Commerce Enterprise Apps Archives - SkillNet Solutions

SkillNet & FleetFarm collaborate to create mobile app

Campbell, California and Appleton, Wisconsin, June 22, 2021

The mobile app offers customers an easy, individualized shopping experience while delivering value

SkillNet Solutions Inc., Makers of Modern Commerce and global leader in digital transformation, partnered with Fleet Farm, a leading Midwest retailer, to design and develop the new Fleet Farm mobile app.

Fleet Farm was looking to create a unique mobile platform to improve the quality of remote and in-store shopping engagement with customers. They chose SkillNet to jointly design and create a solution that provides seamless, holistic experiences to customers.

SkillNet developed a mobile app which not only replicates customers’ in-store value experiences, but also enhances their shopping interactions across the entire customer journey. The app which is fully integrated with FleetFarm.com enables customers to search and shop for thousands of products. It allows full engagement with Fleet Farm’s newly launched Fleet Rewards loyalty program, including special in-app only bonuses and features. The app’s shopping list feature helps customers to plan trips to the Fleet Farm store. If safety is a concern, it allows customers to skip their trip inside the store by selecting the “Outside Yard Pickup” option at checkout.

The app has been very well received by customers and has created a new revenue stream for Fleet Farm. Its adoption has been steadily increasing since launch.

“We appreciate SkillNet’s dedication and omnichannel expertise in creating a compelling experience for our customers. They understand who we are and constantly work to achieve common goals for our customers.” said Gary Konitzer, IT Director at Fleet Farm. “The new mobile app helps us directly connect with customers and provide better services. We are already seeing the impact of the increased engagement.”

“We are thrilled to support Fleet Farm in their drive to support their customer’s changing needs”. said Anurag Mehta, CEO, SkillNet Solutions Inc. “Our long-standing partnership is based on shared values of focusing on superior customer experiences. By combining our commerce domain expertise with application design and engineering capabilities, we were able to help Fleet Farm create a superior mobile experience for their customers.”

About SkillNet

SkillNet Solutions, Makers of Modern Commerce provide consulting and technology services to companies that are digitally transforming their retail business to modern commerce. Located in Campbell, CA, our services enable clients to rapidly anticipate and respond to changing consumer behavior. Since 1996, we have partnered with hundreds of retailers across 53 countries to enable rich customer experiences leading to solid growth. Our award-winning solutions have also enabled global brands in traditional retail, CPG, automotive, apparel, liquor, healthcare, hospitality, telecom and F&B industries to become more agile and efficient in harnessing technology. Visit us at http://www.skillnetinc.com.

About Fleet Farm

Fleet Farm has served hardworking families since 1955, offering a unique mix of high-quality, value-priced merchandise and services for active, outdoor, suburban and farm communities. Customers can find fishing, hunting and outdoor products, auto parts, farm and pet supplies, home improvement and household goods, clothing and footwear, toys and food, plus services like gas, car wash and auto repair. Fleet Farm has 47 stores located across the Midwest. The company’s headquarters is in Appleton, Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.FleetFarm.com.

Contact

SkillNet Solutions Inc.
Neeta Shetty
Neeta.shetty@skillnetinc.com

New customer journeys to transform customer experiences

Find out how successful retailers quickly introduce new customer journeys to support changing customer behavior.

Will crypto disrupt the retail industry?

Future of Retail Industry with Crypto POS supplychain payment returns Loyalty programs

Retail was one of the first and most disrupted industries by the emergence of the internet. What years later would be referred to as Web 1.0 drove exponential growth in remote selling with the eCommerce revolution. The arrival of Web 2.0 with social, mobile and SaaS was also very impactful, so much so that all of these innovations are now taken for granted and mainstream in the retail industry.

Some technologist now believe that Web 3.0 is the adoption of crypto for delivery of existing and new services. However this is not yet widely accepted as the next step for the Internet. The wild swings on the prices of coins largely impact the discussion on the potential utility of the technology. There are plenty passionate proponents and detractors. Add to that the leading industry in application is not retail but finance and the picture specific for retail is even less clear.

