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Industry Spotlight: Why RFID could save the retail industry billions from theft…

Retailers globally rely on security systems to protect their goods from the manufacturer’s door all the way to the store where the product is eventually sold. However, there is a very significant issue within the industry as retail shrinkage is increasing worldwide and retailers are losing significant profits due to shoplifting, employee fraud, and inventory errors.

In fact, combined losses due to shrinkage cost the retail industry more than $123 billion according to the Global Retail Theft Barometer 2015. The study also found shoplifting to be the biggest cause of retail shrinkage in 18 of the 24 countries that were surveyed; proving that theft is a sting currently felt globally.

In the UK, retail crime has hit a record high at £613m and in 2015 alone, 750,144 incidents were reported by retailers to the police with a noticeable rise in sophisticated equipment being utilised to steal high-end, luxury products.

With shrinkage seemingly increasing and theft becoming more commonplace, despite increased security efforts; retailers are at a crossroads and must decide how to best address this issue.

 

EAS: An outdated form of protection?

Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems were first invented in 1966 and since then, according to the Association of Automated Identification Manufacturers (AAIM), have been installed in over 800,000 retailer outlets worldwide. Having been widely adopted by the retail industry, EAS is considered to be the principal way in which the industry has combatted theft and fraud.

Traditional EAS methods of theft prevention only alert the retailer to the fact that something is being stolen. However, it provides no information about what is missing in real-time and therefore increases the risk of a lost sale if merchandise isn’t replenished on the sales floor.

Although EAS tags do present a physical deterrent to potential thieves, some criticism has risen where EAS tags can seem a very one-dimensional product that serves only one purpose – to sound an alarm when an item is taken out of the store. Although at that point it is often too late to prevent the loss of the product.

 

A need for seamless protection

Although RFID technology has been around since the 1940s, the retail sector has only recently started to see the benefits the technology presents to inventory accuracy, shrink reduction and security.

Unlike traditional EAS tags, RFID technology has evolved significantly in recent years and can provide a much sleeker and discreet proposition for retailers. With RFID tags now being integrated into the brand labels of clothing, there is no risk of tags falling off, damaging clothing or ruining the aesthetic appeal of a store. Woven RFID tags provide retailers with a full proof method of ensuring their items are protected not only against thieves but also against counterfeit products.

The technology is also well suited to track and protect retail merchandise around the stores themselves which could actively prevent a theft from occurring. For example, if a fashion retailer installs a RFID reader outside the changing rooms, this can tell staff how many items each customer has taken to try on. It can also identify how long those items have been in the changing rooms for and alert staff to any suspicious movement in order to flag a potential theft and prevent it from happening.

With theft still presenting a significant challenge within the industry, retailers need to implement a solid security measure. Have traditional EAS tags outstayed their welcome within an industry that has evolved so rapidly and seen new challenges arise?

For example, the Global Retail Theft Barometer 2015 study looked into the cause of shrinkage and missing goods. It found that alarmingly employee theft was just as common as shoplifting with 28 per cent of global loss due to dishonest staff. In the US this statistic was notably higher with 39 per cent of all shrinkage down to employee theft.

Therefore, how effective are traditional EAS tags in combatting merchandise theft when a high percentage of thieves are staff and have access to the tools to remove them?
Although EAS systems, can act as a deterrent to thieves, and prevent many cases of theft. RFID tags present a modern, full proof system that can trace each item which begins at the manufacturing stage and protects your product all the way to leaving your store doors.

 

Stephan Buehler is the CEO of TexTrace who based in Switzerland, provides the manufacturing line as well as the components for the industrial in-house production of woven RFID labels. In close collaboration with Jakob Müller AG TexTrace guarantees the highest quality, reliable service and technological support for all their clients.

Industry Spotlight: 5 benefits to embracing the pop-up shop trend…

In a literal sense, pop-up shops are popping up everywhere, and whilst it has been independent businesses and smaller retailers that have pioneered the concept, larger retailers are beginning to embrace this latest trend.

The temporary stores are mostly found in high footfall areas such as city centres, shopping malls and busy streets. The main purpose of a pop-up is to create an impact and attract customers with something exciting, exclusive and different. So, what benefits can established retailers expect to achieve by implementing the pop-up shop concept?

