How Belief and Disbelief (Nearly) Destroyed Retail

I remember when e-tailing, as they used to call it, appeared on the world wide web. It was around the same time that banner ads discovered a purpose, a call to action. Buy! Buy! They would scream at you, hoping the noise and supposed romanticism of being able to source the world for the exact thing you wanted would drown out the uncertainty brought about by horrible, doubt-inflicting UX and, at that stage, a fairly undeveloped shipping industry that relied on the government’s offerings to deliver that costly, sight-unseen offering safely to your door.

Companies that figured out their online sales portal early, like Apple, Amazon, Zappos and Blue Nile, injected confidence and faith into the purchase process. Meanwhile, seeing this happen before their very eyes, the industrious folks at FedEx and UPS quickly realized their business could triple overnight if they too got their shit together. OK, it wasn’t that quick, but point is, online sales across every category – even diamonds – took off, leaving retailers barely enough time to even see their own wounds, let alone lick them.

What does an animal do when backed into a corner?

What does a man do when faced with death or survival?

Whatever it takes.

And that ‘whatever’ was to build out the most potent online sales portals they could. They could see the script in front of them: retail would continue further and further into the abyss. But, like a Jaguars fan, they refused to accept that things were going to get worse before they got better.

This sent retailers scrambling. Desperation sends one to dark places, and most in this case involved the tantalizing bait that is a percentage off sign attached to a large number – and lay-offs. Finding a customer service professional in most retailers is harder than finding a vegetarian burger in Idaho. Small spikes in sales kept corporate retail executives employed. But little did they realize the irreparable damage massive discounts were doing to their brands.

People stayed away from storefronts in droves, believing, correctly, that there was a better deal online.

To suggest people were jaded with the retail experience would be like suggesting Alaska is “frigid” in January.

Adding aftershocks to the e-tail tsunami, the early social networks like MySpace and Friendster, and, later, Facebook, didn’t just permit us to interact and develop ‘relationships’ without face-to-face interaction, they gave us the tools to do just that. This naturally spilled into our brand relationships, which started to lose their pulse. The less human interaction the better. The fewer clicks to purchase, the better.

Meanwhile, VPs of e-sales were heralding the new age of retail and cashing their bonus checks, funded by the decimated overheads of bricks and mortar – and less staff.

If that wasn’t enough, e-tailers dissolved, one-by-one, the final barrier to purchase – “What if it doesn’t fit? What if she doesn’t like it?” – with free returns.

The nail wasn’t just in the retail coffin, it was through the other side and fastened shut with Gorilla Grip.

That was the belief, anyway.

Survival is a funny thing, though. It makes you do things you didn’t think you’d ever do again.

Like turn back the clock. Jump into that DeLorean and hit the 1990s again.

But with new weapons.

By design or luck, a cultural pendulum was swinging back to human interactions. People woke up. Consumers became participants. No longer just faceless purchasers and a set of random numbers, people, participants, desired more than their data points suggested.

“Where is the customer service?”

How do you think many retailers responded, when they’d effectively been hibernating for nearly a decade as nothing more than expensive supporting actors?

They came up with Houdini-like solutions that were sparse and prohibitively expensive. More than one VP of Retail suggested re-adding bodies to the sales floor. The bean counters were enormously unimpressed. CEOs couldn’t see how increased retail sales forces could be more effective at their jobs without expensive training programs.

Ironically, it was technology that brought the flux capacitor out of mothballs. The tech geeks saw an open opportunity that was too juicy to ignore.

The artillery they needed was there, in the form of reams of data.

Participants’ tastes weren’t just calculated in what they bought. Right in front of them they could see their aspirations: what they looked at. What they dreamed of buying.

What they hadn’t yet bought, but might one day.

Past, current and future retail behavior could be predicted– based on their online habits.

Dogs are cats. Black is white. The Jags win a Super Bowl.

Armed with this data through iBeacons linked to SalesForce data, like ours, customer service professionals can serve up the pulse of a brand that participants have been missing, itching scratches that participants don’t even know they have yet.

