Dreamforce16 - Aldo moves from omni-channel to customer-centric

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett October 5, 2016
Shoe retailer steps out on a digital journey as high street pressures mounts and customer-centricity is key

While many retailers are still working on omni-channel strategies, shoe store Aldo has already moved onto the next stage of its digital transformation in a bid to counter declining footfall across its shops.

Lance Martel, CIO of Aldo Group, said that when he joined the business back in 2013, the talk was all around omni-channel and the firm’s digital journey was synonymous with that strategy. He added:

We went in with this problem I think a lot of retailers have around our customers existing in different systems. We wanted one 360-degree view, a golden record of our customers in one central spot.

Now it’s all about customer centricity. Digital transformation is now about being a 100% consumer-centric organisation. Client-eling will let us provide a more personal experience in stores. We want sales associates to be able to access people whether it’s on a mobile or a point of sale (PoS) device.

The Aldo Group has been using Salesforce Service Cloud since 2013 to get a more comprehensive view of its customers and offer a more personalised shopping experience. It took about a year to complete the rollout of Service Cloud, and the call centre staff have welcomed what they see as a best in class service tool. Martel said:

There was not a change management problem there. It was a lot lighter and less organisationally heavy to get it turned on compared to big software implementations. It just took some time to adjust our business processes to take multiple sources of customer data, de-dupe them and cleanse the data to get it into one spot.

There are currently almost 200 Aldo staff using Service Cloud, and the firm has recently made additional investments in licences due to expected call centre spikes over the next couple of months.

The retailer also signed up to Marketing Cloud last year, replacing its previous Oracle Responsys system. Martel explained the thinking behind the decision:

Marketing Cloud felt like a better tool, a tool that had more capability. We weren’t having great success with email marketing at the time. We already had customers sitting in the Salesforce platform, so it was a logical solution.

The move has already garnered results among Aldo’s 15 to 20 marketers. The firm has been able to reduce the number of emails it sends by 40% while increasing email revenue by 70% within the first 12 months of using the Salesforce service. 

Next steps

The next stage in the digital journey will see Aldo updating to a more modern PoS, although what this system will be has yet to be decided on. Currently the firm is using Oracle Store21.

Martel said although Aldo is planning to replace this PoS system, it is still updating the technology as consumer expectations are changing. But the company is doing this in a smart way so it can port the changes over, he added.

Ahead of the PoS upgrade, the shoe retailer has launched the Aldo Connected Store to bring a more modern approach to the in-store experience. Martel explained:

We’ve rolled out a number of iPods or iPhones, that serve as a light client-eling application. A sales associate can request the size of shoe from the back room and a runner brings it out. We want the sales associate to be able to stay with their customer at the front of the store. We’re slowly rolling this out. About 100 stores have the iPods or iPhones.

Aldo also has plans to launch Innovation Stores on the high street, which will serve as a platform for deploying and experimenting with new technology. They will be very modular, so staff can quickly and easily add technology or remove it, and are being built for testing purposes. The first store is due to launch in 2017, and the plan is to have four open across the US and Canada that customers will be able to visit.

Similar to many retailers, Aldo is suffering from fewer visitors to its stores. Martel noted:

The situation is fairly dire for retailers. Where we are and the investments we’ve made is an advantage for us. It could be a lot worse if we hadn’t made these decisions three or four years ago. The move to digital is due to us seeing double-digit traffic declines. The reality is that traffic’s going down and it’s about forming emotional connections with customers as opposed to just transactional ones. Digital is the platform for that. Traffic to the web and mobile are both seeing significant double-digit growth.

This is making us rethink the role of the store. It becomes more of a consumer experience or service centre. It makes us rethink the locations, and how many stores do we need. We haven’t answered that yet. That’s part of having the Innovation Stores.

Martel said it is currently unclear whether Aldo will follow retailers like Juicy Couture and Littlewoods and disappear from the high street completely:

Consumers will lead us down a path that they want to engage with us on. We consider ourselves a retailer evolving to be a brand. We also have a wholesale business so that could be a shop within a shop. We feel like we’re on a fairly unique journey, and we’re going to see where that takes us and where the customer wants to see us.

Martel also feels the role of the CIO needs to change to meet these new digital requirements. He said:

CIOs aren’t close enough to the consumer, to the CEO or to the CMO. The infrastructure components of being a CIO have been solved. Spending a lot of time as a CIO thinking about infrastructure is not a good use of your time. The CIO needs to think about the customer and help the CMO. It’s about saying the infrastructure is being taken care of, lets think about differentiators for the business.

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