 

  1. Experimentation: Road testing a new business concept can be costly. A pop up shop provides retailers with the ultimate flexibility in test marketing new products, promotions or concepts, before going fully to market. This allows the retailer to gauge future demand and incite customer feedback without incurring the high set up costs associated with a fixed store.
  1. Flexibility: Responding quickly to trends is not always easy for larger retailers. The flexibility of a pop up shop allows brands to adapt quickly and be in the right place at the right time. The temporary nature of a pop up shop allows the retailer to locate to where the action is, set up shop for key moments and more importantly, move on when interest wanes.
  1. Brand awareness: The act of launching a pop up shop creates buzz and hype that consumers love. The short-term nature of a pop up shop creates a sense of urgency, which often attracts big crowds. By appearing in an unexpected location, retailers can both surprise existing customers and excite new ones. Plus people are more likely to visit when there’s a limited time scale – and this often leads to an increase in sales.
  1. Educate new customers: By trying something new, retailers can widen their customer base by reaching consumers that may only be aware of their traditional product lines. When Microsoft launched their RT Surface tablet they opened a host of pop up stores in locations where they didn’t have a permanent presence. This enabled them to increase public awareness and educate customers on the product.
  1. Unload old stock: The majority of sales are still completed offline and a pop up shop in the right location can be the ideal venue to host a flash sale. The temporary nature of a pop up shop creates a buzz and excitement because people are interested in the sudden existence of a new store, especially if they look unique.

Flexibility in times of uncertainty

It would be remiss of me to write a blog about retailing without mentioning Brexit. It would be hard to argue that the current situation hasn’t created a certain amount of uncertainty. However, I am a firm believer in seeing opportunity in any situation and the pop up shop concept is a perfect answer to retailers looking to expand without incurring too many costs. It offers the opportunity to take on a retail space and set up quickly without the long-term commitment.

In Summary

The retail landscape is evolving and for retailers that want to keep pace with trends, pop up shops offer the ultimate in flexibility and testing innovation. However, to maximise on the benefits retailers need to be able to set up till solutions quickly offering consumers the same transaction options they expect in fixed retail units. By investing in an electronic point of sale solution with remote capability, retailers ensure they have the flexibility required to scale their business operations and the reporting functionality to assess the success of their new business venture.

 

Words by Marcus Ardeman, sales executive at Eurostop

Marcus has over 25 years’ experience working with Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) systems.  Before joining Eurostop, Marcus’s experience includes training, implementation and sales roles within large established EPOS companies. His retail background, and deep understanding of the retail environment has enabled him to take a consultative approach, ensuring that customers get the most from their new retail management and EPOS solutions.

‘Next day’ delivery considered most popular for the first time, says IMRG…

An overall growth rate of 18.2 per cent year-on-year was recorded in August in relation to the amount of online retail orders, according to recent data from the IMRG MetaPack UK Delivery Index; indicating that shopper confidence appears to be showing some resilience following the Brexit decision.

Since the EU referendum on June 23, the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) has tracked an increase in the percentage of orders moving cross-border – which the association claims is most likely down to a sharp fall in the valuation of GBP sterling – and the theme continued in the month of August as 27.8 per cent of orders made in the UK were sent to international destinations.

Furthermore, there was also a notable development in the delivery options that shoppers are selecting. For the first time since the Index’s inception, the percentage of orders using ‘next day’ (36.7 per cent) as the fulfilment option was higher than those using ‘economy’ (33.8 per cent). 

Head of e-logistics at IMRG, Andrew Starkey, said We’ve been tracking a general increase in the percentage of ‘next day’ orders for a while now, and in August it became the most popular option domestically for the first time.”

He continued: “There are a number of factors potentially influencing this – some retailers see delivery as a differentiator and are offering next day as standard, others offer it if the customer’s basket value is above a specific threshold and for others the charge for next day is smaller than it has been on average in previous years. A move toward faster delivery is not unexpected and, for carriers, it doesn’t represent a capacity issue during most of the year – but during peaks such as the Black Friday period, promotion of next day delivery should be handled more cautiously.”

