Retailers Remake Store Strategies

NEW YORK—During today's keynote presentation at the National Retail Federation's Big Show,  Steven Ladwig, president and CEO of Toshiba Commerce Solutions, introduced the concept of "Together Commerce," which he described as a seamless, single view of the customer.

In Together Commerce, a retailer's customer data doesn't end at purchase history and the customer's propensity to buy in the future. It also incorporates that customer's social media activity after the purchase and what he or she is sharing, and dynamically serves up relevant offers and discounts when that customer is back in the store.

Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail and distribution leader at Deloitte, called mobile and digital technologies the greatest change to retail since the Industrial Revolution. From technology to the merchandising to the supply chain to people, every aspect of commerce has changed, she said.

Some retailers, such as Belk, the family-owned and operated chain of department stores, are finding their investments in digital and mobile technologies are directly impacting their bottom lines. Belk began a digital overhaul in 2009, and found out that online-only shoppers spent, on average, $100 a year. People who shopped in-store spent $352. But, shoppers who purchased online and in-store spent about $1,064 a year in Belk stores.

The "omnichannel customer (averaged) three to ten times more business for us than the single channel shopper," said Belk's chairman and CEO Thomas Belk.

In 2009, Belk's online sales represented only 1 percent of its total sales. The CEO said the store will be comfortable when it reaches 10 percent penetration, and is now currently at 3.3 percent and growing. It expects to reach 10 percent penetration by 2016.

The store optimized its Web site, introduced a mobile app, and is in the process of replatforming its e-commerce technology. It will pilot a mobile wallet this summer.

Data is equally important to the department store chain. Thomas Belk said the company has customer data in eight locations, but is looking to introduce a single customer data warehouse to achieve a single view of the customer.

With the way commerce is changing, brands need to take the customer information housed in databases and make it relevant and personal to improve the customer experience. But this notion is a work in progress for many companies, including electronics giant Sony, which used to silo its different commerce divisions. Susan Jurevics, Sony's senior vice president of global retail CRM and brand marketing, said that ecommerce business, for example, used to be run by the separate Sony Style LLC, which "had their own channel playbooks."

Now, with the proliferation of mobility and social media, the company has recognized that this technology is a "shared concept owned by consumers, their friends, the retailer, and other influencers" that is powering the new peer-to-peer experience instead of the retailer-to-consumer model.

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