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Kohl’s data deep dive yields more resonant app

NEW YORK –  A Kohl’s executive at the NRF 104th Annual Convention & Expo discussed how the retailer leveraged data analytics to create a mobile application that resonates better with consumers.

At the “Innovation and Research: Visionary’s Preview” session during the NRF 104th Annual Convention & Expo, the Kohl’s and Tesco Labs executives discussed their journeys with IBM Research to incorporate mobile technologies in their retail stores and on mobile applications. As both believe in maintaining a mindset of digital innovation, the two retailers prioritize their customers to provide experiences that are more likely to resonate with them.

“Innovation is a big deal to us,” said Ratnakar Lavu, executive vice president and digital head at Kohl’s. “It’s our goal to be engaging, and innovation is important because digital is transforming the retail landscape and influencing key retail measures in a big way.

“More importantly, mobile and digital influence in-store sales,” he said. “Mobile is truly transforming the mobile experience as far as customers on platforms, such as apps, but also the in-store experience, in regards to price checking and what they expect.”

Kohl’s believes it is a retailer that has consistently prevailed over its competitors for the past near decade and has sought out IBM Research to increase customer segmentation and personalization to incorporate mobile technologies in the in-store experience.

Since its initial trek towards digital innovation, Kohl’s has prioritized providing easy experiences on its app, engaging its customers on personal levels, deliver products that excite its customers and ensure that customers get what they want across multiple channels.

Admitting that mobile has served as a significant disruption to retail, Mr. Lavu commented on the change of role that bricks-and-mortar locations have undergone. Stores have become extensions of ecommerce fulfillment networks, which prompted Kohl’s to introduce “Buy online, pick up in store” and “Buy online, ship from store” capabilities for shoppers.

In addition, the retailer has completely revamped its app, with the help of IBM, with an introduction to a savings wallet. In the app, users are rewarded for transactions and behaviors, and they also have the option to use their points for purchases or donate to charity.

Mr. Lavu also said at the NRF 104th Annual Convention & Expo on Monday that the retailer has stepped up the pace of innovation and while not everything will pan out, beacons are a surefire bet.

At the “From Moments to Journey: Make each one Matter” session during the NRF 104th Annual Convention & Expo, Mr. Lavu discussed the importance of offering a seamless, simplified checkout process on mobile and online channels, as well as taking all steps to ensure a positive customer experience. After listening to customer feedback and attempting to stay competitive in the ever-changing digital space, Kohl’s recently launched a transactional redesign for its mobile checkout process and turned to beacon technology in the hopes of sending more personalized offers to guests in-store (see story).

“IBM, Oracle and many other research companies have tremendous engineering talent, and you’re also trying to solve some big problems that we haven’t even seen today, and that is where you’re expecting a lot of capital – hundreds of millions of dollars – and we’re not able to spend those amounts of money in terms of research,” Mr. Lavu said. “I come from companies that are really thinking forward, looking at things and solving big problems, and we were looking to tap into that.

“If there is a customer problem that we want to solve, you can bring in the expertise – whether it’s technology or engineering – and it has worked really well,” he said.

Kohl’s ramped up its mobile strategy for the 2014 holiday season with an update to its application that introduced buy-online, pickup in-store options for shoppers.

The retailer opened its doors on 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day to accommodate consumers seeking holiday deals and offered similar incentives online and through the Kohl’s app. Consumers could easily store Yes2You Rewards points and savings in the app, which was  updated to provide a seamless shopping experience despite the frenzy of the hectic season (see story).

Numbers say it all
Tesco Labs has recently tapped image recognition in its most recent attempt to be digitally innovative. Through this solution, Tesco can snap photos of its store shelves, and the shelves will be analyzed to provide inventory numbers and whether or not items are in the correct location.

A goal for all bricks-and-mortar retailers is to keep shelves full of stock. Thanks to an image recognition tool, Tesco can obtain inventory information from afar.

The moderator of the session asked audience members to raise their hand if their company works with a research team, such as IBM or Oracle, to seek data needs. Even though the session was completely full, very few raised their hands.

Mr. Lavu and Ms. Angela Maurer, head of Tesco Labs, agreed that a “learn fast, fail fast” approach to trying new mobile techniques is a way to fast success.

“It’s really exciting to work with research teams, because you’ve got a chance to create something completely new that addresses your need,” Ms. Maurer said. “It works well as a collaboration, because we can bring the actual challenge and a goal, and you’ve got the engineering also to help us work through that.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York