A dynamite example of IT transformation

By Shane Schick, CIO Canada |  Business

"A lot of it is about thinking about the theatre of the store -What does it feel like to the customer?" said Leslie Hand, research director of IDC Retail Insights. "What will make them want to shop at your store more than anybody else's?"

Late last year an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek talked about the rise of the "mission shopper," who comes to a store with all their online research complete, with no intention of staying any longer than is necessary to grab an item and pay for it. Retailers are now reconfiguring stores to encourage browsing, the magazine said, with wider aisles to accommodate strollers, along with lower shelves and displays so shoppers need look no higher than 10 feet.

For Joncas, it all starts with betterservice, which is why Groupe Dynamite is doing a pilot program that will see iPads distributed to employees along with IP phones. "We had two-way radios in the past, so the business case was all based on the ability to broadcast messages to our employees from a central office," he said, adding that the devices will also offer access to Web-based applications. "Instead of going to a computer, they can do it in a store in any area. That increases productivity."

Groupe Dynamite will build upon that productivity by funneling more information to store associates, like a live feed on traffic data, what's happening in the store, conversions, sales, and so on. The stores use cellular waves as a backup in case

of emergencies. "You have to have a plan B when the phone line is completely ripped in the shopping centre or things like that," he said.

Groupe Dynamite provides available and secure Wi-Fi access for its entire office community. Its infrastructure includes Motorola RS409 scanners, EWB100 push-totalk over WLAN enterprise wireless badges and the Digi Connect WAN series of cellular/WiMAX gateways/routers provides serial or Ethernet to high-speed cellular capability. There's usually a very small back office in each store or warehouse, but, "Working on a computer in the back not really efficient," Joncas said.

While empowering employees is important, getting closer to customers is critical. Joncas said Groupe Dynamite realized early on that its target market was likely to be highly engaged in social media, which why it started establishing

a Facebook presence almost two years ago.

"We discovered we simply have to listen to our customers," he said. "When we launched a text message promotion, we could measure on our (customer) surveys if there was an impact. It's the same thing with Facebook.

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