As Christmas stories go, the one I am about to share is not quite as traditional as ‘A Christmas Carol’ or ‘It’s a wonderful life’, but as a story about shopping in 2021, it’s a really illustrative tale of the power of retail technology systems.

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It’s a story about a coat. The shopper in our story – aptly named Holly, given that this is a Christmas story – decided to buy herself a new winter coat. Being time-poor, she browsed online before even setting foot outside her front door, and found a coat she really liked.

So she went to her local mall, and there it was in the window – five minutes later it was, literally, in the bag. But when she got home and tried it on again, Holly wondered if she’d purchased a bit too quickly. On reflection, the coat was a bit big, even with a thick warm scarf tucked in, and Holly thought that maybe she should have bought one size smaller.

No worry, she went back online and ordered the same coat in the smaller size. Rather than have it delivered, she arranged to pick it up in store, knowing that she’d be returning one or other of the coats, and deciding to save herself the packaging and a trip to the post office. She’d take the larger coat with her, try on the smaller one, make her decision and return the surplus coat while she was in the store.

That’s what she did, and decided on the smaller size. But… then she spotted the coat in another colour – a bright Christmassy red – and decided she liked that shade better. But the retail store didn’t have it in her size.

The upshot was that Holly returned both the coats via the retail store, and the assistant ordered a third coat, in red, in the smaller size, for delivery to Holly’s home. A few days later, her perfect coat arrived, and has been keeping her warm ever since.

Holly’s shopping journey was certainly complex. But luckily for her, the store where she bought her coat had state of the art retail technology that could accommodate her about-turns, and to weave seamlessly between using the retailer’s ecommerce solution, picking up in store, returning to store, ordering in store and delivery to home! Many shoppers share some, if not all, of Holly’s retail experience. A massive 81% of today’s shoppers carry out research online before making a purchase. The click and collect (or BOPIS) option that Holly used for the second coat has seen exponential growth – already gaining in popularity, it accelerated during the pandemic, and in May 2020, click and collect increased 554% over the same month in 2019.

So what was the technology that allowed Holly to mix and match shopping methods to finally get her coat?

  • eCommerce solution – Holly first found her perfect coat by browsing the store’s online retail store
  • Online/offline integration – because the retailer has a seamless link between their eCommerce solution and their brick and mortar stores, Holly was able to simply choose the click and collect (BOPIS) option when she ordered the second coat online.
  • Inventory visibility – the search for Holly’s second coat was powered behind the scenes by the retailer’s flawless inventory management, which showed which retail stores had the coat in the size and colour she wanted.
  • Return in store – when Holly returned the rejected coats, she was able to do so in the retail store, who quickly and efficiently processed her refund. As we discussed in our article ‘Many Happy Returns’, the growth of online shopping has only increased the importance of a smooth and seamless returns process for customers like Holly.
  • Order in store for home delivery – when Holly told the retail store staff she wanted to order a red coat, the assistant placed the order on her behalf.

  • Mobile POS – the assistant placed the order using her mobile POS tablet, by Holly’s side on the store floor.

Holly, as a demanding shopper, was lucky that her chosen store had the very best in retail technology. Without it, her customer experience would have been very different from the seamless, integrated journey she was able to make. And she might not have been warm and snug in her lovely new (red!) winter coat

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