When most people think of crypto in retail, they think of the ability to accept Bitcoin as a tender. News of Tesla accepting Bitcoin for then stopping the acceptance of Bitcoin made headlines recently. With the price of Bitcoin moving up and down and being considered by many as an investment hedge against USD inflation it is unclear why would anyone use it to buy a car.

There are other use cases in retail which are more interesting. Arguably with far more potential to disrupt the retail industry:

  • Payments: this is indeed a wide potential area for disruption. Crypto should be able to provide anonymity and decentralization at scale for payments. Some services from DeFi (decentralised finance) will be made available to retail. While there are multiple approaches for feasibility, solutions around stablecoins are the most common. As of this writing there are already hundreds of different stablecoins in the market. Big retailers like Wallmart or El Corte Ingles might seek to create their own stablecoins while there are platforms available in which to develop solutions like Celo. Another utility is for consumers in developing countries. SkillNet worked in the last decade with retailers in Africa to introduce M-Pesa, which allowed for digital payments for people without access to a debit card. This new generation of solutions, over the next decade, will be able to extend the portfolio of financial services for those without or with limited access to traditional banking to include things like credit and insurance.
  • Personal identifiable information and loyalty systems: out of the Dapps (decentralised applications) being built at the moment, those that deal with customer information might prove most disruptive for retail. A key driver for retailers to unlock value is to provide a personalised experience. The main barrier of adoption, other than technology, is the initial disclosure and subsequent management of personal information with relation to privacy and security. Crypto can potentially provide the intermediate tier which enables personalization features without customer disclosing personal information or retailers storing such information. Combined with systems of reward which can also be blind to PII , this is an area for potential large changes. The business model for these applications in which selling customer data is not an option, remains to be seen. Loyalty systems based on blockchain are starting to emerge for other industries but are much less ambitious in leveraging a decentralised model.
  • Trusted supply chains: traceability in the supply chain through blockchain was perhaps the first enterprise use case widely in pursuit for Crypto. There have also been barriers to these solutions over the last five years. Schemes not being truly decentralised and open but being managed by large tech companies has been one. Another issue has been the link between proofs in the physical world and on chain proofs given the limitations of storage and the security considerations of the blockchain. Innovation to overcome these barriers is ongoing. The prevalent approach for implementation is to introduce smart contracts which have access to physical proofs through APIs that trigger on chain events. One example of these is Chainlink, which allows smart contracts on Ethereum to securely connect to external data sources, APIs, and payment systems .The scale of investment in these initiatives is already in the billions of dollars.
  • Receipts and return management: one way to easily classify blockchain initiatives in retail is to think of them as before or after customer purchase. For the latter, the creation of receipts and management of transactions is another potential area of disruption in retail. In a crypto solution, a receipt can be a token and a return policy a smart contract. Another potential approach is use of NFTs. Non-fungible tokens have raised in popularity due to outlandish purchases recently. These unique tokens can map to what today are serialised items in retail. In hospitality they could map to event tickets
  • Marketplaces: currently for a marketplace the authenticity and reputation of buyer and seller are critical for a particular transaction to take place. These are mainly driven by the previous activities of both users on the marketplace and the amount of data they are willing to share between them. Crypto can anonymise their identity and yet increase the security. It can also through smart contracts place proofs on the goods sold and hence change completely the technology and process that underpins these digital exchanges.

There are still technical barriers for the wide adoption of crypto but the investment in the sector and the amount of continuous innovation is impressive. The current performance limitations, high energy consumption and high transaction fees are barriers for this type of solutions but the use cases in which crypto has value could drive the innovation required to overcome them.

Some of the current limitations in crypto might need to be resolved before really going mainstream or the utility for some use cases just might win regardless at the end.

It is an exciting time to find out.

