transformación tecnológica Archives - SkillNet Solutions

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.

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

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. Our services enable clients to rapidly anticipate and respond to changing consumer behaviour. Through engineering and enterprise-grade implementation of cloud and SaaS applications, SkillNet creates rich customer journeys for local and global brands to stay ahead of the curve. Our solution accelerators enable clients to quickly become more agile and efficient in harnessing technology.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, SkillNet partners with industry leaders like Oracle, SAP Commerce Cloud (Hybris), Salesforce, Magento and AWS to enhance online and in-store experiences. Since 1996, we have worked with retailers across 53 countries to deliver exceptional customer experience and growth. Our award-winning solutions have enabled global retail brands in Apparel, Automotive, F&B, CPG, Grocery, Health & Beauty, Liquor, Pharmacies, Restaurants and Telecom to deliver the promise of modern commerce.

How do Modern Commerce Leaders justify investment and change?

This is the fourth blog in a series of four blogs( Read Blog 1, Blog 2 and Blog 3) from SkillNet on how Modern Commerce Leaders have used technology to digitally transform their retail businesses to adapt to the New Normal. This ability to adapt, gives these brands a competitive advantage. While the blogs are connected each of them can be read independently.

The last year has been challenging for almost every company’s bottom line. Even essential businesses like Grocery stores that saw a revenue lift, have also seen tight margins as labor and product costs rose. In this time of uncertainty, it may be hard to convince internal decision makers to make investments which will provide long term benefits.  

On a recent call, a client mentioned that they convinced a skeptical Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to invest in a new multi-million dollar app enhancement by simply demonstrating how easy it was to complete a purchase on a competitor’s mobile app, “within 5 minutes, because I was able to show how easily I could purchase a $30 Mr. Coffee Maker on my competitor’s app, I got the funding I had been asking all year”.

Change is often initiated as a reaction to market or competitive forces. However, a true Modern Commerce Leader is often trying to be an innovator, before these forces become apparent, and may not have the easy argument “our competitors are doing it”. In those cases, a more strategic approach may need to be taken to get stakeholders to agree to not only a major financial investment, but a commitment that their organization will adopt new operational process changes.

At SkillNet, we look at developing a Return on Investment (ROI) model as a 5-step strategic effort:

  • Step 1: Define Business Needs
  • Step 2: Identify Costs
  • Step 3: Identify Benefits
  • Step 4: Gather KPIs and Baseline Data
  • Step 5: Make a Decision

In our experience, getting a customer journey defined in step 1 is critical and its effort is often underestimated. The journey could be a new or enhanced process, but a trend we have seen accelerate over the last year is the re-platforming of existing journeys to new platforms. An example of this re-platforming is the replication of the in-store shopping experience through mobile applications. Retailers, across both softlines and hardlines, are offering virtual chats with in-store sales associates. Others are creating a curbside pick-up process that allows for complimentary sales to make up for the loss of impulse purchases that would normally happen in stores. Once these customer journeys are identified and mapped, potential solutions can be identified.

We also see many Retailers stumble when trying to see if their initiatives actually paid off. Hence we make sure to include a Step 4, where Key Performance Indicators are identified prior to making a decision. Below is a model for a recent ROI exercise just completed for another client which highlights the potential solutions based on the journeys and some key performance indicators we considered.

The major benefit of taking a more strategic view when justifying a project is the alignment you will gain from stakeholders. The benefits of this alignment include a common stakeholder understanding on how your customer’s experience will improve, the costs to get there, and what subjective and objective metrics will prove you made your innovation goals.

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

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

Do investments in customer engagements really work?

This is the second blog in a series of 4-blogs (Read Blog 1, Blog 3, Blog 4) from SkillNet on how Modern Commerce Leaders have used technology to digitally transform their retail businesses to adapt to the New Normal. This ability to adapt, gives these brands a competitive advantage. While the blogs are connected each of them can be read independently.

