Keeping the "Retail" in Retail Stores

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Will Smith, CEO of Euclid Elements, may share his moniker with the Hollywood star, but he is also making headway in the retail industry by delivering digital analytics to the standard brick-and-mortar store.

The reason, according to Smith, is that the competitive chokehold Amazon.com has on the physical store really comes down to one key differentiator: customer data.

"For us, [it means] focusing on loyalty metrics, seeing how long the time is between visits, how frequently people are coming, and how long are they staying," Smith said at the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 101st Annual Convention and Expo in New York.

Smith's company strives to do for the physical store what the Internet does for e-commerce. Through sensor technology, the Euclid solution detects customer activity via smartphone signal, and pings encrypted data back to the retailer's dashboard analytics platform. It enables retailers to test window displays to monitor walk-bys and measure capture rates based on traffic flows.

"Stores are competing because online retailers are getting into their space, but also because the online-offline space is converging," Smith said. "If your customers are having a great experience, they're going to come back more frequently."

More retailers are also turning to advanced marketing solutions to foster a customer-centric strategy in-store.

Marks & Spencer, a British apparel, high-end food, and furniture retailer, recently implemented NCR technology to create multimedia "zones" with digital touch screens and virtual stylists. Digital signage solutions alter content to match what is trending online or on social networks.

Similarly, Intel's new Experience Stations and retail solutions enable retailers like Rite Aid to engage customers with 3D Rewards Center kiosks, which can dispense coupons and launch promotions, all while integrating with Wellness loyalty programs.

Greg Egan, general manager and vice president of retail store automation at NCR, said in a statement that "retailers face continued pressures to eliminate the silos between their digital and physical channels to deliver a consistent shopping experience for their customers."

A strategic partnership between NCR Advanced Store software and fulfillment technology provider VendorNet enables retailers to link their store inventory with e-commerce sites to drive in-store pickup and personalize the point of sale.

Retailers that want to bump up brick-and-mortar sales must create a workable strategy to incentivize customers who shop in store instead of going online to comparison shop.

This will demand a hard look at where dollars are appropriated.

"We see a little bit of disconnect with where retailers are investing," said Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst, when discussing mobile buying behaviors at the NRF convention. "A tactic at the top of the list where more retailers were planning to invest [according to the State of Retailing Online report] was in custom stores on social networks—Facebook stores."

However, Mulpuru continued, "those [social] stores were generally regarded as one of the least effective tactics among retailers that had actually deployed them."

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