This Blog first appeared on Medium.

Photo by Stanislaw Zarychta on Unsplash

What’s “in store” for retail in a post-pandemic world?

modern retail post-pandemic world

COVID-19 is reshaping modern retail. While sales are recovering – retail sales in the US increased 9.4 percent last March over the previous month and were up 26.9 percent over last year – the change in consumer buying behavior, channel preferences and loyalty will outlive the pandemic. Optimism that comes with the vaccine will fuel a spurt in discretionary spends even as additional government stimulus will bring back demand. Naturally, the consumer suffering pandemic fatigue, will go back to some old-fashioned retail therapy and we can expect to see it play out most prominently in beauty, apparel, travel, hobby, sporting goods, and dining out.

We could debate the fact this “recovery” in store visits will be short lived, the reasoning being that consumers have begun to favor online channels. But let’s admit it: consumers value the touch, feel and smell of the things they buy. Think clothes, jewelry, perfumes, a coffee mug, an avocado or even a purse or a wallet. The immersive product experience creates a pull into the stores.

Admittedly, e-commerce sales are growing fast. From being 5.1 percent of total retail sales in the US a decade ago they accounted for 21 percent of sales in 2020. But a whopping 79 percent of sales are still from brick-and-mortar stores. Stores will continue to be around, and will need to transform to offering great experience, or great convenience or both. Increasingly, smart retailers do not see the two channels as being competitive, but rather supplementing each other in the myriad paths consumers take from intent to purchase.

The tilt in favor of stores of every proclivity – from big box to pop-up, and from specialty to discount – will continue for several decades into the foreseeable future. Stores that adjust their role and purpose and remain meaningful to the consumer will win. Those that don’t will perish.

Many interesting changes in retail are already underway, even as the pandemic rages across the world.  Dark stores offering curbside pickups are on the rise along with a `buy on line, pick up in store’ (BOPIS) trend. These models point to the convergence of channels. With the use of analytics for consumer insight and automation for fulfilment, these models will improve and bring down costs. In hindsight, they will look like obvious evolutionary steps.

However, smart retailers are working harder. They are focused on super charging the in-store experience and the convenience they bring to consumers. These modern trends will prove revolutionary to retail as we head into the next normal.

It is natural for retailers to do everything they can to protect the investments made in their stores. There is no reason stores should be left to underperform. This is where four deep-impact measures of retail store management come into play, placing stores in a position to have healthy bottom lines:

  1. Integrate physical and digital assets, making for the best experience. Provide a content-rich, intuitive and immersive experience for all online and in-app interactions. Does your consumer want to chat with a store executive or a product expert before visiting the store? Does your consumer need an online demo for a product before checking the product in the store? Provide this using live text and video interactions. Use automated bots where possible, handing over the interaction to live service executives where necessary.
  2. Create fresh in-store experiences that provide customers a reason to visit, make it personal. For example, make the store a place of discovery using store-only or in-stores-first product launches that draw consumers into returning. Use consumer data captured from every touch point – store visits, card and loyalty data, social media, website footprint, surveys, CRM and partner data – to shape in-store consumer interactions. Most important, help consumers seamlessly continue their online journey when they visit the store.
  3. Make it convenient, make it interesting, make it rewarding. Do your consumers want to try your products before they buy? The cosmetic industry turned this approach into a fine art, allowing consumers to try various styles in the presence of an expert. Can your grocery store have a master chef to adroitly guide consumers, answer questions and put their apprehensions to rest? Can your white goods store have a well-informed engineer available – perhaps online – to gently turn consumers into confident power buyers by decoding and simplifying technical details using AR and VR? Will you provide day care to turn shopping into a pleasure for the harried mother?
  4. Go contactless, make it safe. Provide self-service options ranging from the ability to check product details using a QR code, easily look up alternatives and options for products, order and return products, make payments and track refunds. The goal should be to make the experience comfortable, non-intrusive, dependable, simple and safe.

