What's in the empowered retail store?
An 'Empowered Store' concept from Syntegra will allow technology (such as instant voice communications, service mobility, and managed services for RFID systems) to give more control to the customer at the point of purchase decision, leading to a more satisfying shopping experience, increased customer loyalty, and lower service costs.
Syntegra (the business change management subsidiary of BT Group) is joining forces with retail industry firms including Aberdeen Group, Microsoft, Vocera, and VI Agents to create and deliver solutions and services designed to maximise retail store performance.
The venture aims to provide retailers with improvements in information exchange and customer service capabilities through network retailing solutions such as instant voice communications, service mobility, and managed services for RFID systems. By combining these technologies effectively, Syntegra's concept is called 'The Empowered Store'.
The IT market research firm, Aberdeen Group, is leading the Empowered Store methodology and pulling together a group of retail companies to form a consortium to drive the retail business model. The concept is based on the assertion that retail growth accelerates when they maximise the performance of existing stores. This acceleration in growth requires the entire retail system to use and integrate evolving store technology and processes.
Pre-sales service One example of the empowered store occurs when sales associates use in-store wireless technology to be more responsive to customer requests - quickly contacting product experts to answer questions, and contacting suppliers to check inventory levels - from the sales floor during the sales transaction. This leads to better customer service, more efficient stores operations, and improved inventory control.
"Today's demanding customer is increasingly fickle, fast-moving, and more and more difficult to retain. Via the Internet and other resources, the customer can quickly explore and value product alternatives, and become better informed than virtually all of the employees attempting to service them," warns Stan Elbaum, Aberdeen's vice president of strategic research. "Retailers will have to evolve toward empowered stores that use technology to create an environment where customer keeps coming back."
Customer empowerment According to Syntegra's vice president of retail and manufacturing, Chris Turnquist, retailers need to give more and more control to the customer at the point of purchase decision, through self-service, empowered sales associates, suppliers, and easily accessible back office systems. "This will lead to more loyal customers and ultimately will lower the cost of serving them," noted Turnquist. This form of 'customer empowerment' extends value to the customer by providing additional access, information, and education wherever the customer is.
"Based on our in-depth industry and consumer research, we have come to the conclusion that the demands of the digitally-enabled consumer will cause some dramatic changes to the dynamics of retailing," said Brian Scott, general manager of Microsoft's Retail & Hospitality Industry Solutions Group. "The Empowered Store concept is consistent with Microsoft's views and properly acknowledges that one of the retailer's keys to success is to leverage the familiar technologies - such as cellular phones, personal digital assistants and other wireless devices - already in the consumer's hands in order to create a compelling and fulfilling shopping experience."
Sales empowerment Sales associate empowerment links sales associates with sales resources, and increases their effectiveness in serving the customer.
"In-store wireless communications systems instantly connect staff, managers, and customers to provide the information needed," explained Brent Lang, vice president of marketing for Vocera Communications. "Being able to quickly locate product information or speak to a subject specialist will increase the value a retail employee brings to the in-store selling process."
Supplier empowerment Supplier empowerment shifts the responsibility for access, content, and inventory from the retailer to the supplier to allow the supplier to more effectively manage the demand chain and increase insight into product lifecycles.
"Retailers and their suppliers are working to better understand how emerging Auto-ID standards and RFID technologies will impact stores and supply chains to best serve the consumer, increase operating margins, and more effectively scale the business with less capital," concluded Tim Shideler, vice president of marketing and sales for VI Agents.
Syntegra is working with its parent company, BT, and VI Agents to offer an Auto-ID managed service to help retailers and their suppliers have better visibility into, and control of, their supply chains, as well as taking much of the cost and complexity out of an Auto-ID RFID-enabled supply chain."