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Upwardly mobile: the 34th floor pop-up department store

If you’re going to open a department store for just one day, location is everything. So choosing to set up shop at the top of one of London’s 10 most difficult places to get into might not sound like the best business idea. But it worked…

Last week more than 70 retailers crammed into BT Tower to experience Retail Unleashed – a day fully focused on the pivotal role mobile technology has to play in providing an omni-channel service. And to demonstrate all of this, Alexander Black’s department store took over the 34th floor so people could see how the full retail journey plays out, from home to HQ, via click and collect, supply chain, shop floor and back office.

Before the store opened on the 34th floor, however, we heard about mobile from three key angles: retailers (with Pets at Home’s Brian Scott), analysts (Marcus Hickman of Davies Hickman Partners) and suppliers (with BT Expedite’s Tanya Bowen). So what did we learn?

Mobile devices: who will gain the upper hand?

The day kicked off with Marcus Hickman, consumer director at Davies Hickman Partners, setting the scene with some eye-watering stats about mobile usage and the next generation. He also revealed the results of a study where he had sent a group of tech-savvy young consumers out shopping, tasked with using stores’ mobile apps and wi-fi. The results were patchy – and showed that there’s still a lot of work to be done to arm store staff with the tools to serve customers as well as they now expect.

Wrong said FRED

Brian Scott of Pets at Home then shared his mobile experience – from pre-pilot frustrations with FRED (Fish Record Entry Device) to roll-out success with ‘PetPad’. Despite the pre-pilot learnings, Brian was clear that nothing was wasted – the company learned a huge amount from what hadn’t worked – and why. And all of this experience and knowledge went into ensuring Pets at Home’s subsequent mobile initiative, the PetPad (an interactive, integrated iPad mini with digital forms, guided processes and stock info) was a roaring success.

Brian outlined the company’s mobile vision, and detailed each of the phases involved in the pilot and roll-out. Brian’s top tip? Be brave. Go in for what you need, don’t do it half-heartedly, because mobile is “truly transformational”.

POS for thought

BT Expedite’s CRM and loyalty guru Tanya Bowen then rattled through some success stories, highlighting the very real impact mobile POS and clienteling tools can have on the bottom line. She illustrated this with figures from both sides of the pond – including Cole Haan, Under Armour, JC Penney and Aurora Fashions.

Then it was a brief “history” of Alexander Black from store manager (for the day) Mark Denton before being whisked up to the revolving restaurant on the 34th floor for the main event: some real click and collect demos over lunch.

The “customers”, a mix of IT, e-commerce, marketing and operations decision-makers from leading retailers such as Notcutts, TJX Europe and Sainsburys picked up the gifts they’d ordered in advance, while Alexander Black’s store staff – free to roam around with their smart mobile devices – demonstrated the benefits of getting to knowing each and every customer. We just hope no-one needs to return anything… the BT Tower is strictly invite only!

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