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NRF 2017: Intel's responsive retail platform a good fit for Levi's

Levi's is looking to move its "leading edge" responsive retail platform partnership with Intel to the next level, having worked with the tech company's platform over the last couple of years.

Speaking at this week's National Retail Federation's (NRF) Big Show in New York, US, president of global retail at Levi's, Carrie Ask, said that several of the company's stores are trialling the latest Intel technology – which combines RFID and ceiling sensors – to provide an up-to-date view of stock.

The latest episode in the Levi's-Intel relationship comes as the tech company unveiled, on Monday, its new Responsive Retail Platform, which brings together retail hardware, software, APIs and sensors in a standardised way. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also revealed his business plans to invest more than $100 million in the retail industry over the next five years, focusing on unifying each part of the retail operation.

Levi's is helping Intel by piloting its latest systems, while the vendor is clearly being used by the retailer to solve some fundamental merchant problems.

Ask said: "The goal is real-time, all-the-time inventory insights, which brings several benefits.

"First, our sales floor replenishment processes are triggered earlier and more accurately – increasing the likelihood consumers will find their item on the sales floor in their size, colour and designated location. This frees up our stores teams to shift focus to the consumer and away from inventory management."

She added: "It also gives our planning and allocation teams more accurate information to guide inventory decision. It all starts with RFID tags on all products in our stores.

"Ceiling-mounted sensors detect the products' location and help us understand inventory levels, in-stocks and trigger replenishment actions. The sensors detect when a product is moving which has eliminated the need for hand scanning and strict process guidelines."

The next stage of testing will see Levi's measure the results from the programme against stores that have not been using the technology.

The Levi's retail boss also said by conducting recent customer research in its stores it found that, although store transactions are going down, conversions are increasing. People who are visiting stores are typically going there with an intent to buy.

"We discovered purchase intent of consumers visiting stores is rising because they don't have to go to a store any more – so when they do their intention is higher," she remarked.

"In addition, we found that 'out-of-stock' and 'couldn't find my item' were the top barriers to purchase for consumers who planned to make a purchase, as well as consumers who purchased but didn't get everything they wanted."

Ask continued: "The opportunity and the stakes are higher now. On the opportunity side, we were underestimating the potential within our store traffic to drive sales and conversion. On the stake side we also realised if we were out of stock we lose in the moment [and] are perhaps jeopardising future journeys as well."

The Levi's retail boss described lack of shelf-level inventory, in stocks and inaccurate inventories as historically the company's – and the wider industry's – "Achilles Heel". In the past, she added, the consumer didn't have as many choices as they have today, so they would either carry on shopping or settle for something else.

Now, the exact same product is just a click on the mobile phone away and there are so many options for shoppers to look elsewhere for items, emphasising the importance of in-store product availability in today's market.

"Consumers don't have to settle any more," warned Ask.

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