RetailPro International – Two Faces Of Retail Customer “Engagement”

We recently spoke with Alexandra Frith, Director of Marketing, of RetailPro International (RPI) about the status of mobile cloud technology solutions in retailing. RPI, a company with vast knowledge of the POS area, is described by Frith as a Retail Management Platform provider.

While issues such as inventory control and security were vital to retailers, Frith observed that the biggest driver of interest in technology solutions is currently customer “engagement.”

There are basically two different sides to customer engagement, she explained. The first involves solutions offered to retailers that they can implement within the sphere of their operations. RPI focuses on this side, namely solutions for retailers, and specifically, specialty retailers.

The other aspect of engagement involves solutions that are offered to consumers. A specific retailer’s app would be an example of this latter aspect.

RPI’s business is virtually 100% with specialty retail companies. RPI defines specialty retail to include just about everything other than hospitality (e.g., restaurants and fast food) and grocery.

When we asked her about market receptivity and hazards and integration issues involved in dealing with complex organizations, such as many of the large companies they serve, she responded that, “The customers may be solving these issues for us.”

She reports a noticeable pickup in “teaming” efforts within customers, with different departments – IT, Marketing, etc. – getting together to work out approaches for adopting new technologies. The traditional information silos then tend to break down. She stated that where retail growth is strongest, there is more experimentation with new technology solutions.

Driving this process is the race to keep up with the adoption rate of the digital lifestyle, particularly among younger consumers. The phrase embodying this phenomenon is The Experience.

RPI’s customer base includes numerous prominent brands such as Adidas, Puma and Calvin Klein, as well as midsized and smaller retailers. Last year it released its latest platform, Prism, which re-architects its most prominent system RetailPro 9.

The Prism platform provides a wide range of functionality related to: POS (point of sale), customer information management, inventory management and replenishment, accounting, employee records and the like. The company heralds the flexibility of the new system.

Retail management includes interacting with a host of functions, among which the company enumerates – “loyalty, Omni-channel, inventory sharing, payment, big data, cloud ERP, comparison shopping, clienteleing, and CRM” – that may be supplied by other providers.

As the company’s CEO, Kerry Lemos, has written: “The true test of the modern retail management software platform is how well it ‘plays with others’ and how well it does so while giving retailers options. I am proud to say that our Retail Pro Prism product was built from the ground up with this set of present/future needs as guiding design principles. Prism also runs in a browser on mobile hardware running Windows, Android and iOS operating systems…”

Accordingly, Frith points out that RPI will partner with other providers in regards to some of the other in-store technologies that has written about, such as cameras and beacons. (See, e.g., The “Customer Journey” – Venue-Based Technology Offerings 2/26/15; Prism Skylabs: Enhanced Video Tracking Of Retail In-Store Traffic 2/26/15; Smartvue – Video Apps That Change Business Processes 1/12/15.)

Frith points out that Prism is a unified software platform, not a compilation of apps. She states that the system is designed to be a flagship product on an ongoing basis, with new features and modules being released approximately every other month.

The company has a long international heritage and now claims over 9,000 customers, embracing more than 53,000 stores in 98 countries. About 40% of its business is in the U.S. It has a strong base in Europe and as leading European fashion brands spread out to Asia and Latin America, RPI has expanded with them.

The company relies entirely on outside distributor partners for its sales capability. It now has 86 such partners worldwide. Frith describes the typical distribution partner as a firm that has knowledge of its local retail market and strengths in retailing technology and consulting services. RPI itself has about 100 employees.

Frith points that the challenge for the retailer is how to use technology tools to grow their brand in this era of omnichannel marketing. Which brings the discussion back to the issue of “engagement.”

She uses a comparison to the good old days of retailing, where stores would have personal greeters to engage shoppers. Today’s technology tools, she says, can help every employee, which may include occasional or part-time help, to get a unified view of the customer as an individual, once that person is identified, leading to the most positive Experience.

Previously investor-controlled, which included some rocky developments, the company underwent a management buyout at the start of 2013, led by Lemos, and is now entirely management owned. It has not required any additional financing to spur its growth, which Frith describes as quite strong. Their vision is to “enable retail worldwide…retail without borders.”

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