Every retailer is fighting to win customers. Competition comes from all places in all sizes and consumer loyalty is hard won. That’s why Brooks Brothers, the oldest men’s clothier in the United States, is leveraging technology to elevate its longstanding reputation for exceptional customer experience.
“The retail industry is extremely competitive,” said Sahal Laher, executive vice president and CIO at Brooks Brothers, during an interview at the SAP Retail Forum. “You have to innovate to stay relevant. Everyone is being asked to do more with less and the only way to really do that is to engage with customers in a meaningful way and maximize every interaction.”
Technology investments need to align with and enhance customer touchpoints. Not only with online and mobile channels but also with store-facing technology. Store associates need information that enables a more personalized and educated interaction.
“If you come into a store, a sales person should be able to pull up your profile instantly, and see two or three products from the latest collection that will likely appeal to you based on your preferences and past purchase history,” explains Laher.
Getting to that level of sophistication is not easy. You need a system that can process a lot of information from multiple sources. Every online, mobile, and in-store action needs to be tracked and analyzed in real-time. Everything from what you like on social media to what sizes and colors you try on in the store, helps to build your profile and enable personalized service.
“We can’t take a broad brush approach anymore. We need to offer people looks that are unique to them. If you like orange, we need to incorporate that into our offering when we talk to you. Small touches like that go a long way and that level of white glove service is something we pride ourselves in,” said Laher.
Small touches require efficient backend support. Knowing exactly what the customer likes and wants doesn’t help if inventory isn’t available in the right place at the right time. “The supply chain is fundamental to what we do and that’s where it starts,” said Laher. “We use the SAP Apparel and Footwear solution and the SAP Fashion Management solution. That is really what gives us our global view of inventory.”
With its dynamic supply chain, Brooks Brothers can instantly locate products, see inventory levels, adjust replenishment rates, and determine if promotions or other actions are required to accelerate sales. In addition, Brooks Brothers has implemented intelligent customer facing applications that improve the customer experience.
“Our Customer Interaction Center (CIC) powers our entire call center application, which allows our store associates to see every single touchpoint a customer has with Brooks Brothers. All of their purchases, alterations, made-to-measure garments, comments and interactions are captured and centralized for quick and easy reference,” said Laher.
The CIC is connected to the SAP Customer Activity Repository, which pulls in additional customer data from the company’s ecommerce and in-store systems. The result is a live, 360 degree view of the customer that allows Brooks Brothers to achieve the level of personalization it desires.
“Our customer interaction should all be about the product and the service. Doing that well requires systems that work seamlessly and make it easy to do business with us,” said Laher.
The way people shop and interact with brands has changed. In the old days, most Brooks Brothers customers had a relationship with one sales associate in their local store. That associate knew everything about them and took care of them with a high element of service. Now, people shop online and travel more, personally and professionally.
“We need to be able to replicate the same level of service when you’re not in your hometown store and the associate has never met you before. We need tools and systems that allow them to give you that personal, white-glove service as soon as you walk in the door,” said Laher.
Achieving that goal is a data challenge. The number of data sources and the volume of customer actions has skyrocketed for retailers. “We have sensors in stores. We have the actual data that we’ve always had. We have sales information. We have social media information. It’s almost too much data if you don’t have a good strategy of how you’re going to translate it into insight,” explains Laher.
Technology, like machine learning, can be used to comb through large volumes of data to identify trends and reveal things in the business that might need attention. “You need systems that sit on the data and turn it into insights on the fly. Then you can identify five or six key findings and become more actionable,” said Laher.
Speeding up decision making is a key win for Brooks Brothers. “SAP HANA allows us to process very large volumes of data in a very short period of time, and come up with models and insights that, in the past, would have taken days or weeks to come up with,” said Laher.
That type of efficiency allows everyone in Brooks Brothers, from management to assortment planners and customer-facing associates, to make better and faster decisions and elevate the white glove brand experience Brooks Brothers is known for, no matter how or where customers decide to shop.