Retailers wanting to meet the challenges of today and succeed tomorrow have to look without, to their customers.
“It’s not going to be the store of the future, a retailer-driven world, it’s going to be a customer-driven world,” said Rajeev Rai, Neiman Marcus Group’s chief technology officer.
To get there, Rai said retailers are going to have to innovate, learn and iterate, listening to feedback from their consumers more than ever.
Since the turn of the century, retailers have been spending on technology to get a single view of the customer, building up the omnichannel bones of retail.
“A lot of the IT dollars that were spent in this transformation have given us a foundation,” Rai said.
Now it’s time to test and start to build on that base.
“We really don’t know what will work and what won’t work, will not last longer than two or three years,” he said, sketching out an extremely kinetic vision of a retail world always on the move.
To find out what will click, Neiman Marcus set up an innovation lab. And although Rai admitted the lab was really a “hijacked conference room,” it was an idea engine that produced both valuable hits and telling misses.
The technology that could provide 3-D printed models of brides-to-be in their wedding dresses? Interesting and fun, but not ready for prime time.
But using RFID tags to get more shoes on display was a winner.
Rai said Neiman Marcus had only 85 percent of its shoe styles on display at one time, making full-price sales of the looks in storage tough. Better managing the inventory with RFID and getting 96 to 98 percent of the styles out on the floor was seen as a coup.
And he said a clienteling app called iSell is also seen as valuable, “empowering the associates with a 360-[degree] view of the customer, a 360 view of the product, a 360 view of what the merchants are doing in the market.”
In the digital realm, where Neiman Marcus gets 60,000 to 70,000 customers a week, the company is looking to track exactly where customers are shopping on its e-commerce site and is thinking about just when and how to reach out to them with a chat window to help them find what they are seeking.
“We have to bring, for the customers who are going to stay digital and are not ready to go to the store, we’ll have to bring the store to them,” Rai said. “They’re still yearning for that experience. How do you do that virtually?”
That’s the million-dollar market share question in retail today.
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