**It's not about more sales people, it's about smarter sales people.**

The power of belief perhaps shows her potency most when she is the opposite. Disbelief that there is a way out, a better way forward, drives us to create what we never thought we could.

I guess us humans love a challenge, hey?Read more


Digital First: Baby, I Was Born This Way

By Craig Crawford
First Published by AATCC News


Just the other day, I asked my intern for a photograph of herself as a child for a presentation I was preparing for Jaeger. As a millennial, she was able to log onto several of her social media accounts and offer me a selection of photos right away. For her, access to data and images in the cloud is not a struggle—it’s a way of life. When I had to do the same task, I had to find and scan in a hardcopy baby picture.

This made me think: do brands that were born digital have it easier than those that weren’t?

While I worked at Burberry, we toiled to transform a brand that had more than 150 years of rich heritage. Our work began in 2009, and the journey still hadn’t ended in 2014 when I left the company.Burberry’s Digital Success wasn’t just about putting iPads in stores and iPhones in the hands of executives. It was about transforming ways of thinking, methods of working, and putting digital first. It was cultural change. And it was about being authentic.

Not all Burberry customers are millennials. However, today’s 20-somethings are the next wave, and as aspirational luxury consumers they now use their mobile phones as much as 40% of the time to purchase.

With no brick-and-mortar stores (and no plans to have any), ASOS.com (abbreviation for “As Seen on Screen”) caters to this trend and wins.

As the UK’s largest independent online fashion and beauty retailer, they sell 60,000 products for men and women in ways millennials shop: socially and digitally. As Seen On Me picks up customers’Instagram posts with #AsSeenOnMe (photos of themselves in ASOS looks) that can then be directly shopped from and shared, while personal stylists like James Welsh offer advice via YouTubeand chat with customers via Twitter. The latest evolution of the site now offers a catwalk video on product.

Consumer interactions are carefully monitored by a team of analysts, and when something works, it is scaled up. When something doesn’t, it is scaled down. (Women on average watch the catwalk videos twice, while men prefer 360 rotation views of product vs. catwalk videos).

Farfetch.com is another UK online retailer that describes itself as a global community of more than 300 visionary fashion boutiques for fashion-forward consumers. They divide labels into Luxe (high-end designers) and Lab (contemporary, experimental and emerging labels). Editorials offer celebrity-curated lists ofbest dressed hipsters with links to shop or insider scoops on fashion topics like Red Carpet looks.

It’s not just consumers who find Farfetch fabulous. Young luxury design startups find them amazing because of the SEO optimization and digital visibility they provide that the young hot brands can’t afford to do alone.

New York-based Khirma Eliazov, whose handbags are worn by celebrities on and off the red carpet, says she gets maximum exposure from Farfetch’s established digital footprint.
“My online sell through is now 70%,” Khirma explained, “but that wouldn’t be possible unless I had the wholesale presence I do at stores like Bergdorf Goodman. My customers want to first touch my product. I learned this at my first trunk show. It’s the emotional connection to the brand that people have that allows for growth.”

Perhaps this is why Farfetch acquired the 45-year-old London boutique Browns?

This store as gallery or showroom concept servesMatchesFashion.com well. This London-based retailer views itself as online first and sees its network of stores as galleries. The depth and breadth of the collection is available online, and sales associates use mobile point of sale (POS) stock look up tools to move stock to client locations for fitting and trial while a Proximity Insight Dynamic clienteling tool helps sales associates look after customers on a one-to-one personal level.

So digital, it would appear, isn’t easier, nor does it replace the physical. Instead, it is now a mandatory new way for brands to transact business as part of a balanced eco system of physical and digital experience that today’s luxury consumers and millennials demand.


Lightning Process Builder feature

Using Process Builder to create Customer Journeys

Retailers building a central view of their customers from both brick-and-mortar and online channels understand that there are many challenges. Integrating and cleansing multiple best-of-breed systems is a never-ending battle. But once you have a central view of you customers, it is amazing what you can do with that information. In this article, I will show you how you can use this omni-channel data, Lightning Process Builder, and Proximity Insight to give an amazing customer experience.

The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.

