Prêt a Porter

Prêt a Porter

Lisa Dolphin

Comms Business looks at how vendors are helping their resellers develop business in the retail sector.

Retailing is the UK’s top service industry, employing just over 3 million people in the UK (1 in 10 of the UK workforce). In 2003, the sector had £250 billion in sales – a third of total consumer spending. Some of the UK’s world-class companies have also seen considerable success in overseas markets. The retail sector is a major user of new business to business, and business to consumer technologies and a pioneer of e-commerce.

For resellers there are many sales opportunities in the retail sector, a fact that many vendors have recognised and consequently developed their own marketing strategies to help their channel partners.


Lisa Dolphin, vertical marketing special for the private sector at Mitel, says there are a number of things they do for their channel partners when it comes to providing sector solutions, “I think it comes down to fundamentally understanding what the retail market is all about and acknowledging that retail is very much a market where one size does not fit all – you need to understand the sub-sectors. At Mitel we have spent a lot of time understanding what the specific propositions for those sub-sectors are. A good example of that would be that it is inappropriate to go to a furniture retailer and lead with video surveillance because not many people are going to walk out the store with a three piece suite tucked up their jumper whereas an electronics retailer may see cameras tucked up a jumper.

We then work closely with our resellers to help them break down each of the sector sub-sections. For example, for department stores we would talk to resellers specifically about what some of the large stores are doing – what’s happening at Debenhams, BHS and Marks & Spencer etc. so they could talk to those retailers about how the Mitel propositions would aid the current challenges they have. Rather than a broad brush strategy we take a very targeted approach. This maximises the amount of time we can get in front of the customers in this sector.

Buying cycles for many retailers is very short; seasonal variances mean they will only talk about new solutions at specific times of their year. We undertake briefing sessions for our resellers to ensure they are aware of our propositions for the sector. Additionally we feed in retail market information so resellers can speak the same language as their customers. RFID and Chip & Pin are two key areas where many retailers are behind at the moment. We produce a market a positioning document and a proposition document and let resellers know when it is best to talk about cost savings or operational issues. We then work with the reseller to maximise the opportunity.

Hot products in our portfolio for retail customers includes our collaboration solutions, such as Your Assistant, which ensure retailers can communicate effectively across their branch networks. Wireless applications are very important to work with back office systems as are multi-media contact centres. Every retailer need to communication with their customers in the medium of their choice.

My tips for resellers wishing to be successful in the sector are; take time to identify their targets. Don’t use a broad brush approach but pick a sub-sector or two; see what they can add to the proposition for that sub-sector then make sure they understand what is happening in the sector they have chosen as well as the competition they are likely to be up against. Finally, do demonstrate a strong return on investment.”


Shop Floor

Peter Chambers, Operations Director, Retail, Transport, Media & Business Services for Cisco Systems UK & Ireland says Cisco has had a dedicated retail team for the last eight and a half years. “To that end, we have done a great deal of research to understand what value we can give to retailers – including co-ordinating staff placements so that we can better understand the business issues a retailer faces on a day-to-day basis. This knowledge feeds directly into our solutions – from mobility solutions, to IP Contact Centre solutions and beyond.  One of my team is in his fourth week at a grocery store, for example, stacking shelves, working the tills, and so on – all to get a sense of where Cisco solutions can effectively add value to the business process. Essentially, we are looking to provide retailers with an Intelligent Information Network that will help them reduce cost in their business and increase productivity in real terms.

In addition to our channel programs, we have specific case studies which support sales in the retail sector. Understanding the business issues faced is key to selling into the sector, and as such giving real-life scenarios is crucial: for example, retailers can use technology to consolidate their contact centre so that it’s no longer geography bound, enable mobile-checkout, perform queue-busting by dynamically re-routing calls to manage overflow, check inventory and allocate stock in real time, and so on, all using intelligent information networks.”


Cisco Tips for selling in the sector

  1. The number one tip for selling into retail is to have knowledge and intimacy of a retailer’s business process – with a clear understanding of what it is driving retailers it is easier to formulate and sell a complete solution.
  2. Be prepared to demonstrate value, build trust and set expectations according to what is achievable, rather than promote featuresets simply because they are new.
  3. Understand that retailers need solutions, not just point products, and are therefore after a partner who can continue to add value to their business processes as needs evolve. Cisco, Cap Gemini, Microsoft and Intel have an integrated solution for retailers called the “Extended Retail Solution”, which is designed specifically to meet the needs of retailers.
  4. Understand changing working practices with new technologies. RFID and mobility, for example, are both having an impact into how retailers supply, market and sell their products.
  5. Provide live demonstrations and source customer references. The Extended Retail Solution has a live demo centre, and live scenarios go a long way to demonstrating value to prospects. 
Trevor Evans

Many Sizes


Trevor Evans, business development manager at Alcatel believes retail sector customers each have very different networking requirements, and will therefore prioritise flexibility above all other communications requirements. “For

example, head office may require a large PBX with call centre functionality, with all individual branches connected over an IP network. Alternatively, some end-users may need a stand-alone system, which can then be integrated with head office, or with other branches. A ‘one size fits all’ approach just won’t cut it in this sector.

Another key requirement is ease of use – most branches will have different staff working different days, and all of these employees need to be able to transfer calls, access voicemail

and utilise the system’s functionality. Mobility is also important – we find store managers often require DECT handsets so that they can move freely around the branch or warehouse while remaining available to the rest of the staff.”

Alcatel’s major retail sector customers include: Thomas Cook where technology implementation is ongoing, with new voice networks and hardware being rolled out across the company’s new head office in Peterborough. In addition to head office, there are seven corporate offices, 600 stores, and three call centres nationwide. Alcatel’s OmniPCX Enterprise is being installed at the head office site, which requires 1,600 extensions, with IP servers in the Energis network serving the 600 store locations.