A variety of industries have evolved with the business landscape and with changing consumer demands. One example is of the adjacent entertainment industry. Movie theatres went from being massive 600-seaters showing a single movie into becoming clusters of small and classy 100-seater multiplexes offering online movie trailers, the ability to book tickets online, enjoy a variety of movies in the same multiplex, soak in the Dolby surround sound, get joyfully overwhelmed by 3D, gawk at the digital sharpness on the big screen, and sink into luxurious beds with freshly laundered blankets. Some multiplexes went as far as to combine movies with a fine dining experience with menus created by celebrity chefs. The industry changed itself by bringing an unrelenting focus to experience and convenience to stay in step with changing times.

The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that retail cannot keep going down the traditional path. Expectations and needs have changed. It is time to re-imagine the retail store through the lens of modern marketing and commerce, upping the differentiation by improving experience and convenience.

The frictionless shopping experience and metrics for customer value

This post was first published on Medium.com

In his yearly letter to shareholders published 15th of April 2021, Jeff Bezos shared some fascinating back of the envelope calculations on the value that Amazon creates to its customers.

28% of purchases at Amazon are completed in three minutes or less and 50% in less than 15 minutes. He concludes than on average a shop in Amazon takes 15 minutes. In contrast, he mentions that a visit to a store would take on average an hour and each customer would save two visits to the store per week (this latter part lacks mention of how that data was arrived to) If a time saving is value as 10$ per hour and multiplied by the 200 million of Amazon Prime members, the value creation in 2020 alone is $126 billion (after discounting the cost of Prime member fees)

As Amazon prime member myself, I have completed many of these quick purchases and find the value proposition compelling. However comparing time of purchase in store, which includes time to travel, with time for a digital sale is not a fair comparison. The lockdowns and pandemic have accelerated the transition to digital sales but should have also reminded us of the importance of the in store sales experience.

The challenge to compete with Amazon for retailers is huge. The logistics and commercial advantage that Amazon has through its scale are unparalleled. However if the main value to customers as stated by Jeff Bezos in this letter, is a frictionless digital sale, this is something that retailers can improve on today, on their own digital experiences.

A frictionless digital experience is only part of the value proposition for a store sale. If it is a convenience shop in a store, customer is not travelling to the store, the location is nearby and needs to have the ability to be in and out quickly, it is indeed the main value. Solutions around scan and go should be available so there is no need to interact with staff, if the customer doesn’t want to. This is not a sale that takes an hour. However if customer is travelling to a shop, in order to be motivated to do so, having a different rich experience is what would differentiate from buying online.

Metrics to differentiate between time spent in friction in the sales process and the value add provided by an in person experience are useful to explain why people still go to shops. Investing in both frictionless digital experiences and rich interactions delivers on critical metrics to generate value and compete against Amazon. The value add can translate into entertainment, education, loyalty rewards, gamification, social interaction, or others based on the specific retail brand. This value add is part of the digital solution.

At SkillNet a lot of our focus over the last 12 months has been to help retailers to design and implement the right digital customer journeys with the metrics built-in to track and reduce friction and enrich customer experience. Starting with the customer journey allows to ask the right questions about how to best use technology to serve customers and better measure the real value creation. Knowing the technology and the retail domain operation is still critically important but not sufficient.

As Jeff Bezos reminds us in most of its public communications, Amazon’s vision for being Earth’s most customer-centric company has paid off well.

The mechanics behind successful customer experience

Delivering Successful Customer Experience

Being a maker of modern commerce isn’t just about building cool looking applications and utilizing the latest and greatest architectural patterns. It’s about a complete and holistic approach to delivering a superior customer experience. Right now, as we enter the New Normal, everyone seems to be talking “customer experience” and that’s certainly a step in the right direction. But what are the mechanisms required to deliver a successful customer experience that will differentiate and separate your retail business from  the competition?