The Index was created with the sole purpose of enabling e-tailers and industry professionals to track a wide range of key benchmark metrics, providing the capability of tracking trends and making informed strategic decisions.  

 

You can view the full IMRG MetaPack UK Delivery Index here 

Industry Spotlight, Detego: Why omnichannel is ‘everything’ in fashion retail…

It’s clear that omnichannel is key to winning customers in fashion retail and, now more than ever, retail bosses need to be fully aware of customer behaviours both in-store and online – how they move from page to page and view each item; the most popular product categories; the average length of time spent shopping, and so forth.

The concept of omnichannel can be seen as both a huge opportunity and an immense challenge for retailers. For some, it can be experienced as an ‘unrealised dream’ in today’s intensely competitive market. The technology readily available and brick-and-mortar stores can acquire ‘real-time data’ on stock, but how can retailers introduce a beneficial strategy to reap the rewards?

 

Implementing a successful omnichannel strategy

Essentially, to successfully implement a truly omnichannel strategy you need high quality real-time data analysis and smart merchandise management on the single item level, to ensure the consumer follows-through on a desired purchase.

You need to be able to map your customer’s journey, to fully understand how and why they might reach out to browse or buy on different channels at different times.

If you can anticipate and map out the typical customer journey, then you are far more likely to convert to a sale, whether in store or online.

Click & Collect is all well and good, but you need to deliver. Too many consumers have been let down by major retailers over the last few years, due to poor stock control and inventory management. Which is exactly why retailers now need to connect, integrate and bridge their customer experiences online and offline to deliver the seamless omnichannel customer experience today´s consumers expect.

You need to offer real-world personalised customer experiences that create engagement through both in-store and digital means and that can also transform an in-store experience with special touches – such as smart fitting rooms, for example.

The key is in deploying technology that will help you to view and manage your stock inventory in real-time, without having to completely rehaul all of your entire technology systems.

Based on Detego’s proven software suite for business intelligence, which is on the edge of technological advances also in terms of hands-free infrastructure, the solution was deployed in a very short time frame. The fast implementation and deployment was underpinned by a lean and agile approach to immediately realize the aimed business benefits for Denimwall Inc.

We helped to achieve their goals using a variety of technologies to compliment their business vision. A full automated, hands-free RFID ceiling reader system combined with real-time analytics software gave them item level visibility on their garments, plus a mobile application that integrated with our existing retail system all worked together to help them achieve one phase of their overall onmichannel vision.

This is a great example of how an onmichannel vision should be implemented and what it means to deliver stock control for a connected and efficient retail operation. Retailers need to consider a number of elements to achieve this.

First, item-level visibility in real-time and full awareness of the in-store customer is absolutely crucial. How they move and interact with items, where they linger, and what goes into a fitting room with what, in addition to awareness of the online customer – and integration between the two.

Second, implementing predictive analytics can bring a personal shopper experience to each customer whether on the premises or off.

Thirdly, a mapped customer journey helps retailers understand how and why a customer might reach out on different channels at different times.

Last but not least, providing real-world personalised customer experiences can create engagement through digital means and transform an in-store experience with special touches – like smart fitting rooms.

With these elements in place a retailer can automatically collect data about their merchandise, provide accurate inventory information and real-time transparency. Al mobile, 24-7 and hands-free, no matter the size of the operation.

What does this mean? It means that the customer experience is amazing. They find something – in store, online or on a mobile app – and then they can buy and collect it as soon as they want.

And fashion retailers know that customer experience is everything. You can offer the best choice of products via multiple channels. But if you cannot deliver, the customer moves on. Very quickly!

 

Words by Uwe Hennig, CEO at Detego

Industry Spotlight: The new frontier of retail marketing…

Reports suggest that in the next three years, the share of marketing budget that is spent on analytics is expected to more than double. Marketing tactics such as targeting ads by demographic are no longer adequate for keeping customers happy (and loyal).

Improving the brand loyalty of existing customers is often more profitable than on-boarding new customers, with a five per cent improvement in customer retention potentially resulting in a 95 per cent profit increase. With so much data out there, there is no reason to continue relying on gender, age-group, or location to predict what a consumer might be interested in. Of course, age and location help when tailoring communications, but they are far from being most indicative of consumer behaviour.

