The retail store brands of U.K.-based Arcadia Group, including Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Evans, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis, are equipping stores with mobile devices that can be used to order products online while customers are in stores, according to Retail Week.
As part of the program iPads enabled with the Retail Application Platform, an assisted sales application provided by Red Ant, were deployed to more than 1,400 stores. Red Ant's application integrates with existing retail web services, systems and data from across the retail operation.
Red Ant's Retail Application Platform, which also has been used by retailers such as Halfords and Oasis, also allows for fully transactional checkout, full stock visibility and the ability to click and collect from other stores. System integration also provides real-time product information, gift card transactions and promotions. In addition, single-screen checkout has been designed specifically for assisted selling with iPads tightly integrated with wireless Bluetooth Chip & PIN devices to quickly process transactions.
This broad deployment came after a more limited pilot program, and since expanding the in-store ordering service has accounted for more than 5% of online sales, according to published reports. It's the latest evidence of a building trend among retailers to put technology in stores that would allow items that are out of stock or otherwise unavailable in a specific store to be ordered online on the spot.
It's an important capability that can keep the possibility of a sale alive even if a desired product is not immediately on hand. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this, too. Tablets could be operated by associates, which appears to be the case with Arcadia Group, or devices could be presented in a kiosk format or provided to customers in some other self-service format. Regardless of the method, retailers seem increasingly willing to try this tactic. A study from Boston Retail Partners three months ago suggested that as much as 89% of retailers plan to arm their store associates with mobile technology in the coming years.
Crate and Barrel is an example of another retailer that has moved in this direction, with a pilot program involving CloudTags tablets last fall. Arcadia Group appears to be making a broader commitment to this type of technology, deploying it across several store brands, and allowing actual orders to be placed online while customers are in a store.
It's nice to see brick-and-mortar retailers embracing this kind of technology, but they also may not have much choice, as another recent study from Tulip Retail found that 83% of shoppers believe they are more knowledgeable about the products on the shelf than an in-store associate is. Having this type of technology in a mobile mode allows store associates to have more knowledge — and more power — at their fingertips, and it keeps customers on the path to purchase.