Friday, 21 November 2014 22:11

VIDEO: AdvanceRetail’s CEO Mark McGeachen talks retail innovation

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One of AdvanceRetail’s customers is Pandora - the top-end jewellery company, not the music streaming service - and I spoke the company’s CEO, Mark McGeachen not just about the point-of-sale retail transformation within Pandora but in the industry generally.

One of AdvanceRetail’s latest products is its SmartStore Mobile Solution, which goes beyond the Apple Store method of having staff members with mobile terminals through to using iPod Touches and iPads as a vital part of the customer shopping experience.

AdvanceRetail’s SmartStore provides a ‘comprehensive, intuitive and scalable POS system, that has been developed in response to today’s changing retail landscape.’

The company says that it is ‘a next generation multi-platform software solution for retailers delivering a contemporary customer service experience solution that will easily adapt to future technological advances’, which also allows ‘staff to serve customers from anywhere on the floor with full product and customer information at their fingertips, and the small hardware footprint also frees up valuable store space.’

The need for such a solution has evolved because of the changing expectations of consumers in Australia and New Zealand (and worldwide), which is having a significant impact on retail investing in mobile and online technology, which is in turn driving a profound change in the way retailers connect and communicate with their target markets.

At a round table media event last month, AdvanceRetail CEO, Mark McGeachen said that: “Today’s technically savvy consumers expect retailers to utilise technology that will improve service, speed up processing and provide them with purchasing options. Customers are often better informed than store staff with information and price comparisons literally in the palm of their hand while shopping.”

“The future is no longer about online or bricks and mortar – it’s now an omni-channel world, a seamless path-to-purchase spanning whatever channels each customer chooses to utilise. Consumer expectation is driving innovation in our business to ensure we can offer our retail clients the world’s most up-to-date and innovative technology that can add value to their business.”

Here’s my interview with Mark McGeachen, which covers some of the Pandora developments in the rest of this article below, and plenty more - enjoy!

AdvanceRetail isn’t some newcomer to the market, either. It first launched a POS system way back in 1990, and today it is focused on the needs of the multi-site retailer, providing full business process consultancy, implementation, training and support services with the ultimate aim of designing software to transform the in-store retail experience.

At the same time, AdvanceRetail Technology has partnered with a number of merchandising and ERP software vendors to provide clients with an integrated end-to-end retail management solution, with the company ‘totally committed to the retail market and invests heavily in research and development.’

One of the examples given of a forward thinking retailer was the aforementioned haute global jewellery retailer, Pandora.

Pandora’s existing AdvanceRetail systems worked well enough, but during especially busy times, the pressures of serving so many people could inevitably lead to delays and problems for both customers and staff.

Pandora’s management wanted a way to speed customer service and provide a better consumer experience, so they decided to trial AdvanceRetail SmartStore, which is ‘a mobile retail solution that could integrate with Pandora's existing AdvanceRetail POS system and which would enable staff to serve customers from anywhere on the floor.’

Pandora’s VP of Sales and Business Services, Brien Winther said: “What we were after was a queue-busting system, something that would make it easier and faster for staff to service customers.”

“We were already using AdvanceRetail’s fixed POS system which had provided us with exceptionally rich data. In fact, the quality of the data we are able to obtain is unsurpassed by Pandora globally. Therefore, I had no hesitation in trialling AdvanceRetail SmartStore across all Pandora company stores, to run on Apple iPods. The timing was deliberate. It would give staff an opportunity to become familiar with the technology prior to one of our busiest times – the Mother’s Day rush!”

Winther says he fully expected teething problems with the deployment but was surprised when the biggest hurdle turned out to be operational rather than technical. “We had a lot of staff resistance to using the devices. They were comfortable with the old manual processes and didn't want to change,” he commented.  

“Many felt the new technology would slow them down and there were concerns that this would negatively impact their ability to reach their sales key performance indicators.”

“In the end we had to be very tough about getting staff to use the mobile devices. Once they started to use the iPods however, all the fear was gone and we got immediate buy-in,” Winther adds.

“In fact the original intention was to have two to three devices per store and for staff to share them, however they insisted they needed a device each to fully reap the benefits, which has certainly been delivered and proven to be well worth the investment. They now do up to 100 percent of sales on the devices including returns.”

Pandora's AdvanceRetail SmartStore trial has proven to be a very positive one with no customer problems and an increase in sales across Pandora’s company stores. The technology has proven its value and Winther is now keenly pursuing a wider roll-out to its franchise stores. It is a roll-out he would like completed by February 2015.

“Our strategy is to continue to grow the retail sector. We have a fresh product range and a brand people trust. We intend to make Pandora’s jewellery available to customers across all channels by 2015,” Winther concluded.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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