Pushed along by consumers’ increasing expectation for personalised communications and offers, businesses often find themselves making the mistake of falling back on social listening technology. Social listening will enable brands to use social media to gain insights into the interests of your target market and monitoring brand performance across social platforms. However, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that social listening is enough to shape your marketing strategy; while it does deliver holistic insights about your consumer base, such as how often people talk about your brand or what time of day your customers are most active, it doesn’t deliver the much needed insights into each customer at an individual level.

Because of this, social listening platforms only enable you to tailor your marketing and communication based on the behaviour of whole groups of people. This means that, rather than delivering a bespoke and relevant service to each individual, you are delivering something that you think they probably want based on the average behaviour of the group they are placed in.

Retailers and other consumer-focused businesses end up falling in the trap of marketing to huge groups of people based on presumptions about that group. However, a new trend has seen consent-based analytics tools empower consumers to get the communication and offers that they actually want. Instead of constantly seeing ads or receiving emails for something irrelevant just because that’s what people in their age-group tend to buy, what they receive will be constantly relevant – designed specifically for them.

Big data analytics tools can help marketers truly understand consumers on a more personal level. Knowing what consumers desire in a product; what they want in a brand; what services are relevant to them; and even what puts them off, can completely revolutionise the entire marketing strategy of a business.

The amount of data out there is significant but a consumer’s digital footprint is ever growing. What is difficult for marketers is leveraging this data to create usable and actionable insights, particularly considering that a significant proportion of online data consists of qualitative data; how can you know what an individual is talking about when they mention ‘working’? The word could indicate being employed, or it could easily be ‘working hard at the gym’, ‘working hard on my dissertation’, or ‘working on the car’. For this reason, the tool you choose needs to have an element of text analytics, such as psycholinguistics and natural language processing, in order to derive accurate meaning and avoid simple errors like assuming anyone who mentions ‘work’ is employed.

As well as this, it is vital to ensure that the tools you use deliver real-time insights so that what your offering is constantly adapting alongside their changing needs. Targeting a customer based on their wants and needs from six months ago could result in the offering being irrelevant and could cost you their loyalty.

For example: Mark signs up for an online account with a shoe retailer. He likes long distance running and often tracks his runs and posts the results on Facebook as motivation. Additionally, he has recently been talking about his upcoming participation in The London Marathon. The shoe retailer can then use this knowledge to market products for training (such as shoes to break in), products for the actual event (such as blister plasters), and products for after completing the marathon (such as a foam roller for sore muscles or heat packs for injuries). By using the right analytics technique, this retailer can adapt what they offer based on Mark’s changing needs as well as predicting what he may be interested in in the future in order to remain constantly relevant.

Utilising data insights to engage with consumers effectively allows brands to develop and maintain unique one-to-one relationships. Fundamentally, by using these tools, brands can get as close to a real relationship with their customers as possible without physically meeting and talking with them.

The more you learn about your customers, the more you can personalise communications and offers which has the power to turn both retention and acquisition marketing on its head.

 

With 16 years’ experience in the data and software industry, and a background in credit risk and fraud prevention, having worked at leading companies such as Call Credit, James Blake oversees all operations within Hello Soda, an advanced big data analytics company. He passionately believes that modern businesses are empowered by innovations in data technology, ensuring that Hello Soda develops only the best software solutions. 

 

Industry Spotlight: How Fashion Formula has revolutionised the supply chain mechanism of its customers…

Fashion Formula is an innovative, easy-to-use online platform whereby customers can create their own printed fabric, wallpaper, accessories or gift-wrap, manufactured in our state-of-the-art production facilities in North London. The company works closely with clients from couture, high street and premium fashion retailers; alongside DIY crafters and design-makers.
The platform allows independent pattern designers to upload their designs and create their own ‘mini-store’, granting the possibility to market their designs without holding stock or committing cash, and earning them up to 20 per cent commission on anything they sell to the general public. Fashion Formula manages all the production, dispatch and customer service, reducing a lot of the risk inherent in a small design business.
The second facet of the business, using the same ethos, is on-demand manufacturing for fashion and interior design retailers. The company is designed around the concept of mass customisation and personalised production – think Moonpig for fabric and wallpaper. The effects of this are tremendous; a reduction in the length of the supply chain for customers and changing attitude in the way designers and fashion retailers hold stock and run their own businesses. Through short-run custom manufacturing, they can achieve this without reducing the ability to efficiently service their customers.

