Retailers are trying all sorts of things to ensure their stores live up to the expectations of the digital customer, often adopting technology in a bid to offer the best service.
At the Cegid Connections 2019 customer conference in Madrid, Russell Thompson, retail operations manager of British clothing brand Paul Smith, said he was on the lookout for any benefit the software provider’s new offerings could bring for the brand.
Paul Smith originally adopted Cegid’s Business Retail (CBR) system for its point of sale (POS) after its previous supplier, Pro Logic, was bought by another firm.
When looking for a new POS system, the brand considered Cegid because a similar retailer, Ted Baker, had also migrated away from its original POS onto the Cegid platform.
“[Cegid] already had a relationship with Ted Baker, which had also been a customer of Pro Logic,” said Thompson.
Global reach for the best fit
As a global brand, Paul Smith also knew that whatever provider it chose for its systems should have a global remit, because the brand has stores in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia.
Addressing the pain points of sales tax and other regional difficulties in countries such as Italy and the US was something Cegid’s global reach helped Paul Smith to address.
“We knew it could handle our estate fairly seamlessly, and not a lot of other POS companies at the time had the exposure,” said Thompson.
The firm has now been with Cegid for five years, and is considering taking the relationship further.
Describing the initial move to Cegid as a “massive learning curve”, Thompson said Paul Smith had to cope with the move from “essentially one solution that did everything” to a “best of breed” situation after moving away from its original provider.
The retailer has undertaken a number of technology projects over the past five years – first working on POS with Cegid, then implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) project, adopting Manhattan Warehouse Management in its warehouse, as well as working with Data Clarity for its business intelligence tools and to build a data warehouse that feeds into these various applications.
“The model has completely changed for Paul Smith,” Thompson told the conference. “The functionality we have in store is much richer than we had previously.”
Presenting a seamless façade
Now the brand is considering upgrading to Cegid’s Y2 retail management system, mainly because it has “maxed out” the capabilities of the Cegid CBR system, but also to tackle some issues caused by its legacy estate.
Russell Thompson, Paul Smith
From a customer perspective, a visit to a Paul Smith store delivers the customer experience they have come to expect, with store assistants armed with iPads able to take orders for items not found on the shop floor.
But behind the scenes, Thompson admitted the current operations to allow this experience to happen were “clunky”.
“The challenge for us is that we took a decision internally 23 years ago to handle the omni-channel piece independently from the till system,” he said.
This means the iPads are loaded with a business-facing version of Paul Smith’s website, which allows store associates to sell goods that are transacted later.
As far as the customer knows, the retailer is operating endless aisle, whereby customers are able to browse and order products online that are unavailable in-store and have them delivered to the store or their home, but really the brand is replicating the omni-channel experience without being omni-channel.
“It looks great from the customer perspective, but from the back end we’re reconciling accounts all over the place because we’ve got several different payment devices serving several different transactional experiences,” said Thompson.
Stitching together traditional and digital
In many cases, retailers struggle to completely replace older IT systems because so many things are reliant on them, despite having been introduced when stores were the main focus of the retail world.
For Paul Smith, using Cegid’s Y2 offering might make processes easier and reduce costs, but the customer experience will remain unchanged, leaving Thompson with the question of whether it’s best to continue with what the brand is already doing, develop something in-house, or adopt Cegid’s new software – which is capable of endless aisle.
“We don’t think a switch to Y2 is going to increase sales, it’s not going to add any functionality to the customer experience as far as the customer is concerned, but what it will do is reduce cost, increase efficiencies, make the whole system just knit together in the way it probably should,” he said.
The introduction of new technologies can often leave retailers struggling with legacy estate. Paul Smith happened upon this problem when it introduced click and collect, something Thompson said had been a “game changer”.
“We didn’t anticipate the success of it,” he said. “In bridging the online/offline experience, we’ve introduced the stores to a different kind of customer, so a lot of our focus is on trying to convert those online customers who come into stores for click and collect into bricks-and-mortar customers.”
Having been in operation since the 1970s, following the brand’s namesake designer Paul Smith (pictured), the retailer mainly offers high-end fashion for men and women.
Thompson told the conference that, in many situations, introducing the technology is “the easy bit”, whereas providing support for in-store staff on how to handle the new situations in traditional stores brought about by technology can be more difficult.
As a brand, Paul Smith is focused on producing fashionable clothing that is also formal, and wants to keep any digital adoption in its stores subtle to best reflect the brand’s values for its bricks-and-mortar shoppers.
“We do want to offer the customer that [digital] experience, but in a very Paul Smith way,” said Thompson. “The trick is trying to figure out a way to make it right for our stores.”
Read more about retail store technology
- Daniel Hills, group digital product manager for Sainsbury’s, tells Retail Expo the journey his team had to take to eventually launch a till-free store trial featuring its new shopping app.
- Customers between the ages of 25 and 34 would rather look online for information than talk to a shop assistant, even when they are in a store.