How Macy's, Lowe's and The Limited Are Tackling Omnichannel
In a session yesterday at the National Retail Federation's Big Show in New York city, three retail executives from leading brands Macy's, Lowe's and The Limited discussed how their companies have optimized omnichannel. R.B. Harrison, chief omnichannel officer at Macy's; Debra Ellis, CEO of The Limited; and Brent Kirby, chief omnichannel officer at Lowe's, participated in a panel discussion that broke down the multiple facets of being an omnichannel retail organization, from customer service to inventory to fulfillment and more.
Tactic, Not a Strategy
This is how omnichannel is classified at The Limited, Ellis said. We have a laser focus on our target customer — the sophisticated professional — and all our decisions are made with her in mind. Kirby of Lowe's echoed Ellis' thoughts, noting that the home improvement retailer seeks to meet the customer on their terms by providing service that's most meaningful and convenient to them. For Macy's, a large focus of its omnichannel efforts is to blend mobile into the in-store experience. "We want to deliver value to her when she wants it, where she wants it," said Harrison.
For The Limited, the omnichannel process starts with analyzing the customer's most relevant path to purchase. This frequently involves a "mixed cart," Ellis said. For the women's apparel and accessories brand, this meant giving consumers the ability to reserve items online to try on in-store. In addition to providing a much more meaningful service to the shopper, The Limited benefits too by enabling its store associates (aka stylists) to cross-sell an entire outfit, increasing average order values in the process.
A Culture Shift
At Lowe's, a strong commitment from the C-level execs to omnichannel has made Kirby's job a lot easier. Omnichannel is everyone in the organization's job, Kirby said, and he's thankful he has the unwavering support of his bosses to make that a company mandate.
For The Limited, a key to adopting omnichannel was finding/creating the right team, Ellis said. The makeup of your team is very important, she added, telling the audience to look for people with an affinity for the client as well as the ability to accept and push for change.
Harrison noted that Macy's is currently undergoing an evolution from a siloed organization into an omnichannel brand. The once disparate .com and brick-and-mortar businesses are now operating as a hybrid team. For example, inventory buying and planning are now together under one roof, whereas they were previously separate.
"To create a seamless experience for the customer, we needed to break down some barriers," said Harrison.
Echoing the thoughts of Ellis and what she's looking for at The Limited, Macy's is seeking employees who are open to change. "You can't stay still in today's [retail] environment," Harrison said, "otherwise you'll be passed by the Amazon's of the world."
Mobile is a Game Changer
All of the panelists agreed that the impetus for retail brands to become omnichannel is the growth of mobile. Lowe's customers are using their mobile devices to obtain product and project knowledge through content such as how-to videos and customer reviews. As a result, Lowe's has equipped its store associates with mobile technology, including creating a mobile app for its employees. Our associates are really no different than the customers in the aisle when it comes to technology, Kirby said.
Within the last two years, Macy's has made mobile the priority for its development efforts. What was once designed for desktop and then shrunk to fit the smaller screens of smartphones is now designed for mobile first (both phone and tablet) and then adjusted accordingly. In addition to its development efforts, Macy's has invested in RFID, visual recognition technology and a partnership with Apple Pay to accept the mobile wallet solution in its stores.
For The Limited, mobile provides another tool for its store associates to engage with shoppers. The retailer's mobile app enables store associates to style outfits on the store floor for guests. In addition, the app allows users to take photos of clothes from their closet and send it to their stylist, who can then pair the clothing with accessories or create an entire outfit. Our associates are viewed as trusted brand advisors, and mobile helps them to better understand the shopper's path to purchase, Ellis said.