 

In itself, digital textile printing is an enabling technology allowing mass customisation through ‘batches-of-one’ – diminishing the necessity for costly set ups and the requirement to produce and hold large amounts of stock, as well as giving it a great advantage over traditional textile printing methods. Mass customisation enables reduced lead-times on customised items so customers can manufacture in volume on a standard product whilst rapidly altering only the print within seconds – ‘achieving distinctiveness through customer-specific assembly of modules’.
Conjoined with the advancements in global communication – not to mention distribution – mass customisation has impacted significantly on the traditional standard of manufacturing. Companies can now manufacture only what is required, allowing them to respond rapidly to trends, as well as reducing stocks and capital expenditure. For fast fashion houses such as Zara, globalised rapid response can mean the fast-paced process of designing using CAD in one country, manufacturing in a second and distributing to a third, all in a matter of days or even hours.
Whereby a fashion retailer might traditionally have to order 5000m of one design to achieve a good price point, with Fashion Formula, there is little difference in cost between supplying 5000m of one design or 50m each of 100 designs. For the smaller high street or independent retailer, this provides the opportunity to offer a greater range of products and design without a large outlay. Additionally, Fashion Formula’s delivery times are days and weeks, not months; the retailer can order little and often, flexing to their seasonal demand. In this uncertain retail climate, the ability to reduce your supply chain risk is a powerful asset.

 

Find out more about Fashion Formula here 

 

Industry Spotlight: Free loyalty app service for ‘Brexit-threatened’ retail and restaurant businesses…

Actively progressing with its future in the competitive field of mobile consumer technology after raising £190,000 via angel investors to develop its ‘proximity engagement’ technology, the mobile start-up, Wallet Circle, is redefining its business model post-Brexit; inviting retail businesses of all sizes to join its loyalty app free of charge.

The company, which was founded in 2014 and has an estimated 100 retail customers ranging from The Savanna to Whitworth Pharmacy, has announced it will set up a customised mobile loyalty card and supply an iBeacon – acting as a digital version of an ink-stamp – together with business cards and flyers for free and is eligible to all retail, restaurant and café businesses in the UK.

Co-founder of Wallet Circle, Manas Abichandani, commented: “Wallet Circle is adapting to the changing economic times. We understand that businesses both big and small have become more cautious and will only invest in new technology when there is a definite ROI. In response, we have decided to let businesses join our loyalty app for free so they can grow their user base with no risk and no obligation.”

He continued: “Only once they see lots of their customers using Wallet Circle’s app, and believe in its potential, they can choose to upgrade to our premium tier, which starts from £25 a month, to help them engage with these users.”

Nonetheless, Abichandani expressed that retailers should not feel required to sign up to the premium service: “We obviously hope that retailers will recognise the value of customer insight and the means to act upon it but we will not force retailers to upgrade. Regardless, as a paperless loyalty card, businesses can make tangible savings on design and print as well as doing their bit for the environment.”

According to the company, this new approach has generated substantial traction and is attracting new business customers weekly, including restaurant and café chain Benugo, which is said to be trialing Wallet Circle’s app to provide loyalty cards in its London outlets.

Wallet Circle is currently available via the app store for iPhone and Android.

 

To get started with Wallet Circle, click here

Industry Spotlight: Is SMS still effective in the retail sector?

With an estimated four billion SMS users worldwide, it is clear that texting still serves its purpose. Despite this, it has been reported that Google may be planning to replace text messaging with Rich Communications Services (RCS) messaging.

There is no disputing the fact that RCS is an exciting technology. It can send images, video and display receipts. However, this does not mean that it is a good idea for any business to remove SMS from its communications roadmap. In fact, text messaging has become so ubiquitous that it has proven itself to be a fundamental element within the whole omnichannel experience.