Focus on the Customer

While it’s important to have a strong and stable back-end supporting your applications and systems, without a focus on the front-end experience all those great integrations and data sharing won’t matter once the application is deployed in stores. If the experience isn’t usable and fails to meet the customer’s needs, whether the customer is the consumer or employee, the application will collect dust on a shelf and not be used. This will result in an application which will be a complete waste of money.

Focusing on the front-end means talking to your customers and finding out what they want and need. What’s also important to remember is that many customers may not know what they want and need. Or, worse, be wrong about what they think they want or need. If you get this wrong then you’re back to “App on a Shelf”. So how do you get this right?

Modern Methods for Modern Commerce

  • Agile
  • Design Thinking
  • DevOps

Usually, the first modern development methodology that comes to mind is Agile. While certainly not without its problems, Agile is a far cry and way above the traditional waterfall approach. It also has many different incarnations such as Kanban and Scrum that allow teams to find out what works for them. But what’s most important is keeping Agile as a philosophy and remembering the key values of Agile and not let yourself get caught up in the processes and “rules” of Agile. Trust your teams to build working software through constant collaboration with customers and never be afraid to respond to change.

As you work in an Agile environment, Design Thinking becomes a critical piece of the development puzzle. By working interactively with the Design Thinking steps, and not being afraid to work the steps out of order, you can build better applications, prototypes, and a customer experience that will better serve your business. Design Thinking is about making sure you hit all the important concepts. You have to start with talking to your customers and determine what they want and need. Then you need to define these wants and needs as requirements. Next, have brainstorming sessions with your team to develop new and innovative ideas. Building a prototype based on these ideas will allow you to do some testing and get some valuable feedback. This feedback will tell you what you need to do next. Maybe you need to go back and talk to your customers again. Maybe your requirements were off. Maybe your idea needs a few tweaks.

With both Agile and Design Thinking it’s time to get technical. This is where DevOps comes in. Like both Agile and Design Thinking, DevOps is an iterative approach that constantly loops back on itself to improve and proactively produce working software that is usable, desirable, and feasible. The cycle of DevOps allows for working releasable software to be in constant production. By always building releasable software on a consistent basis, you can easily react to new customer requirements instead of having to wait for a yearly scheduled release.

Continuous Improvement

The only way to improve is to collect and analyze quality feedback from your customers. There are multiple ways to generate this feedback. On one end of the spectrum are surveys. These can be sent out to customers as an email where, hopefully, enough customers will participate to create adequate actionable feedback. On the other end of the feedback generation spectrum is direct one-on-one interviews with customers. This may be more difficult with consumers than employees but it is extremely worth the effort. This is how you find out whether or not you truly understood what your customers desired and whether or not you delivered. The key here is that negative feedback is good. Negative feedback is actionable. Positive feedback feels good but doesn’t really give a viable means to improve. And if you’re not improving then you’re stagnating and if you’re stagnating then your competition is about to pass you by. In between surveys and interviews are focus groups where the opinions of groups of customers are solicited. This is another  great way to gather large amounts of feedback quickly and in an inexpensive manner.

In summary, using modern methodologies, focusing on end customer experience, and gathering continuous feedback will allow retailers to deliver a successful customer experience to consumers and employees. It will also keep you to ahead of the competition by differentiating your businesses.

Enhanced in-store customer experience with digital transformation of Retail Systems

SINSA enhances in-store customer experience with digital transformation of Retail Systems

Brief

SkillNet partners with SINSA in the digital transformation of core retail systems (including POS, Merchandising & Store Inventory) to improve customer satisfaction and increase efficiencies in operations.

About the client

Founded in 1990, SINSA is the largest home improvement retailer in Nicaragua. It has four business units, with retail comprising 75% of the company’s sales, followed by project and engineering services, wholesale and car battery distribution.

SINSA operates 24 stores and wholesale outlets offering 65,000+ SKUs in 15 categories of home improvement products (hardware, tiles, electric components among others) and services for the remodeling, construction, decoration and electrical industries.

