When I worked in the airline business our most embarrassing incident was “losing a minor”. We never lost a child, of course. But we might not have known where a child was for certain period of time. Even though this was an extremely rare occurrence, we built serious procedures to prevent it from happening. The retail industry faces a similar scenario that retail technology is poised to tackle: inventory management. Macy’s has a monthly inventory loss is 3%. This is no small number, given that inventory is the whole business.
Inventory Management Technology
This week we visited Bloomingdales in Soho, NYC, to experience a demo with Stealthmatrix.
Stealthmatrix is an AR technology based on gaming. It enables sales associates to manage inventory much more efficiently. With the device, one can built a 2D Map of a sales floor, scan thousands of RFID tags, and then search any item based on the unique product code from the inventory file. We saw how sales associates can also search by designer, size and any other field that comes through from the inventory file. As usual, the quality of the data defines the quality of the experience.
The implications of this technology are even more exciting than the technology itself! Think about it! With RFID tags (current cost is 10 cents) that can be located, you can put a device on top of a loading dock or a warehouse door and monitor the movement of your inventory. This provides a variety of advantages. You can manage theft better. And you can find items that are out of season and send them back to the vendor faster.
Revolutionizing Experiences for Employees and Customers
Our favorite part about this technology, though, is the ways in which it can revolutionize employee and customer experience. When a sales associate is empowered to deliver a professional, efficient, seamless experience, that associate;s confidence skyrockets. They are no longer unsure about where items are. They KNOW. And when we combine this technology with consumer website behavior, and put that knowledge in the associate’s hands on an iPad, hospitality service comes to life in stores!
Just think about it. Walking in the future Lord&Taylor and giving the sales associate your account ID. With only that small piece of information s/he can see your shopping cart and bring those items to your dressing room. This consumer experience makes the sales associate proud to serve, and it creates a personalized consumer experience that will increase customer satisfaction and store revenue.
Increasing Operational Efficiencies through Retail Technology
And if you are a brand with constant inventory movement like Rent the Runaway, Le Tote or Stichfix, this technology can bring a new level of operational efficiencies that lower your costs. It is very rare to find a solution that can lower costs and increase revenues. So pay attention. And try this as soon as you can.
McKinsey’s Praveen Adhi wrote in Entrepreneur that to succeed in 2020 retail brands need to restructure their cost stack and move funds towards customer service. He urged POCs and trials with technology to explore the retail experience of the future. If you want to stay relevant, you need to add innovation to your budget now.
We would not be completely correct if we did not remind you of the training costs that also need to be included in your 2020 budget. No innovation or technology alone (retail technology or otherwise) can create memorable experiences. The sales associates’ empowerment that the technology can provide needs to have culture-driven hospitality standards so the right conversations take place while they are serving consumers.
We can help you set up the right proof of concept and learn how to scale a new cost efficient, customer-centric operation. And once we have done this, we can start talking about how to put this technology in the hands of the consumer to enable self-service too!