During this time of uncertainty, Modern Commerce Leaders have been investing in improved customer experiences to help them build customer loyalty and to weather a drop in traffic.

A recent McKinsey study showed that in last major downturn (2008 economic crisis) the top publicly traded customer-focused companies had three times greater shareholder return than customer experience laggards.

Customer experience (CX) leaders are more resilient during recessionary periods, experiencing shallower troughs and quicker recovery

Financial performance (total shareholder returns) of CX leaders vs laggards

Even before the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, Modern Commerce Leaders had already begun investing in customer focused innovation, but the pandemic increased the impetus to find new ways to engage with a newly home-bound customer.  More importantly, it also has resulted in massive changes to behavior, with customers being more willing to try new technologies thus reducing the challenges that retailers may have faced prior to COVID-19. As reported in CNET, Oz Alon, co-founder and CEO of HoneyBook, a financial tech startup in San Francisco said, “I do believe this is an opportunity. This is a huge event in the world, people are going to change their behaviors and a lot of things that have struggled for adoption will get a new push.”

Much of the customer experience improvement has come with enhancements to existing mobile applications. Scott Steever, Adjunct Professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, on a recent SkillNet Webinar shared his own experience developing Mobile Applications for ABC Carpet and Home in New York City:

“Before the Pandemic, ABC Carpet and Home saw some customers wanting an option to be able to schedule an appointment and potentially initiate a video chat, online or through an app, with associates. Buying a $15,000 sofa or a $50,000 carpet is a major purchasing decision and anything we could do to facilitate the decision making process was seen as a win for the customer, sales associate and our bottom line. The Pandemic just pushed the adoption of this technology.” Professor Steever also added, “I think tools like this that are flexible and adaptable are very important in this age of COVID 19 because we don’t know when or where the next hot spot will come up. The good news is that we know this long-term investment and current adoption will give ABC a competitive advantage.”

Recent earnings reports seem to support this correlation between an enhanced customer experience and better financial/operational performance as shown by three customer engagement leaders:

  • Target: enhanced mobile apps, fulfillment and loyalty program
    • Q3 2020 saw digital sales grow over $2B and drive-up service grow over 500% in Q3
    • 20% increase in same store sales with 3% decrease in starting inventory for Q3 2020
    • 75% of digital orders were fulfilled by stores in Q3 2020
  • Walmart: enhanced mobile apps, fulfillment and new subscription program
    • Curbside projected to drive over $7B in sales and account for 33% of digital sales in 2020
    • Average basket size for curbside pickup were double that of in-store baskets
    • Q3 2020 saw the number of transactions drop by 14%, but average ticket increased by 24% and eCommerce was up 79%
  • Kroger: enhanced mobile apps and fulfillment
    • Q3 2020 saw 108% digital sales growth and 10.9% comparable store growth
    • Expanded to 2,213 pickup locations and 2,468 delivery locations, covering over 98% of Kroger households
    • Estimates that 50% of online revenue is coming from competitor’s customers

In conclusion, investments in customer engagements definitely pay off for retailers and, in today’s world, pay off quickly. The good news is that it is never too late to start. Given the speed with which technology changes can be implemented to support both digital and in-store experiences today, retailers will quickly see the benefits of innovation in improved financial and operational performance.

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

Retail Spending is up 24%, if you are not seeing a bump you may have a long-term customer problem

This is the first of a series of 4-blogs (Read Blog 2, Blog 3, Blog 4) from SkillNet on how Modern Commerce Leaders have used technology to digitally transform their retail businesses to adapt to the New Normal. This ability to adapt, gives these brands a competitive advantage. While the blogs are connected each of them can be read independently.

Up through the Fall of 2020, the economy looked like it was approaching a “New Normal” of economic activity. However, pessimism based on poor holiday sales and political unrest has countered the optimism coming from new stimulus spending and vaccines. Uncertainty continues to be the defining term for 2021. In this blog, we will discuss where we are on the path to the New Normal, and how retailers can support customers changes in behavior.

