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Insight Seeks To Sweeten In-Store Shopping Experience With Retail Push

Insight has helped dozens of retailers move into the 21st century with a slew of offerings aimed at combating falling customer loyalty and shopping portability, creating opportunities in consulting, technical and managed services.

Insight Enterprises has helped dozens of retailers move into the 21st century with a slew of offerings aimed at combating falling customer loyalty and shopping portability.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider, No. 14 on the CRN SP 500 and a CRN TechElite 250 winner, has built expertise and thought leadership in the vertical to help end users design a new architecture for retail stores.

The retail-specific strategy covers everything from planning and design to implementation and management of technology that brings in-store shopping more on par with buying online.

[Related: Insight Increases Sales Staff, Posts Double-Digit Profit Growth ]

"If they don't transform the shopping experience, they risk becoming irrelevant," said Mike Gaumond, senior vice president of Insight Services, a division of Insight Enterprises.

Infusing a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer with the latest technological innovations, such as a customer mobile app, digital signage or expedited checkout, can cost retailers tens of millions of dollars, Gaumond said.

Despite razor-thin margins, retailers continue to spend heavily on technology in hopes of boosting consumer loyalty and same-store profitability, with the expectation that they can recoup their investment within a couple of years, he said.

Gaumond expects the retail-specific program to be a meaningful part of Insight's future business, with the vertical offering creating opportunities in all three of the company's lines of service: consulting, technical and managed services.

The solution provider uses its integration labs to configure and test offerings for specific retailers to ensure the in-store deployment process doesn't disrupt business operations.

"You can't close the store, even for an hour," Gaumond said.

Insight also has specific programs for the health care, K-12 and hosted service provider verticals, Gaumond said.

Insight's retail clients range in size from the 10,000-store hair salon chain Regis Corp. -- which had its network infrastructure, server, wireless and point-of-sale refreshed by the solution provider -- to the 400-store Red Wing Shoes, where Insight updated in-store IT infrastructure by standardizing technology across every location.

The first -- and most expensive -- step for many retailers is updating in-store infrastructure, such as basic servers, storage and wireless networks to support analytics projects, Gaumond said.

Once that is complete, retailers will often get into basic features such as consumer-aware, dynamic in-store signage or in-store mobile applications that allow customers to sign into loyalty programs or check themselves out and pay using point-of-sale technology.

The final wave of innovation encompasses advanced capabilities, such as virtual online shopping with home delivery from the store.

Gaumond gave the example of a grocery retailer that has worked with Insight to recreate the supermarket's physical layout for the home computer, allowing customers to virtually shop the store and click on items in their normal aisle position for purchase.

The advanced technology is aimed not only at helping shoppers, but also the retailers themselves.

In-store wireless networks, for example, can be used to track foot traffic in particular sections of a store to determine whether promotions led to more visitors or purchases from a particular aisle, Gaumond said.

If customers opt to share information on the retailers' mobile app, they will receive personalized in-store promotions based on their buying patterns, he said.

And when it's time to make a purchase, Insight has programmed retailers with specialized checkout counters that use scanners, image-recognition and voice-recognition tools to expedite the process and reduce staffing requirements.

PUBLISHED OCT. 31, 2014

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