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Customer Centricity: Getting It Right By Bryan Amaral, Retaligent Solutions, Inc.

Customer Centricity: Getting It Right <I>By Bryan Amaral, Retaligent Solutions, Inc.</I>

From the nation's most prestigious department and specialty stores to big box electronic giants, "customer centricity" is on everyone's mind. Today's retailers are forging strategies built on proactively using sales tools to improve top line sales, associate productivity, and a better customer experience. It is the logical evolution of retail, resulting from years of depersonalized retail formats and a climate of customer dissatisfaction. After years of cost-cutting and supply chain optimization, retail is returning to its roots, with game-changing technology that is redefining the in-store experience.

If you are like most retailers, you are focused on three things: Getting customers to buy today…getting them to buy more… and getting them to buy again. Said another way: improve conversion, increase basket size and build lifetime value with your most profitable customers. To improve the top line, you need tools that deliver the knowledge of the enterprise to the point of decision across a myriad of in-store devices from Kiosks and POS terminals to mobile PDA's and customer cell phones. With the goal of influencing associate and ultimately customer behavior, forward thinking retailers are implementing an array of new solutions aligned with specific in store best practices. AMR has recently coined these applications Advanced Selling Technologies (AST).

Getting any advanced selling initiative right, requires a thoughtful look at your in-store value proposition and how you might influence the interaction with each individual customer. What would be the sales impact if my customers and associates had visibility to enterprise inventory or could suggest an alternative product? How might I grow revenue if my associates were prompted to make a suggestion that puts one more item in the basket? How could management drive tasks to my sales team so that they are calling our best customers for new product arrivals or in-store events? How might I communicate special offers or let my customers create multichannel wish lists when they enter my store? The answer lies in a pervasive retail technology architecture that supports an array of mobile and fixed device applications that will help you differentiate your brand and customer experience.

Perhaps the best way to understand the promise of AST is by looking at the key elements on which you would build your in-store strategy. The first constituent is the customer. By capturing customer information, transaction history, preferences and wish lists, you will have the building blocks to drive relevant communication and personalized value propositions. The second element is the associate. Crafted into feature-rich applications, associates can use this information to provide a higher lever of service, making recommendations, and communicating regularly with top customers. Armed with mobile devices, these associates have access to product knowledge and enterprise availability. For complex products like TV's and water heaters, you can provide access to detailed specifications, accessories, alternate selections and real-time specials delivered to customer cell phones or associate PDA's. You can also improve customer wait time in formats as diverse as shoe departments to auto parts retailers using mobile product locator capabilities. Finally, every retailer has a unique set of in-store processes that must be integrated into the AST solution and be visible to management. Some of these include product holds and repairs or custom product configuration for items like furniture and apparel.

Your Customer, Associate Product, and Process strategies require an array of features built on a robust technology platform. The requisite pervasive architecture should be built on a Services Oriented Architecture, secure, easily integrated and "context-aware" allowing for highly flexible solution that can be configured to meet the ever changing needs of the retailer.

The future of your enterprise depends on getting it right…helping your customers to buy today… to buy more and… to buy again. Implement advanced selling solutions and you will have a seamless, interactive environment where customers can shop over multiple sales channels delighted by associates delivering an extraordinary customer experience.

Bryan A. Amaral is President and Chief Executive Officer of Retaligent Solutions, Inc. Mr. Amaral has more than 25 years of retail and retail technology experience, and is the founder of Atlanta-based Retaligent Solutions, Inc. a software and consulting firm specializing in advanced retail selling solutions that operate on POS, PC, Kiosk and mobile consumer and associate devices. Prior to launching Retaligent in 2005, he was Vice President of the Clientele & Personalization Solutions Group at Symbol Technologies, Inc., where he led a team in developing mobile applications for general merchandise retailers. Mr. Amaral founded ImageWare Technologies, Inc. in 1990 and served as its President and Chief Executive Officer until the company was sold to Symbol in January 2003. In 1984, Mr. Amaral designed and coded one of the retail apparel business' first known in-store customer relationship management and mass customization apparel ordering systems, to manage the multi-city custom apparel business he established and operated. Mr. Amaral's entrepreneurial retail career began in 1982, as the founder and President of Executive Wardrobe Concepts, Inc., a luxury menswear and custom clothing business with a sales presence in five U. S. cities. E-mail him at bamaral@retaligent.com or call (770) 379-0440.