Challenges

SINSA is one of the fastest-growing home improvement retailers in Central America. Its mission is to offer an integrated solution to all customers in construction, renovation, and decoration projects. Within its stores, customers could negotiate prices, and associates can offer discounts within certain ranges. Additionally, customers could pick up their purchases from a store or distribution center, create quotations and process them at a later date.

Apart from constantly looking at improving operations, the SINSA team wanted to ensure their retail platforms could support the company growth. They also wanted to be more agile and better support customer needs with process digitization. Given the focus on enhancing customer experience, they also felt that it was important for store associates to have access to updated inventory information.

Since SINSA’s homegrown retail system could not keep pace with the company’s growth or requirements, the team felt the need for an integrated retail system (including POS, Merchandising & Store Inventory) that met international standards while supporting their requirements.

Solutions

After selecting Oracle products for the digital transformation, SkillNet was chosen for the implementation of Oracle Xstore POS, Oracle Retail Customer Engagement, Oracle Retail Merchandising Systems and Oracle Fusion Financials. SkillNet’s in-depth knowledge of the retail industry, expertise in Oracle Retail, along with its LATAM capability and presence made it an obvious choice to support SINSA’s ambitious digital initiative.

SkillNet ’s consulting expertise helped define and design new processes across the organization. One of the key areas of transformation was in the redesign of pre-sale and post-sale processes for customer engagements. Other processes such as Equipment Rentals, Quotations, Distribution Center Pick Up and Returns, selling of defectives items at discounts and loyalty programs (Gift Cards and Gift Registry) were also part of the digital transformation.

Oracle Retail Xstore POS was introduced successfully across SINSA’s retail stores including the largest locations with over 50 registers per store.

Results

SkillNet has been instrumental in helping SINSA achieve its digital transformation goals with increased efficiencies in operations and improved customer satisfaction.

With the new systems, store associates can access inventory systems on their computers or from their mobile phones. The retail focused CRM, Oracle Retail Customer Engagement, provides store associates with a detailed view of customer transactions in real time.

Due to greater level of details at item levels, the efficiency of replenishment in warehousing has increased. This ensures increased availability of popular items.

The new systems also allow customers to add items to their basket from different parts of the store and pay at the exit. The new POS system has enabled SINSA to improve processing time resulting in 33 percent reduction in customer wait time. All of this has contributed to richer in-store experiences resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

We are delivering on our vision to become more agile and satisfy our customer’s needs through a digital transformation process that starts by analyzing our processes, making adjustments and adopting a modern platform that can help us reduce risks and bring scalability to our business units as we continue to grow. Roger Vargas, Continuous Improvement Manager at SINSA

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Top three trends in customer engagement!

This is the third of a series of four-blogs (Read Blog 1 and Blog 2) from SkillNet on how Modern Commerce Leaders are adapting to the New Normal.  SkillNet defines a Modern Commerce Leader as a retail brand that is engaging customers through new customer journeys enabled by Technology. The flexibility and ability to adapt, provides these companies with a competitive advantage.  

Retailers are using customer engagement not only to weather the current economic uncertainty but also to build a sustainable competitive advantage. As we surveyed retailers, both essential and non-essential, we are seeing three trends on how Customer Engagement leaders are investing their dollars strategically:

  1. Building or enhancing existing mobile applications from a transactional to a relationship building platform
  2. Investing in offers and programs to build customer loyalty
  3. Offering additional fulfillment options that not only promote safety, but convenience

When it comes to the first trend, there are countless examples of Retailers investing in their mobile apps. When mobile apps first arrived, they were often just designed as extensions to the company’s website, but now mobile apps have their own distinct customer journeys. An example is Avocado Mattresses which offers scheduled visual chat sessions with store team members, mimicking the in-store shopping experience from the comfort of your mobile phone.

