Retail 2.0 Coming to a Store Near You

Retail 2.0 Coming to a Store Near You

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One of the more interesting announcements at CES included the combination of new products, cutting-edge technologies and innovative business strategies. But this full solution wasn’t rolled out by a leading manufacturer or highlighted on the show floor. It was delivered by a retailer striving for a new life in the consumer electronics market.

The concept is called “Retail 2.0” and it’s the brainchild of Gilbert Fiorentino, the chief executive of the Technology Products Group at Systemax, parent company of CompUSA and TigerDirect. Retail 2.0 takes proven technologies, innovations and processes of e-commerce and applies them to brick-and-mortar retailing, something Fiorentino said is sorely needed.

“Things have to be different because today’s retail experience sucks,” is pretty much how Fiorentino describes the driving motivation behind Retail 2.0.

Retailers looking to develop a differentiating customer experience on their sales floors might want to pay attention to how Fiorentino’s strategy plays out in the next 12 months. While the full Retail 2.0 concept won’t work for everyone, retailers of all shapes and sizes can learn and implement something from it.

Retail 2.0 is rooted in Fiorentino’s past experience. He started up TigerDirect about 20 years ago, building it into an e-tailer with one of the strongest brands in its market. The e-tailer, Fiorentino explained, grew up with, deployed and helped develop many of the e-commerce innovations and improvements introduced over the 10-plus years: rich-media product descriptions, supply-chain efficiencies, customer relationship and satisfaction tools, search technologies, check-out and product attachment strategies to increase the average ticket price, etc …

The way Fiorentino sees it, though, the big innovations in e-commerce innovations have already hit, with smaller developments in the future improving upon existing platforms. The next big innovations – fueled by many of the technologies and strategies that have developed for e-commerce – will take place not on the Internet but on the sales floor, at the cash registers and in the back office of brick-mortar-retailers.

The whole Retail 2.0 concept is geared toward making it easier for sales people to sell more products and for retailers to improve the entire customer experience. Today’s products, Fiorentino said, have to be refreshed so frequently that sales associates often don’t know as much about the product as they should. “Most salespeople end up hiding in the back of the store because they don’t want to or can’t answer those questions,” Fiorentino said.

To best explain his concept, Fiorentino had set up a demonstration retail display (he has deployed Retail 2.0 strategies at CompUSA stores in Miami and Raleigh, N.C., and plans to continue rolling them out in the remaining 20 or so stores throughout the year. The top shelf of the display held a PC and monitor; a flat-panel TV sat next to it. The PC was directly connected to the Internet, while the TV was attached to an Internet-connected mini PC. If the product is unattended, the retailer can deliver to the screen carefully chosen information – such as specs, lifestyle demos, product compatibility – that will answer the customers’ questions, prompt them to explore different options, and hold their attention until the sales associate shows up.

Once on the scene, the sales person can tap into the network or Internet (which leads to even more hand-on demonstrations of the product) for additional information, such as product availability or even to check on the competition’s price, which the salesperson can match or beat on the spot. If the product is out of stock, the salesperson can order it and ship it directly from the store’s e-commerce site.

Below the PC and TV were shelves full of related accessories and products, such as security software, screen cleaner, HDMI cables, power protection units, DVRs, OS upgrades, routers, modems, etc … The consumer or sales associate can use a scanner attached to the core product to bring up additional information about the accessories.

Those types of interactive demonstrations, which involve a plethora of products that can be sold on the spot, are designed to keep consumers on the show floor more than the average 13 minutes they typically spend, Fiorentino said. The trick is whether that extra time generates incremental revenue and profit. Whatever happens, the process will be worth watching.

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