Driving Innovation and Leveraging Stores as a Competitive Advantage
The Store Remains the Cornerstone of Brand Experience:
The role of the brick and mortar store is in flux. As many retailers face unpredictable foot traffic, long and expensive leases, and increasing pressure from shareholders it may appear that an easy fix is to write the store off. However, the store is still the central hub of brand experience, it’s where customers engage, connect, and fall in love with your brand. From the perspective of experiencing your brand— the store reigns supreme. The challenge facing retail today is transforming stores to connect that invaluable hub of experience, which is especially relevant to Millennial and Gen Z shoppers, with the technology that is pervasive in the life to today’s connected consumer.
At GUESS, we believe that leveraging the best technology with our stores and our people is the key to growth and success in the ever-changing retail landscape. With a proper toolset, retailers can create what I call “Store Engagement by Design.” Core to this strategy is three pillars: 1) Omnichannel Consistency 2) Real Time Data and Reporting 3) Emphasis on CrossChannel/Cross-Platform Information Sharing and Communication.
How does Omnichannel (O2O) Consistency Engage Customers and Drive Loyalty?
Customers are demanding simple and seamless experiences across traditional channels (store and ecommerce) and through now-pervasive social channels. Retailers must be able to not only deliver on customer expectations but differentiate on their ability to provide a tailored and relevant experience to their customer at the right place and time.
At GUESS, we’ve deployed several strategies to enhance the customer experience with our omnichannel technology. First, we leverage our ecommerce data to inform store merchandising, and our store data, like top sellers, to inform digital merchandising. This way our consumer experiences an ideal experience tailored to their personal preferences, proximity to their favorite store and local trends that are relevant to them. One specific success we’ve had is leveraging the top sellers in a nearby store to power product recommendations to nearby ecommerce customers. We’ve found that these trends vary widely across our geographic store footprint, are extremely effective in driving conversion and increased order value online.
Another opportunity has been in connecting social trends with our customer buying behavior. What we’ve found is that by enabling our online customer to easily engage with products that they discovered through social media we can drive great engagement and loyalty.
Finally, we’re currently deploying efforts to bring the styling expertise of our store associates to our online customers, through live chat functionality with a GUESS stylist. This companion experience allows a stylist to create a highly curated and personalized online experience for our customer based on their personal preference, fit, or even an event or occasion their shopping for.
By designing the entire experience without concern to the limitations of traditional retail silos, we’ve been able to leverage the right omnichannel technologies at the right points in the customer journey; we have seen greater engagement and loyalty in our customers. We’re continuing to invest in new opportunities and strategies to better leverage loyalty, gamified experiences, bots, and AI to fulfill the customer’s omnichannel expectations.
Real-Time Data and Reporting: Essential for Designing Retail Success
Retailers must deliver experiences to their customers in real-time as a fraction of a second may as well be a lifetime to today’s shopper. At GUESS, real-time data visibility is essential to making decisions, as well as, delivering on customer expectations.
One area where this has been successfully implemented is in our efforts to allow customers to view and shop local store inventory in real-time. We’ve accomplished this by transforming the concept of store locator, from where is a store, to what’s in a store. We’ve created a unique, hyperlocal representation of each and every store, where consumers can shop available inventory, in real time and reserve products for pick up that day. This pre-shopping experience opens a line of instantaneous communication between our stores and our customers and breaks down the information barrier between store and customer.
Additionally, we’ve provided our associates with the tools and insights to real-time sales trends and our inventory management system via our associate commercial app and social app called the HUB. This enables them to create highly personalized experiences for the customer when they come in to pick up their item by curating complimentary items and preparing to service the customer when they walk through the door.
Ultimately, this has resulted in larger order, as well as, increased customer lifetime value and we’ve achieved a channel of predictable and qualified foot traffic through the doors of each store.
Cross-Channel/Cross-Platform Information Sharing and Communication the Key to Innovation
All too often innovative thinking or solutions are stymied by internal friction. At GUESS we intentionally blur the lines between traditional retail silos every day. I consider our retail operation to be one living breathing entity where we place emphasis on sharing data and insights to inform new and innovative thinking. Communication and outside the box thinking are of paramount importance, which ultimately enables us to try new things, sometimes fail, iterate, and grow like a start-up even within the four walls of a traditional corporation. This has been key to our success with “Store Engagement by Design” and all of our initiatives within GUESS retail.
To those retailers looking to deploy innovative technologies and new solutions my advice is this: The biggest threat to innovation is a culture where politics are at play, change is not embraced, and failure is feared or avoided.