My NRF Hot Take: Why the ‘Shoe Wall’ Proves Unified Commerce is the Future
Walking the National Retail Federation's (NRF) BIG Show last week, attendees would have to remind themselves they were attending a show hosted by the largest and longest standing trade association for the brick-and-mortar retail industry. The buzzwords at the show were predominately from a digital lexicon, as were many of the most compelling displays and innovations.
There were a tremendous number of new display and in-store experience solutions that were innovative, engaging and creative. Most, however, fall into the category of "presentation only" and address that side of the retail experience.
One demonstration, however, stood out when considered against a true conversion funnel analysis. It offers consumers a unique and interactive engagement that then flows directly into a purchase and fulfillment experience that lets retailers "close the sale" in that moment of customer engagement, without requiring any intervention from a sales associate.
Montreal-based Orckestra was showing its new RFID "Shoe Wall" in three locations at NRF. In addition to its own booth, the solution was also featured in the innovation section of the Hewlett-Packard booth, which developed the hardware, and the Microsoft booth, since Orckestra is a leading example of Microsoft’s push toward unified commerce solutions.
Today’s retailers are familiar with the increased use of Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), which are fast becoming a standard in many categories of consumer products, including footwear and apparel. Beyond automating inventory management and providing theft protection, the RFID tag SKU-level data holds the key to in-store driven and product-specific experiences.
Sports Experts, a 70-store Canadian sporting goods chain, implemented Orckestra’s Commerce Cloud platform to create an innovative Shoe Wall scanning shelf and interactive digital display. When a shopper places a shoe of interest on the shelf, the display brings up a product detail page with the selling points of that style. But it doesn’t stop there.
The touchscreen system also displays inventory availability in that store, by size and color. The user is able to select several purchase-path options: purchase now in-store, purchase and ship, or add to wish list. To purchase, the shopper can also leverage their online account information, including payment options, and fully convert the sale on the interactive screen via their mobile phone. In addition, if the style/color/size isn't available in-store, the user can confirm availability in other Sports Experts stores and receive an interactive map and directions to that store.
As commerce experience director for Verndale, a marketing technology agency based in Boston, I went to NRF to seek out solutions that not only give an outlet for our UX and design team to deliver more compelling experiences, but also ones that combine those experiences with secure transactional capabilities that translate experiences into sales, preferably without additional staffing required.
Orckestra's Shoe Wall innovation delivers the digital and technical experiences in support of the in-store shopping experience, but it also brings to life the incredible power of the future for a platform that's been architected to support what Microsoft is now calling "unified commerce."
As the airspace of in-store digital technology continues to expand into in-store analytics, in-store personalization and location-based experience, Microsoft's unified commerce architecture will integrate and support those solutions, as well as align online and offline context. Orckestra’s Shoe Wall is just the first of many innovations that will deliver compelling and innovative user experiences — online and offline — comfortably and "as designed" within the operational context of enterprise-level transactional capabilities. Watch this space!
Jeff Pratt is the commerce experience practice director at Verndale, a marketing technology agency.