There is no question that stores are, and will continue to be, an integral part of the retail landscape. While digital commerce growth continues to far outpace overall retail growth, physical stores still account for more than 92% of total retail. To embrace this reality, leading brands are evolving their approach and empowering their associates with new technologies, effectively blurring the lines between the online and offline shopping experience.
ECCO is a 1.3 billion euro footwear and accessories company with 3,300 shops and shops-within-shops worldwide. After embarking on its initial ecommerce journey, ECCO decided to leverage technology to merge online and offline experiences, and put consumers at the center of all its engagements.

In early 2015, ECCO USA began a pilot test of Endless Aisle , a Salesforce B2C Commerce add-on that, among other things, helps prevent lost sales by allowing store associates to place orders against online inventory.

The driving force was not innovation for its own sake, but to leverage technology to better serve ECCO’s customers.
 
 

There is a sea change in the role of the store associate and an opportunity to meet the consumer’s needs through Endless Aisle.”

DANA SCHWARTZ | DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND ECOMMERCE AT ECCO USA

The company armed associates in its Burlington, Massachusetts, store with an iPad to help shoppers find and purchase merchandise either in store or online. To prepare associates — who can sometimes feel threatened by the ecommerce side of the business — ECCO trained its users to ensure they were comfortable using the app.

“You can’t just put a tablet in the store and expect it to be successful,” said Dana Schwartz, Director of Marketing and Ecommerce, ECCO USA. “There is a sea change in the role of the store associate and an opportunity to meet the consumer’s needs through Endless Aisle.”

The tablets serve as an extension of the associate, empowering them to offer customers greater product assortment, and to close sales on locally out-of-stock products they otherwise would have lost. In fact, ECCO found that a high percentage of digital transactions taking place in the store are because a customer’s correct size was not available on-hand.

“It’s about offering premium-ness,” said Schwartz. “We are a high-service company, and we don’t want to disappoint our customers.” In the past, she explained, transactions made at the point of sale were manual and time consuming. “Now, we can engage with the shopper anywhere in the store, and ship for free to provide a seamless and convenient shopping experience.”

 
 

ECCO was an early adopter of Endless Aisle and describes the implementation as “quite easy” with only a few customizations. After the initial pilot test, ECCO USA expanded Endless Aisle to six stores. Testing went so well that ECCO rolled it out to all 26 full-priced stores in the U.S.

One of ECCO’s successful customizations was a survey for associates to complete post-sale. Why did the customer engage with the associate in this manner? Was the store out of stock of the color or size? Was the customer traveling? Where did the store ship the merchandise?

From the surveys, ECCO gleaned valuable data and insight into its customers’ preferences and buying behaviors, and modified its merchandise accordingly store by store.

“It was a great result that we didn’t expect — an aha moment where we are now able to forecast better because we know more. I’m a big believer that merchandising is a point of differentiation. This data helps us understand what the customer wants and where they buy.”

Schwartz said ECCO sees tremendous promise in digitizing its stores, and that by year’s end it expects sales from in-store tablets to equal the sales of one physical store.

“We are still learning and on our journey toward becoming a consumer-first brand. We are not in the technology business. We are in the business of making and selling shoes, in an engaging and premium way through commerce.”

 
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