Retail technology vendor innovation: Demandware

What is Demandware?

Demandware provides software-as-a-service eCommerce solutions for retailers across the globe, and was one of the first vendors to offer a cloud-based platform to the market.

The company has more than 160 retail customers around the world, many of which are in the sports apparel and footwear sectors, and its integrated commerce platform is used by businesses as they grow their operations internationally.

What’s new at Demandware?

There have been some major talking points at Demandware in October so far, with the news that global beauty company L’Oreal is using Demandware Commerce for its digital operations in all territories. The two businesses have been in partnership for the last three years in the US and Canada, but L’Oreal has extended the relationship on a global scale as it looks to further develop the eCommerce presence of its 28 brands across the world.

Just days after the L’Oreal announcement, Essential Retail was invited to Demandware’s unveiling of a new solution that represents the eCommerce vendor’s first dedicated move into the physical retailing space.

The new solution is called Digital Store and, according to Demandware’s VP of products and solutions marketing Rob Garf, it is what the modern day retailer is demanding.

“There was a major moment at our advisory board meeting last year, and the message came across that it’s time to invest in apps, most notably in the store,” he explained.

“As retailers look to refresh their point of sale over the next few years, they are saying ‘why do we need multiple platforms?’”

Digital Store is a tablet app that can be integrated into existing store and eCommerce systems, allowing store associates to quickly access a customer’s profile and past purchases, view product inventory availability and leverage that information to create a personalised shopping experience for customers.

Customers are increasingly using digital platforms in-store, with House of Fraser and Burberry two examples of retailers in the UK which actively promote the use of tablet devices in their shops, and research from Forrester Consulting indicates that almost three-quarters of consumers trust web data on products more than information attained from store associates.

Garf said: “Our app lets you do price comparison and price override, so we’re helping to combat the show-rooming phenomenon.

“It’s not displacing the sales associate, either. It’s empowering them and allowing store staff to be more productive.”

Store workers can also use the app to find additional product styles and sizes, and make recommendations based on buyer preferences, which can all help boost brand loyalty. Indeed, there is the capacity for retail loyalty schemes to be linked to the app, and the specific customer information that can be stored gives businesses an opportunity to understand how important a particular customer is to them at the point of sale.

The app can effectively be used ‘out of the box’, but can be re-skinned with a retailer’s logo and branding. It can be linked to existing back-end integrations and payment methods.

Garf continued: “It’s taking all the positives from a digital experience: the fact that the consumer can quickly navigate to the product they want; the fact that when you’re online you can compare products and see all attributes about the product; the fact that you can see what other people have said about the product.

“It’s then bringing that in-store, and packaging it up for the sales associate to stand side by side with the customer in an assisted selling manner.”

At present, two of Demandware’s biggest global clients are testing the solution, ahead of what the business hopes will be a wider roll-out early in 2014.

“We decided to pressure test this first and allow retailers to work through the operational pieces in-store,” Garf noted.

“We think we’ve thought them through but until it’s in the store we don’t know for sure, so our thought is we’ll be launching it very shortly. We wanted to make sure the floodgates didn’t open before we felt completely comfortable.”

What makes Demandware stand out?

Although there are a number of new in-store technology solutions aiming to better combine the digital and physical retail environments – Essential Retail has certainly reported on a few – Garf says that “the way Digital Store is being deployed and the future opportunity it brings, is what makes it unique”.

The business model at Demandware is such that if its clients are not successful, then the US vendor is not successful. The company is effectively rewarded when its customers grow, which Garf suggests provides an incentive to be innovative.

Demandware’s competitors are increasingly looking to provide their clients with solutions based on their versions of the cloud, and the business believes that one way to retain its identity is by developing new products like Digital Store.

Commenting on its potential, Garf remarked: “One customer of ours said that it’s going to pay for their Wi-Fi and hardware in seven months, due to fact it will help them convert more sales.

“In the past, if a product wasn’t in stock, the consumer may have said they are going to finish the transaction online at home [which might never happen] or they go to a competitor.”

What the boss says…

Garf is confident that in-store tablet devices are set to be one of the growth areas in retail technology over the next two years.

“We are placing our bets on retail bringing together the physical and virtual worlds,” he argued.

“Research we’ve been involved in with the National Retail Federation shows that for 2014-15 there is huge investment going into iPad devices. I think you’ll see it more and more, and that includes iPad minis.

“The jury is still out on what size they’ll be, but the early indication from the data we’ve seen suggests we are moving in that direction.”‎

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