- Apparel retailer rue21 has teamed up with Columbus Consulting International to build out unified commerce and analytics capabilities with a customer-centric focus, according to a press release from the consulting firm.
- After the consultancy evaluated rue21's existing system, an IT roadmap was developed to include foundational and analytical components with goal of producing long- and short-term benefits. Columbus found that rue21’s existing data was reliable and many of its current systems were functionally sound, according to the release.
- Milestones in the partnership included inventory visibility across channels to allow for clicks-to-bricks shopping, and gathering more consumer data and using analytics to help plan assortments.
Superlative customer service is a crucial retail attribute, but implementing it seamlessly and profitably presents a major set of challenges. One way to achieve this is to use technology and data to create customer relationships, and come to an understanding of what they want, when they want it, how much they are willing to pay and what channel or device they prefer in making a purchase.
Like many fast fashion apparel retailers, rue21 has had a bumpy road of late. The 753-store chain based near Pittsburgh seeks to appeal to 11-17 year olds that want to be 21, as well as adults who want to look and feel like they are 21, as Forbes has noted. The retailer was acquired by private equity firm Apax Partners in 2013 during a period of rapid growth. Burdened with excessive debt and unprofitable stores, and facing a changing retail landscape, rue21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2017. It emerged a few months later, having closed 420 stores.
The unified commerce and analytics capabilities are meant to help the retailer more readily adapt its inventory to customer tastes and changing purchasing habits. It's not rue21's first attempt to beef up its sales through technology. Last year in the midst of its bankruptcy organization, rue21 launched a virtual stylist on Facebook Messenger with artificial intelligence from mode.ai. Whether the program still operates is not clear from the rue21 Facebook page and website where there is no mention of it, and the retailer is not listed on mode.ai's website.
At the beginning of the year, PacSun, a 422-store fashion retailer, said that it worked with Columbus Consulting to develop a roadmap and identify unified commerce goals, according to a press release. PacSun also seeks to provide an enhanced, more seamless customer experience across channels.