"They need their sales staff not running around the store putting product away, but helping the customer with mobile devices," she said, describing the ideal state as "O3" -omnichannel optimization and orchestration.
A good example of a Canadian retailer who has already started down the path to O3 is Black's Photo, which in the last year has added more than 350 kiosks to their chain and built out a significant portion of their business online. According to Phil Chapman, vice-president of imaging and business development at Black's Photo Corp., a big shift happened when the company was acquired by telecommunications carrier Telus Corp. Now, every Black's sales associate is carrying a smart phone with them, and has rolled out apps that let customers order prints for pickup and pull images from Facebook or Picassa for printing.
"Our focus is about being on the go. More images being captured now than ever. The problem is that people may not be doing anything with them," he said. "Our job is to make sure they do."
While Hand praised Canadian Tire for its apps and kiosks as well as a recent e-commerce app from Sears Canada, most of her more cutting-edge examples of mobile retail were based on work by U.S. firms. Some ideas that Canadian SMB retailers might steal include:
" Guess: Using customer reationship management (CRM) data, the company is allowing customers to share offers and product info with friends via social media platforms like Facebook, and pushes targeted and personalized content and offers.
" REI: Rather than try to avoid comparison shopping, the outdoor clothing chain has mobile apps and Web sites that encourage consultative/interactive selling, showing technical characteristics that differentiate various product lines. This information is being delivered on a kiosk as well, with mobile POS planned later this year.
" Pacsun: The clothing manufacturer has created a photobased electronic lookbook where you can engage with someone in the store and walk through outfit combinations on a tablet.
" Lowes: In an effort to appeal to home renovators, an application called MyLowes allows customers to easily track their online and in-store purchases so theyll only get exactly what they need for a particular project.
" Stop&Shop: Weve all gotten used to self-checkouts like those stationed in IKEA, but this grocers app lets customers scan items on their own iPhone as they shop. This can make it easier for stressed out parents, because the child can do the scanning, increasing engagement. Once theyre done, customers simply walk to the self-checkout lane, scan their frequent shopper card and pay.