Consider delivery, an area that online and offline retailers are increasingly becoming involved with getting multichannel communication spot on is key to providing an enhanced customer experience. Consumers today make multiple orders online and want their orders to be delivered quickly, efficiently and, above all, to a sensible timescale; without having to spend hours waiting in for them to arrive. To action this, retailers must keep consumers informed at all stages of the delivery process and SMS is a quick, convenient and inexpensive way of doing so.

In addition, text messages are easy to consume; they have urgency and a trust factor attached; and there were 8.3 trillion text messages sent in 2015 alone.

For example, one of our customers, Home Retail Group, the group behind brands like Homebase and Habitat, sends up-to-date and personalised, text status updates on deliveries. This has resulted in an increased customer satisfaction rate and has reduced inbound calls from customers to the contact centre querying delivery times; boosting the quality of service and slashing costs at the same time.

 

SMS isn’t going anywhere soon

The beauty of SMS is that it provides ‘just-in-time’ information for consumers that are always on the move. It can equip retailers with the opportunity to push valuable information almost instantaneously to customers, including details on special offers and discounts. Retailers can continue a dialogue with consumers by texting new offers after they have purchased products.

Not only is texting still as popular as ever, it can also grab a consumer’s attention more than any other media platform. On average, users take around 90 minutes to respond to an email, for example. The average response time for a text is 90 seconds, according to the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA).

Texts can also be automated and two-way conversations initiated, while visuals can be added so that customers can click a hyperlink and re-schedule a delivery slot on a product.

SMS is undeniably an easy-to-use, convenient and cost-effective platform which is widely used. All of this incredible functionality means that SMS is here to stay. Yes, RCS, may be waiting in the wings – but SMS continues to reign supreme.

 

Words by Steve Robertson, marketing and sales director at the leading customer contact provider, VoiceSage.

Industry Spotlight: ‘Pigeon-holing’ potential reason behind rising shrink losses…

Mass merchants and department stores have experienced an alarming 58 per cent increase in shrinkage rates since last year, which, according to the 2016 UK Retail Fraud Survey, is no surprise due to retailers continuing to treat online and store loss prevention separately.

The survey, published by Retail Knowledge and sponsored by the outsourced inventory data collection provider, WIS International — for the second consecutive year –also details the expensive systems, processes and strategies presently in place at some of the UK’s top retailers.

Research has indicated that retailers are increasingly taking a ‘joined up’ approach to store and online loss prevention by implementing a holistic approach to risk across all channels. However, somewhat contradicting this, the same survey a few years ago concluded that just a small percentage of retailers took this stance. This year, only 30.3 per cent of retailers continue to operate in silos across channels; a significant shift in how risk is managed and, in this respect, the report considers mass merchants and ‘large format speciality’ to be lagging behind; with 60 per cent and 40 per cent respectively still treating channels separately.

In addition, retailers who have decided to take a holistic approach to loss prevention across all channels have seen a decrease in shrinkage rates, compared to those opting for the separate avenues have seen a substantial increase in the 12 months; contributing to the calculated £2.34 billion loss to shrink.

Paul Bessant of Retail Knowledge said: “Today departments work together across the broad range of disciplines necessary to support the multiple channels through which business is conducted. This inter-departmental approach typifies the operations of leading retailers and is reflected in this survey which, inter alia, documents the change from a silo approach to online and offline, to a holistic one.”

He continued: “Only 36.6 per cent of retailers treat online and offline separately, compared with figures going back to 2013 when the figure was closer to 100 per cent. This is really great news, considering shrink has fallen again this year, it really shows that working collaboratively is the most effective way of beating retail crime. Those retailers that do treat online and offline separately need to rethink their approach if they are to effectively lower shrink year on year.”

Further highlights of the survey include the decrease in credit card fraud; down from 55 per cent in 2015 to 51 per cent in 2016; return fraud has dropped from last year’s figure of 0.5 per cent to 0.33 per cent of sales; and store loss prevention spends has jumped to 1.06 per cent from 0.6 per cent of sales.

The US is also currently dealing with retail shrink losses, as the University of Florida’s 2016 National Retail Security Survey, retail shrink has remained at ‘historically’ low levels with losses from shrink increasing from $44 billion in 2014 to $45.2 billion last year; and inventory shrink as a percentage of retail sales still at the same rate as the year before.