How Macy’s And Lord & Taylor Are Building ‘Smart Environments’

With location-based initiatives powered by Zebra Technologies, the retailers are looking to boost sales by erasing the distinctions between the digital and physical worlds.

Over 90 percent of purchases still take place in physical stores, but major brick-and-mortar chains have struggled with how to blend the online and offline worlds in their physical spaces to reach full sales potential. In its Q1 earnings call, Macy’s reported a 7.4 percent sales decrease from the same period last year — but it emphasized the potential growth that could come from increased digital initiatives.

In a bid to boost earnings by better understanding the smartphone-toting consumers’ path to purchase, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor have tapped Zebra Technologies to facilitate two connected-store solutions aimed at erasing the divide between the smartphone and the in-store shopping experience.

A ‘Smarter’ Space

Following its acquisition of Motorola in 2014, Zebra has evolved into a proximity player looking to help pioneer the creation of “smart environments.” The idea is that all devices and physical items should ultimately be connected so that the boundary between the digital and the physical is erased, and that this doesn’t have to be achieved with one type of technology: Zebra is experimenting with blending RFID, beacons, Bluetooth sensors, and more.

Ultimately, a smart retail environment might enable a shopper to use their device to read reviews of a clothing item the instant they pick it up — and then immediately send over a store associate if they appear to have more personal questions.

We’re not quite there yet. But both Macy’s and Lord & Taylor are exploring what increased connectivity has to offer in both a consumer facing and an internal management sense.

Shoe Sensors?

At Lord & Taylor, 48 U.S. stores house thousands of shoes — but in the past, a complete display inventory could only be performed weekly, which often meant lost sales and revenues resulting from dozens of styles missing from the display samples.

To ensure real-time display accuracy, Lord & Taylor deployed a Zebra RFID tag system that captures full information on each shoe style. This enabled the retailer to simply manage daily, rather than weekly, inventory counts of the display samples — ensuring that consumers can actually buy the brand new styles they see online or in a store window, which keeps Lord & Taylor from losing out on physical sales.

For its part, Macy’s is rolling out a Bluetooth “smart beacon” solution powered by Zebra, aimed at creating “unique in-store digital experiences” for shoppers.

Macy’s has remained mum thus far about the exact applications of the technology, though it could likely look similar to what Zebra built out earlier this year for a Las Vegas hotel chain looking to seamlessly communicate with visitors and engender loyalty.

Additionally, Tom Moore, North America retail and hospitality lead at Zebra, suggested how retailers might improve customer service through creating sensor-empowered smart environments.

“When a customer arrives, these solutions could, for example, alert store associates to greet them or to prepare pick-up of online orders,” Moore said. “Retail use cases that are enabled by Zebra location solutions are focused on providing deeper insight to positively impact customer engagement and enhance the customer experience.

“Ultimately, Zebra delivers real-time visibility and location solutions, which transform the physical to digital so retailers can sense what’s happening in their operations, analyze that data to deliver insights, and act on those insights to make smarter decisions,” Moore added. “Constant improvement via analytics can impact in-store conversion rates and measurement of dwell time allows retailers to see which areas of the store are attracting people and which advertisements impact behavior in the store.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.