On a recent webinar I hosted, Scott Steever, Adjunct Professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, shared his story of how his local Fairway grocery store in Brooklyn quickly turned on functionality that allowed him to have a complete contactless grocery shopping experience in-store with his app: self-scan, self-checkout, and Apple Pay all through his phone. He noted, “I don’t know whether they were working on that ahead of time or they just really pivoted quickly, but in any case, it really made a difference in terms of the experience of shopping with Fairway. It greatly reduced the anxiety for me as a consumer during the early days of the pandemic in New York City.”

Loyalty programs have been around for years, but recent trends show retailers are looking for innovative ways to reward their customers. According to a 2020 Marketing Week survey, 29% of brands are re-budgeting marketing dollars to fund initiatives to maintain customer loyalty. This trend is evident in mobile application integrations to existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) packages to tailor discounts and recommend complimentary products based on previous purchase history. Other brands such as Levi’s are offering a special concert series for their top customers while Sephora is offering special private beauty events.  

The third trend we are seeing in engagement is providing customers with additional ways to acquire a Brand’s products. Obvious additions to fulfillment options have been curbside or drive-up pick up. On a recent trip to Target after placing an order using their app and requesting drive-up pick up, I timed how long I had to wait before the team member came out with my order: 33 seconds, and this was during a snowstorm! In Q3, Target reported that 75% of digital orders were fulfilled from their stores.  This helped them reach some remarkable sales increases (19% same store sales), while starting the quarter with 3 % less inventory.  

Another example of fulfillment innovation is seeing brands partnering with each other. Even before the Pandemic, Kohl’s was offering Amazon lockers and in person return services. Another interesting example has been a test where select Walgreens’ stores are offering Kroger grocery drive-up pick-up services.  

Even when we return to pre-pandemic behavior, we believe these customer journey enhancements will continue to be adopted because of the convenience and safety they provide to the community and the improved profitability that these journeys realize for Modern Commerce leaders.

Watch the Webinar on customer engagement – Real Engagement is the new normal

Martin Dempsey shares his experience of working with SkillNet

400+ lululemon stores across US, Canada & Europe get ready for safe COVID-19 operations with POS upgrade

SkillNet helps lululemon stores upgrade to drive safe in-store customer experience.

After closing in March, lululemon US, Canada & Europe stores began re-opening in early June. This meant an increased focus on safe shopping for guests (customers).  As the first of US stores went live with Oracle Xstore POS upgrade in June, it allowed lululemon to initiate several measures to enable safe shopping.

As part of its “Make it together” program, SkillNet partnered with lululemon to identify one of the important initiatives to make shopping in the stores a safer experience. SkillNet used its POS expertise to reduce customer touch points during checkout process. For example, instead of having customers select their preferences for opting in or out of the retailer’s email campaigns, the educators (cashiers) can now directly do it on their behalf. This change makes checkouts both safe and quick, and enables smoother interaction between customer and cashier.

As a result of the POS upgrade, guests who shop online can now ship gifts to home, and also drop off their returns at the door instead of entering the stores. The upgrade also improved reporting capability for better decision making.

While the upgrade began before the pandemic, SkillNet team collaborated extensively and worked  remotely to overcome shutdown challenges, including moving some of the testing hardware to their homes and supporting longer acceptance test cycles.

Another key challenge of the upgrade was the large amount of data that needed to be migrated. In order to expedite the process of migration, SkillNet used its StoreHubTM platform to load data. With StoreHubTM, the team was able to use the available service connectors to the POS system without creating new integrations and this resulted in shortened timelines. SkillNet also introduced DevOps for the automation of build, tests and releases.

The upgrades not only enable lululemon to ensure safe shopping during Covid-19 but also be more prepared to ensure richer store experience in the new normal.

The “Make it together” program is a SkillNet initiative to support its retail partners during the COVID 19 pandemic. As part of the program, SkillNet provides free modifications to retailer’s POS, ecommerce and other applications, that enable safe and convenient shopping for their customers.

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