Below, I’m going to explain how to create one step in what would typically be a map of inter-dependent experiences to make a customer journey.

Getting the actionable data you need in a central customer profile is the key. In this example, I will categorize a customer based on whether they have saved a Wishlist of products while browsing the brand’s website online.
Jaeger Clienteling
This could have just as easily be based on lead scoring, website tracking, or email campaign data. It could even be based on proximity profiling ie: knowledge about how a customer usually behaves in a physical space like a store.

I created a field on a Contact called Wishlist Count. This will roll up all the open Wishlist items from the eCommerce data. The next step is to set up the Proximity Insight customer interaction. In this example I am creating a mobile phone push notification when they enter the store. I add the location (iBeacon), message header, message body and any other relevant information.

‘Hi {!contact.firstname}|, welcome to the store. We’ve noticed you have an online wishlist. Would you like our stylist to pull the garments from your wishlist and meet you at the fitting room?’

As a part of the customer journey we want to trigger an in-store message for customers that have a Wishlist. Now with the Process Builder, we can make this an automated process. First you create the criteria.

Then the Create Record action, in this case we are adding the customer to the Interaction Target list.

Now we’re making it as easy as possible for customers to communicate that they want to be shown the products from their wishlist. When a customer walks into the Regent Street store, they will receive a push notification on their phone asking them if they want this process to happen with minimum inconvenience and maximum accuracy.

Message Proximity Insight
If the customer responds to the automated Push notification with a “Yes” response, we instigate a process of informing a sales associate which items to pull through the Dynamic Clienteling App on their iPad.

Making use of process automation with the customer smart phone app and the sales associates iPad app, we create a deeper, more engaging customer experience. The customer gets all of the items they want to look at without having to think and search, which then frees them to explore additional items while they’re waiting for the sales associate. And the sales associate gets some real context to start engaging with the customer. Everyone wins. That leads to more sales.



Mobilization of in-store staff: Retail Highs and Lows

Each Christmas, retailers unintentionally pit shoppers against each other in a grueling competition. How quickly can we shop and exit before becoming overwhelmed by the sickly slivers of mall Christmas music tuned just one octave too high and played one beat too fast? That is assuming we can find what we’re looking for without help – holiday staffing is frequently insufficient and under-trained.

These types of experiences are so horrible that they destroy the relationships that brands spend so much time cultivating. And today’s modern retail powerhouses are not about to let that happen. In fact, this a monumental time of opportunity and change for customer service in brick-and-mortar retail; we are about to see the wide scale deployment of mobile devices like iPads, empowered with enterprise apps, all to benefit the customer experience.


Much has been written about the proliferation of mobile devices as a research and purchasing tool for customers. Consultants, who just love to bet on technological trends, are frothing at the mouth to get mobile devices into the hands of sales staff. Their logic? Mobile tech in customers’ hands has vastly increase sales, so mobile for sales associates should do the same. More technology in store will magically mean more sales.

In reality though, there is no magic. Technology won’t change the role of the sales associate; it will make them astonishingly better at the tasks they had all along: providing the customer with convenience, personalization, customization, and efficiency. Only hand-held mobile devices can deliver this depth of experience with available technology.

Retailers are now delivering in-store convenience, personalization, customization, and efficiency through clienteling systems. Clienteling systems provide sales associates with a customer’s profile on a mobile device, such as an iPad, in real time, allowing them to qualify each customer despite possibly never having served that customer before.

Salesforce developers are pioneering clienteling solutions that can be delivered as either Salesforce1 customizations or through bespoke native clienteling enterprise apps. Retailers such as Burberry, Stuart Weitzman, Designs Within Reach, and LL Bean are implementing strategies now. Some of the features at the edge of development are listed below:

Product Recommendation Engines: This tool estimates a customer’s preference for different items in the current season, and guides sales associate recommendations by analyzing a customer’s on-line sales history, in-store sales history, browsing habits, and wish lists,

Product Catalog Real-time Inventory: This functionality allows associates to help client review products not in store or sold out, and see real-time availability information, meaning retailers can insure they never lose a sale even if the product is out of stock.