First question we all have is “Has the bleeding stopped?” According to TrackRecovery.org, consumer spending in week ending January 17, 2021, was up 6.5% over same time period in 2020. Driven by $600 stimulus checks, retail spending was up 25%. Consumers have dramatically shifted spending from Entertainment, Travel, and Restaurants to Essential Retail and eCommerce.

Consumer Spending up 6%; retail spending up 24.5%

Source: TrackRecovery.org

Given this situation, if your business is not seeing a rebound in Sales, you may have a problem, in that your customer may have made a long-term behavioral change. These changes can be as simple as your customer still buying your product but just not coming into the store (reducing add-on sales), to your customer finding more convenient options from your competitors. Kroger reported in their 2020 Q2 earnings call that they estimate 50% of their new digital customers are coming from their competitors.

With this consumer behavioral change, not only does a business have to worry about  competitors, but also whether they have lost the traditional add-on opportunities in the urgency of making the shopping experience safer. When adding functionality online, retailers may have neglected to identify opportunities to replace the incremental sales normally associated with in store traffic. Traditional merchandising and pricing techniques, which offers add-on sales opportunities, just may not work if the customer is not walking your aisles, end caps, shelves, tables, four ways, or seeing your accompanying promotional signage.

I was recently on a call with a Midwest Essentials Retail client, and one of the initiatives they have undertaken to address this uncertainty, is to partner with SkillNet to improve customers mobile shopping experience and to offer additional customer engagement functionality that not only mimics in-store experience, but in many circumstances enhances on it. This functionality includes additional fulfillment options, appointment scheduling, loyalty program, inventory availability, personalized marketing and an enhanced consumer shopping experience.  

What will help retailers regain lost sales is identify what has changed in their customer’s journey. One of the ways to identify this is through financial modeling by analyzing traffic and average order values, by channel, pre-2020 and post-2021. Using technology to bridge the gap and to enhance customer experience will go a long way in deepening customer engagements and help getting the dollars back while enabling growth.

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

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.

Check out or StoreHub services

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Luxottica improves technology deployment by reducing testing cycles from 48 hours to less than 2 hours

SkillNet enables Luxottica to speed up technology deployment cycles through automation and the adoption of DevOps processes.

With a strong portfolio of retail brands and 9200 stores, Luxottica is well positioned to serve every segment of the North American market with a variety of differentiated products & services, including the latest designer and high-performance frames, innovative lens options, advanced eye care, everyday value and high-quality vision care health benefits.

Luxottica aims at expanding its market through stronger retail distribution while consolidating its wholesale network and further growing its presence in e-commerce, department stores and travel retail.

As a brand leader, Luxottica has been taking initiatives to build agility in its online and offline technology and operations to continuously deliver improved customer experiences. As part of this initiative, Luxottica partnered with SkillNet to increase the speed of change in technology that is currently deployed in North America stores.

Retail applications like Point of Sale are traditionally viewed as less agile than their online counterparts, for good reasons. These applications are often complicated with dozens of intricate touch points with in-store hardware and software systems. They must work flawlessly for thousands of store employees over millions of purchase transactions. Glitches in Point of Sale can disrupt customer experience and hurt brand image. Therefore, retailers extensively test these systems before deploying to stores, and are wary of introducing frequent changes.  This poses a big challenge when shopping experiences are constantly evolving under the effect of demographic shifts and technology advances. This year COVID-19 has pushed the envelope further.

Luxottica’s technology team together with SkillNet is overcoming this challenge by applying agile DevOps techniques. First step was automation of the testing process involved in Point of Sale deployment. For this, SkillNet leveraged its expertise in developing test automation for Oracle XStore POS using xUnit, an opensource toolkit. This automation has reduced the testing cycle time from 48 hours to less than 2 hours, accelerating the deployment of technology changes to drive richer in-store customer experiences.

Next, Luxottica is working with SkillNet in automating the Point of Sale deployment process, which will complete the continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. The success of this program has encouraged Luxottica to look at other systems in their global operations that can now be automated.

