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Mobile and multichannel solutions help businesses succeed

This article appears in the issue May 2016, [Volume 25, Issue 5]
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As brands, hotels, goods manufacturers and others increase their outreach via mobile and multichannel messaging, advertising and sales, knowledge management is an increasingly important element of those strategies. One of the biggest KM challenges for retailers is tracking inventory across the supply chain.

GameStop, with 4,000 stores in the United States and an active online business of buying, selling and trading video games, faces the challenge of many retailers—inventory that might be desired in one location, but not physically available there.

Although the retailer had more than 10,000 games and a well-stocked warehouse that could offer ship-to-store convenience for customers, its systems did not show what games might be available in the individual stores, because once sold to or exchanged at the store, the game might stay there rather than returning to the warehouse, says Bill Graham, the company’s director of multichannel integration.

“Like any multichannel retailer with a large number of stores, we had a robust buy online, fulfill direct [in-store] business,” Graham explains. “But due to the nature of our business, with buy, sell, trade, purchase and resale, it was very hard to keep track of inventory and the supply chain spread out across all of our stores and in our warehouse. We always want to meet our customer needs by offering the best selection.”

So the retailer needed a new e-commerce ordering system that would enable in-store employees and online consumers to have visibility throughout the entire GameStop system, enabling a Florida customer, for example, to purchase a game that was only available at a store in Oregon.

The company started by developing a proof-of-concept system in 2014 with a vendor that Graham declined to name, then tested it in early 2015, rolling out the system to 250 stores in March of that year.

Following the success of those efforts, the full rollout started earlier this year and was completed by the end of February, Graham says, describing the company’s newly expanded ship from store program as an “absolute success.”

“The hardest part was getting started,” Graham adds. “The stores are very excited about it. It’s a great customer service opportunity as well. The second we turned it on, we had our 4,000 stores and thousands of active online customers who had twice the selection they had previously. You can imagine the impact. We’re really pleased with the success of the program.”

Customer retention

McBride Research Labs, a manufacturer of premium and natural hair care products sold through a distributor network to beauty salons and individuals, was looking at ways to increase customer retention, an issue the company had researched for many years, according to Terry Armstrong, McBride’s VP of sales and operations. “If you lose too many customers, you will be out of business soon.”

Customer retention is essential because the loss of one salon customer typically costs McBride $7,000 to $8,000, a significant sum for the small company. One of the major aspects of any successful retention program is to have the knowledge management to be able to track customer activity, according to Armstrong.

Another essential element is mobile capability because McBride’s distributor network spends plenty of time on the road selling to salon chains and independent beauty parlors as well as to some individuals.

After examining several different programs, McBride chose Sionic Mobile’s Ion program, which enables McBride to provide merchant-branded gift cards for a variety of retailers and other rewards to its distributor network, which in turn can offer those incentives to their most loyal customers. The salons can participate as well, offering Ion rewards to its most loyal customers.

The Ion program tracks all customer activity, rewards, redemptions and other data essential for the program to be successful, and allows McBride to offer targeted rewards. If customer retention lags in a certain area, McBride can accelerate the Ions (points) it offers to customers in that region.

“What we were presented allows us easily to monitor all of the customer activity,” Armstrong says. “If we want more sales in the Northeast, we can offer more rewards in that area. The primary metric the program offers us is the retention rate.”

McBride completed the beta test of the program earlier this year and rolled it out to its entire sales network at the beginning of February. Although no hard figures are available yet on the success of the program, Armstrong says the distributor in the beta provided positive feedback.

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