Black Book Replacement: Key customer profiles are stored as part of the integrated CRM database, replacing the little black book or a disjointed back office CRM.

Private Personal Shopper: Hyper-personal one-on-one communication between clients and associates both in and outside of store furthers the VIP shopping feel.

Appointment Scheduling: Much like Apple’s Genius Bar appointment, retail clients can book their preferred sales staff, and associates are alerted when clients arrive for a pre-booked consultation.</ol>

Look Builder: Enabling clients to build looks by combining previously purchased merchandise with in-store items reinforces brand loyalty and can reduce returns.
New clienteling technology means that identifying the customer will become less cumbersome. Rather than waiting until checkout to learn a client’s name and account details, sales associates - through proximity awareness technology such as iBeacon - will know exactly who is in the store and in their vicinity. The second I walk in the door someone will fetch my pearl stud earrings. They will know where I am inside the store. I will no longer have to fight to get what I want.


The downside is that the roll out of this technology will take time. Customers, staff, and legislators are weary.

Retailers already track our data, but we are not used to them using that data in real time. How do retailers reassure customers that this won’t be harmful and why would I want to opt in?

The answer is by offering enormous efficiencies and value to our experience in exchange for that data. And industry standards will give customers confidence, which is why the industry codes and guidance currently emerging on use of locational data, IoT, and cloud are garnering such attention. Participants are closely watching legal cases in the US and UK for guidance but the landscape is quite treacherous still.

A great illustration of the difficult path companies must tread on the new frontier encompassing data-privacy laws is that of start-up Movvo. Movvo uses cell-phone signals to provide foot traffic analysis in malls in Europe. It is technically impossible to link cell phone signals back to individuals (part of Apple’s iOS 8 update was randomizing the unique MAC addresses of its iPhones to prevent personal tracking using technologies such as Movvo’s), so in essence what Movvo has developed is a much better version of the common door counter used in malls today - no new intrusions into privacy - no chance that customers will be affected. Nonetheless, strict data-protection regulations in Movvo’s European markets meant they needed to seek independent certification to operate.

So even though there is no risk of privacy violations, Movvo has had to spend two years obtaining a license to demonstrate they were using personal data in accordance with European data-protection laws. In addition to a being subjected to an enormous ongoing audit process, Movvo had to create an algorithm that scrambled the customer data so people could not be personally tracked by comparing phone data with closed-circuit video. And finally Movvo had to hand out fliers to shoppers telling them that they are being monitored.

Movvo huge undertaking marks just baby step towards the future in terms of some of the advancements I am discussing. Peter Thiel, founder PayPal, and Palantir, and leading hand in investing in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp, has repeatedly gone on the record to cite that bureaucratic legislation is stifling innovation. When you look at Movvo as a test case for the industry, nothing could be more true.

The smart brands are putting an emphasis on “privacy by design” in their products and how they interact with their customers. Regulatory and adoption issues will be overcome in time. Brands that tread cautiously and use their client’s data to improve their experiences first and foremost will be richly rewarded.

I dream of a day when holiday shopping is one most relaxing times of the year. Until then, see you at the mall!


How iBeacons Can Turn Your In-Store Staff into Mind-Readers

Steve Orell from Proximity Insight has written an article for the Salesforce Blog (also featured on Forbes) about how data captured in Salesforce is revolutionizing the iBeacon experience.



Former Burberry Vice President joins the Proximity Insight team

Proximity Insight has expanded its executive team through the appointment of former Burberry Vice President, Craig Crawford.

As a Retail Visionary, Craig brings more than 30 years of global fashion brand experience to Proximity Insight. As VP of IT Strategy, Architecture, and Relationships at the world’s most innovative luxury brand for the last 7 years, Craig spearheaded Burberry World’s collaborative social enterprise dashboard for mobile, connecting corporate and retail employees, brand partners, and all Foundation Activities via a branded Salesforce.com platform. Additionally, Craig introduced interactive, 3D, and hologram technologies to establish and affirm the brand's image as a digital leader, as well as developing the market leading runway made-to-order process.