08.04.2016 By: Jeff Hoffmeister

How cloud technology is reinventing the role of the retail store associate

Create a world-class store experience with mobile- and cloud-first tools for store associates

Retailers understand the need to differentiate in brick-and-mortar stores in a way that is fast, agile, and cost effective, but on premise systems have made it near impossible to affect any type of meaningful change. Adoption of cloud technology in retail has tripled from 2011 to 2015, but retailers continue to lag behind in executing practical solutions for store associates that will enable them to meet and anticipate the growing demands of the mobile-enabled shopper. There haven’t been viable solutions that reduce total cost of ownership, while also driving maximum adoption on the sales floor.

At Tulip, we believe that the fastest, most effective way to turn the physical store from a static, one-dimensional location into a rich, omnichannel destination is by empowering store associates with enterprise mobile tools that drive viral adoption the way consumer-facing apps do. Store associates are mobile natives and expect any app they use at work to be as beautifully designed, easy-to-use, and fast as the apps they use on their own phones. We’ve outlined practical ways in which we’ve seen leading edge retailers like Frank + Oak, and traditional retailers like Toys”R”Us, use cloud technology to reinvent the role of the store associate.

Frank + Oak: Making retail flexible

Frank + Oak is a shining example of what the burgeoning frontier of leading edge retail looks like. The Canadian men’s shop has planned to expand into the United States and where exactly, is dependent on what their customers want. According to co-founder and CEO, Ethan Song, “We want to hear from the people that we create for, and people don’t shop at brick-and-mortar locations the same way they do online. Our goal is to create dynamic physical experiences that embody our digital presence.”

Frank + Oak embodies agility, whether a customer stops to get a shave with one of their barbers, grabs an early morning coffee, or gets suited up for a wedding–each customer-facing associate is equipped with Tulip-enabled iPads that have access to every tool they would need to deliver a world-class experience for each of their customers. Within 90 days, Frank + Oak launched Tulip, giving store associates, or Style Advisors, instant access to product inventory, product details, customer reviews, customer information, all the way to a mobile POS where they can ship-to-store or ship-to-home.

Having a secure, extensible platform solution makes it easy to scale across hundreds or thousands of store associates. For enterprise retailers, Frank + Oak represents the very attainable future for omnichannel retail.

Traditional retailers are often bound by the archaic, on-premise systems so implementing cloud-based solution from day one is difficult to imagine. With Tulip’s cloud-based solution, Frank + Oak can quickly enhance their current toolkit by adding advanced clienteling and communications or build custom apps using the Tulip Commerce Engine API. They can also open new stores and deploy devices based on the fluctuating needs of the business without having to work around on premise infrastructure. They’re able to experiment in different neighborhoods or cities without the hassles of fixed technology infrastructure. Having a secure, extensible platform solution makes it easy to scale across hundreds or thousands of store associates. For enterprise retailers, Frank + Oak represents the very attainable future for omnichannel retail.

Toys”R”Us: Making retail innovation lightning fast

Millennials account for 85% of smartphone users in the U.S., which means they are becoming smarter, more savvy, and more expectant when it comes to how they shop. According to a study conducted by SessionM, top smartphone activities while in-stores were the following:

  • Price comparisons — 54%
  • Looking up product information — 48%
  • Checking reviews online — 42%

With the ubiquity and affordability of mobile devices, consumers expect a seamless shopping experience that enables them to be able to start and finish a transaction from anywhere in their path-to-purchase. In fact, in a 2014 study we conducted with Deloitte, consumers responded that they would expect 80% of store associates to be using mobile devices by 2016. Since the role of the store associate has largely stayed the same over the past fifty years, that of a one-dimensional order taker, consumers are frustrated by the lack of informed retail workers they encounter. On premise systems have kept store associates boxed into a traditional role that’s over 100 years old, unable to keep up with today’s shopper. Using a cloud-based platform like Tulip has provided a way for retailers to adapt to the new ways of retail using cloud- and mobile-first technology.

Toys”R”Us recognized the need to be more competitive in how their customers were interacting with products both online and in-store. They needed a way to step up their game and compete with giants like Amazon and Walmart, especially when it came to strollers and high-impact purchases. Customers would visit a Toys”R”Us location, find the product, then buy online and ship-to-home.

From real-time access to product details and features, to inventory availability and customer reviews, the results were staggering—showing a double-digit lift in overall basket size.

By introducing Tulip-enabled iPads across Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us locations across the United States, store associates were now able to drive more sales in-store by easily comparing products to Amazon; print price tags using mobile printers from anywhere in the store; and fulfill transactions by pulling product from the online and in-store catalogs. From real-time access to product details and features, to inventory availability and customer reviews, the results were staggering—showing a double-digit lift in overall basket size. Having a cloud system in place to integrate with existing, legacy infrastructure makes it easy for Toys”R”Us to augment the in-store experience. In fact, they’ve been able to easily add mobile POS to the mix, enabling store associates to transact from anywhere in the store and ship-to-home or ship-to-store to close the sale.

Cloud technology has and will continue to drive very practical, lasting results across enterprise retail.

Retailers agree that cloud technology is part of the new frontier of next generation retail. In order to redefine the role of the store and store associate that’s largely stayed the same over the past 100 years, retailers need a solution like Tulip to help them focus on what matters most while driving down the total cost of ownership:

  1. Drive the Top Line: use real-time analytics to know your customers, including shopping and style preferences; close sales from anywhere in the store and endless aisle; be able to reach and engage beyond the brick-and-mortar location with clienteling.
  2. Speed of Innovation: move as quick as retail dictates by innovating on top of existing functionality, listening to store associate feedback, and developing using APIs.
  3. Ease of Use: deploy tools that are as beautiful and easy to use as consumer facing apps.

Learn more on how cloud technology can be used in stores, today. Book a demo today.

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