Check out our Commerce accelerators – commerce DevOps services

Check out our Oracle Solutions services

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Gross margin increase for cosmetic brand

Global cosmetics retailer increases growth margins with seamless POS unification across 50+ countries

Brief

Multi-brand cosmetics retailer accelerates digital transformation by unifying multiple POS systems to a single upgraded solution.

About the client

The client is a global leader in prestige beauty – delighting consumers with transformative products and experiences, inspiring them to express their individual beauty. With a diverse portfolio of 25+ brands, they are the only company who focus solely on prestige makeup, skin care, fragrance and hair care. They operate over 1500 freestanding stores and 1,700+ E/M commerce sites in 50+ countries.

Challenge

Most of the client’s 25+ global brands had become a part of the client’s portfolio through various acquisitions. This meant that most of the brands provided independent in-store experiences with different underlying CRM and POS systems. The diverse in-store systems meant high maintenance costs, complex license management and vendor agreements. Small changes to the system required complex planning to cascade through the overall landscape.

The client also found it difficult to rollout promotions or omnichannel capabilities globally. The systems also hampered the client’s ability to introduce critical initiatives such as BOPIS (Buy Online-Pickup-In-Store) and BORIS (Buy-Online-Return-In-Store). All of this could impact the client’s charter to delight consumers with transformative experiences.

Solution | Ensuring continued seamless omnichannel experience

The solution was to migrate different brands, retail stores in various countries and disparate content to a consolidated in-store experience underpinned by a single POS solution (Oracle Xstore POS and Oracle Retail Customer Engagement) with minimal disruption.

SkillNet started the engagement by harmonizing the global code base. The harmonization was intended to create a baseline system for all the brands and geographies while maintaining those components that had reuse value. SkillNet’s multidisciplinary agile teams and DevOps engineering helped automate and accelerate different stages of the project. The SkillNet solution also addressed the regulatory and fiscal requirements required by various countries. As a result, customizations across geographies were reduced and the delivery cycles shortened across brand silos.

During country wise implementations, a flexible design was created for extensions and services. This enabled reuse across different geographies. The global code base provided multiple layers of functionality which were applicable across regions, specific geographies, store formats and brands. The core functionality for omnichannel capability is being delivered globally. The solution also enabled BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In-Store), BORIS (Buy Online Return In Store) and OOFIS (Order Online From In Store) features. These have been introduced at country and brand level with minimal disruptions.

The roll out has been completed successfully for a majority of countries across Asia, Europe and North America.

Results | Digital Transformation supports growth margins

Since its introduction, the client has reported robust growth in sales and growth margins due to the seamless omnichannel experience.

The unified POS solution allows the store associates to spend more time with customers on sales floor and this provides them with opportunities to cross sell and upsell products. Since the solution is being driven by services and base configurations, it has also increased customer engagement time and enabled cost savings.

The single global code base solution has also helped streamline vendor licensing, software upgrades, maintenance costs and provide system support from one single location. Faster release cycles have also helped accelerate the client’s digital initiatives.

SkillNet received the “Best Drive in Innovation and Process Transformation” award for its contribution in the client’s digital transformation.

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. Our services enable clients to rapidly anticipate and respond to changing consumer behaviour. Through engineering and enterprise-grade implementation of cloud and SaaS applications, SkillNet creates rich customer journeys for local and global brands to stay ahead of the curve. Our solution accelerators enable clients to quickly become more agile and efficient in harnessing technology.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, SkillNet partners with industry leaders like Oracle, SAP Commerce Cloud (Hybris), Salesforce, Magento and AWS to enhance online and in-store experiences. Since 1996, we have worked with retailers across 53 countries to deliver exceptional customer experience and growth. Our award-winning solutions have enabled global retail brands in Apparel, Automotive, F&B, CPG, Grocery, Health & Beauty, Liquor, Pharmacies, Restaurants and Telecom to deliver the promise of modern commerce.

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