Alcatel say that another of their customers, Dixons Group, saved £1.2m by deploying a contact centre solution based on Alcatel’s OmniPCX Enterprise and OmniPCX Office IP enabled PBX systems. Alcatel’s IP technology has been installed at all main Dixons, PC World, Mastercare and Currys sites in the UK and working alongside Dixon’s legacy technologies, this has allowed Dixons to migrate to IP at an evolutionary pace to suit business requirements.


Customer Service

Simon Latham, European Sales Manager at Interalia Communications, a leader in the design and manufacture of digital voice announcement solutions, says r etail businesses are extremely competent in advertising their products and services via mass media operations and most large retail operations spend a significant part of their revenue in providing information to potential customers to encourage them into their store.

“However, unless the retail operation employs a large number of in-store staff, thereafter it often relies on static displays to give customer information regarding both the products on display and other company information that is vital in turning a small spend into a major purchase and a routine visit into a more personal event.

Whilst the Internet offers 24-hour access and is widely used by major supermarkets, not all customers can access information by this route, as they do not have the necessary skills. Of increasing importance is the need for companies to create telephone information and help lines that offer customers an around the clock contact point. By harnessing today’s telecommunication’s technology, organisations can create sophisticated response systems that manage large volumes of enquiries and help organisations deal with each individual caller in the most effective and appropriate manner.

Today, technology is available to provide multifunction announcement platforms to enable large retail operations to maximise the potential from in-store customers by providing information and entertainment to enhance the customer’s in store experience. This type of technology provides services to customers both in-store and via the telephone on a single, ultra reliable, multi-port unit that connects to any existing PABX and/or PA system.

Different retail situations and operations have their own unique images and methodologies. The following benefits, therefore, are general guidelines only as the inherent flexibility of today’s announcement systems allow for infinite variations. These can be tailored to provide individual retail operations with a system that relates to their own unique requirements.”


BT Indirect Channel Top Tips for selling to the retail sector

Mark Cornell, Director of Partner Management at BT Business says resellers looking to sell more into retail must consider the key sector issues that affect their prospective customers, and use this understanding to develop and offer solutions that will ultimately save costs, drive efficiencies, develop, and retain their customer bases.

  • The network is now recognised as the backbone of a modern retailer.  The widespread adoption of broadband, common IP infrastructure across wired and wireless, and converging applications means that technology components are finally available to achieve retail enterprise-wide integration – in-store, online and back-office – and drive joined up multi-channel strategies.
  • As a wide range of new applications become available, even sophisticated retailers will have difficulty managing them. Managed Services will become an increasing trend as retailers look to outsource the burden of systems integration and IT systems management so that they can concentrate on managing and growing their business. 
  • Converged networks are enabling sophisticated retailing.  A single network can help simplify procurement, roll-out and management of a retailer’s store and enterprise operations.
  • Security of customer data is a major issue across the retail sector.  The opportunities range from enabling retailers to better cope with regulation demands, planning for disaster and securely storing and allowing the easy retrieval of customer data.
  • Customer service dynamics have changed with the advent of the Internet and retailers are struggling to keep pace with growing expectations.  Consumers are demanding increasing levels of personalisation and literally losing patience with traditional customer service mechanisms such as nine to five call centres.  Converging voice and data technologies are driving a transition to multi media contact centres which create a richer one-on-one experience via the medium of the customer’s choosing.

Reseller Case Study

Inter-Tel reseller Kelly Voice & Data Europe has concluded a successful VoIP solution for retailer Laura Ashley, on of the UK’s leading soft furnishings and clothing retailers The company has adopted VoIP solutions to link its two distribution warehouses and 200 retail stores on one network stating they selected Inter-Tel’s IP solution because of its ability increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Prior to the adoption, Laura Ashley faced significant logistical challenges at its warehouse in Newton in Wales, which receives on average 4500 calls a day. The retailer was unable to analyse details of the call centre’s activity in terms of reporting peaks and troughs in call numbers, or generate accurate call reporting for customer service purposes. High numbers of costly inter-site calls, as well as 2500 outbound calls to customers, compounded the pressures on the business.

With Inter-Tel’s Axxess platform, Laura Ashley has used IP to link its site in Wales to

Laura Ashley

a second warehouse in Bardon in Leicester, as well as its 200 stores. Call costs between sites were immediately reduced to practically zero.   

The network has also enabled Laura Ashley to deploy vital contact centre applications across the network to solve problems associated with the lack of real time or historical call centre data. Using Swan Solutions Callview Laura Ashley can now monitor call abandonment rates through to real-time agent performance and better manage call flows.

The Bardon office also benefits from an outbound dialler solution which gives customers an enhanced level of service. Now when merchandise arrives, the warehouse logs the item into the computer system, which triggers a call to the customer. As soon as a connection is made the call is directed to a free agent who can arrange delivery with the customer.  

Shereen Kenyon, contact centre manager at Laura Ashley, comments on the system: “Inter-Tel’s solution has transformed the way we do business and deal with customers, their queries and their orders. The level of management and control over call traffic empowers our employees as they are able to see and monitor performance in real-time.  Additionally, customer service has improved as agents are able to see customer details and historical transaction information as each customer calls in.”

Duncan Miller, channel marketing manager of Inter-Tel, said: “Laura Ashley has been able to transform its customer service and reduce costs thanks to the versatility of voice over IP. There are many businesses that can benefit from VoIP to link disparate sites and host applications that add real business insight and flexibility. Moving to VoIP based solutions needn’t be a headache if you work with a telecommunications specialist who will act as a partner and deliver a solution that will make a difference from day one and into the future.”

Alcatel –
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