In this, the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s passing, it seems fitting to borrow inspiration from the bard and say: The Store is Dead, Long Live the Store.
For it was not so long ago that many observers were predicting the demise of the high street store. But this overlooks the fact that, by common consent, stores still account for around 90% of all retail sales. What’s more, as River Island, one of the best-loved brands on the high street with over 320 stores in 12 countries believes, the store is a major differentiator against brands that operate online only. Why? Because the store provides a direct connection with the customer – a way to provide a memorable, engaging and rewarding shopping experience. To provide such experiences River Island is investing in its Store of the Future programme – a programme you can read about in more detail in our case study.
The store of the future
Working with its technology partner and retail expert M-Netics, River Island is using technology to enhance the way staff assist customers and improve store operations from merchandising to inventory management. The cornerstone of the project is Zebra’s latest WiNG 5 Enterprise Wireless LAN, which provides fast, reliable and secure broadband connectivity to staff and shoppers in all stores.
Shop floor teams have also been given a range of devices. These include:
- MC40 mobile computers: River Island chose the MC40s for several reasons. The sleek MC40 looks smart and runs Android – making the device appealing to River Island’s staff who are familiar with modern touchscreen interfaces. It also has a dedicated scanner for efficient inventory tasking, a long battery life and a robust design to ensure it’s ready for long days of helping staff serve customers.
- Zebra EWBs: Our discreet lapel badges connect wirelessly to the MC40s to allow staff to instantly chat to one another using Push-to-Talk. Six channels are available in each store, from click and collect to ladies’ wear, men’s wear and more.
- ET1 enterprise tablet computers: The ET1s are powered by Jelly Bean and are used by store managers.
In total, 15 apps will be available to teams. These include M-Netics’ IM2-Meteor application for stock management and handling product enquiries, along with email, store task lists and access to the corporate intranet. All the technology is managed and supported by M-Netics.
An engaging place to be
The technology helps staff quickly provide informed advice to customers – e.g. checking stock levels without leaving their side. And, with powerful apps in their hands, staff can manage a range of tasks on the go to ensure that customers see and experience a well-staffed and responsive shop floor. With the mobile computers, the tech-savvy staff were pretty much able to pick up and use their MC40s with little or no training to significantly reduce deployment costs.
Store operations are also more efficient. For instance, using their handheld devices and the IM2-Meteor app, staff can easily scan in deliveries and complete day-to-day inventory tasks, while managers can view weekly PoS and merchandising updates on-screen on the ET1s without printing reams of paper.
Looking forward, River Island will use this agile mobile platform to quickly develop and trial new digital services. By rolling out those that are popular to continually improve the store environment, River Island will make the most of the direct connection to customers that its stores provide.