VMSD - October 2012 - (Page 18)
NEX T STORE
3. Invest in product information management (PIM) Want your digital signage system to show a highresolution video clip to shoppers in your store of that gorgeous new product you’ve got featured on your website? Chances are that if you’re doing that today, you’re doing it using a cumbersome manual process that’s completely separate from managing the content of your website. Retailers generally have a decent SKU-based merchandising system, and advanced retailers organize this system around basic product attributes. But unifying a shopping experience across multiple touchpoints requires managing content across them, and that’s where a PIM system comes in. By linking content into the same systems that track products, retailers can deliver a rich experience around the product to any touchpoint, whether that experience requires structured data or visual content like HD video. 4. Improve the network infrastructure of your stores Probably the least sexy part of IT is raw network infrastructure management. How much bandwidth does each store need? What are the peaks and how much is sustained? How many IP addresses need to be assigned to each store? These types of questions aren’t generally thought of by designers envisioning the next-generation shopping experience, but they are critical to the execution and performance of that experience. All of the new bells and whistles we’re talking about deploying will, without exception, do three things to the network in the store: • Require more data and bandwidth – that beautiful HD content running on a video wall needs to be moved from headquarters into the store and kept updated, and that takes bandwidth. • Increase the number of devices being managed – the next-generation shopping experience goes from having four or five cash registers to dozens of mobile devices, tablets, workstations, kiosks and digital signage displays. • Require a “bubble” around the store with alwayson wireless – mobile and tablet devices are far less useful if they can’t be mobile, so the network has to reach into all the nooks and crannies of the store where staff might need to go.
out of the store (i.e. a “fatter pipe”) and more Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure that there are no dead spots where devices don’t connect to the network. While more bandwidth is costly, adding a few extra hotspots to ensure the whole store is live is a critical investment.
5. Create a sandbox store (or more than one!) The first decade of the 21st Century was marked by retailers investing huge sums of money in storeof-the-future projects designed to give them a comprehensive blueprint for using next-generation technology. These failed. Rather than a thorough plan for technology-based improvements, most retailers were left with a few isolated projects that generated positive ROI, and a profound disappointment with the store-of-thefuture investment. We need to learn a lesson from these expensive failures. Rather than focus on building out a reference architecture for a technology-based future, the best way to figure out what comes next is to do so in a live, controlled and small-scale environment where failure is not only tolerated but embraced. No substantive improvement can come from an environment where the smallest hiccup is punished as a failure. Innovation requires trying new things, and many of these efforts may be 90 percent there but require 10 percent tweaking in order to be successful. The solution is a “sandbox” store with the right mix of store staff, a technology-savvy and tolerant customer base and relentless management focus on trying new things, keeping the best and discarding the rest. This approach differs greatly from previous store-of-the-future projects in that the output isn’t the grand, glorious blueprint for the future. Rather, it’s an ongoing series of innovations, each battletested in the real retail environment. Of course, achieving the base necessary to support next-generation retailing, both from a systems and a processes standpoint, is a daunting task. Reaching that nirvana may well be out of reach for most retailers, but by taking simple, purposeful steps most retailers can begin generating a positive ROI that will demonstrate results along the way. x
Jim Crawford (about.me/jimcrawford) is executive director of the Global Retail Executive Council (grec), an international association, and a principal at Taberna Retail, a global retail shopping experience consulting company.
It’s the last point that is the most important (and easiest to fix): Stores supporting tablets and mobile devices generally need more bandwidth both in and
18 OCTOBER 2012 | vmsd.com
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of VMSD - October 2012
VMSD - October 2012
From the Editor
VMSD Editorial Advisory Board
Guys Just Want to Have Fun
VMSD - October 2012