.”
Delivering a One-of-a-kind Customer Experience
VMware is helping retailers bring their existing applications and product information to any device using VMware Workspace, which includes VMware Horizon, VMware AirWatch Enterprise Mobility Management, VMware AirWatch Content Locker and Socialcast. At the event, VMware also announced Industry Templates for Retail, an exciting new AirWatch capability that enables retailers to deploy common industry mobile use cases.
Shawn Rosemarin, chief of staff for Americas systems engineering at VMware, said deploying a mobile management tool is just one part of the puzzle for retailers, which need the policies, restrictions and critical applications to enable use cases, such as mobile point of sale (mPOS), store management, customer engagement and self-service options.
“There’s an exponential increase in the amount of customer interactions,” said Rosemarin.
People generally shop online when they know exactly what they are looking for, where to get it and for what price, Rosemarin said. Otherwise, they walk into a store and look around. By leveraging innovative technology experiences in the stores, retailers have more opportunities to engage with shoppers, boosting store revenue by helping the customer find what they are looking for, make a decision and get out the door.
Mobile devices arm sales associates with the information shoppers need to make a purchase, said Rosemarin. Customers expect retail associates to know everything about the store and provide value-added expertise. By arming associates with tablets, for example, the store’s entire inventory can be made available with a touch of an icon, helping customers find and buy the products they want faster.
Luxury eyeglass maker Luxottica is one of many retailers partnering with VMware to improve customer engagement through mobile experiences. Via e-commerce, sales associates use their AirWatch-managed tablets to locate, sell and ship products directly to a customer’s home or to the store, and store managers can easily access training content. When visiting Sunglass Hut stores, shoppers use the innovative Social Sun app to can virtually try on various styles of eyewear, and then post photos of their potential purchases to social media.
“Retailers also need to secure and protect the data that is going out and coming in via the mobile devices,” said Rosemarin. “VMware has partnered with our retail customers to build the innovative solutions they need to drive their businesses forward. With VMware Workspace, we’re able to bring enterprise mobile management to all retail devices and deliver a secure, retail-specific solution that brings the increasingly digital customer experience to life.”