The Silicon Review
“Our Optimum Retailing (OR) platform is empowering future-focused brands to optimize their brick and mortar operations through elevated communication, maximum compliance, and stronger retail performance.”
Optimum Retailing CEO Sam Vise has long been recognized as an innovative leader and driving force in the brick-and-mortar retail space, and his role in helping retailers navigate through challenges brought on by the pandemic has garnered him even more visibility and accolades over the last year. Sam’s vision for the future, his ability to anticipate retailers’ needs, and the company’s agility and nimbleness in addressing clients’ concerns in the wake of COVID-19 have set the company apart from its competitors. We sat down with Sam to discuss the evolution of the OR platform, how the company is uniquely positioned to elevate retailers as they look to the path ahead, and what the future hold for brick-and-mortar retail.
Q. What are the origins of the OR platform, and how has it evolved as the brick-and-mortar retail industry has evolved?
Our team has been pushing the boundaries of brick-and-mortar retail technology for almost 30 years, and we’ve seen first-hand the rapid evolution of the retail industry and the power of technology to help retailers optimize their operations. With a core focus on communication, compliance and performance, our platform started out as a solution for retailers relying on outdated processes such as Excel to capture store specific information, and who were operating without a strategic way to communicate with stores, manage fixtures, and execute at the local level. As both the industry and technology have evolved, our platform has grown into a powerful predictive modeling tool that incorporates and analyzes multiple sources of data, customer behavior, and trends to inform a localized retail strategy for each location that drives operational efficiencies and increases store performance. Because our platform is custom-made, we’re able to leverage multiple sources of data in a way that uniquely elevates our clients, benefits their bottom line, and helps drive their competitiveness. When we onboard new clients, everyone – from head office to agency partners to store employees – immediately experience a simpler way to share and collaborate. We get up every day to help our clients be dynamic, relevant, and profitable, while keeping staff at all levels accountable.
Q. How has the global pandemic changed things for retailers and for OR?
So much has changed for retailers and consumers since the pandemic hit. Before COVID, some brands still managed retail somewhat ad-hoc, with operations at the store level relatively consistent from store to store. Even then, the retailers that focused on localizing their marketing/merchandising and operations had a competitive advantage, but in a post-COVID world, understanding and leveraging local data and information – including municipal and state laws on social distancing and post-COVID consumer behavior insights – has become critical as brands figure out how to offer customers an engaging shopping experience and build long-term customer relationships, all while offering them a safe and contactless experience.
The drop in consumer spending experienced because of the pandemic – coupled with new investments required to meet health and safety guidelines – has also led to retailers prioritizing revenue drivers and cost efficiencies in a way we haven’t seen before. Since March 2020 we have seen a 25% increase in sales due to interest in OR from retailers across virtually every industry including QSR, CPG, banking and telcos who are looking to strengthen their bottom line and find cost savings and efficiencies at the store or branch level, including reducing non-sellable hours.
Q. How is OR helping retailers recover from the impact of the pandemic?
As mentioned, we’re seeing that retail leaders are really prioritizing revenue drivers and cost efficiencies as they look to the path ahead now that global economies are starting to reopen. The financial benefits our clients experience are significant and are realized quite quickly – for example, even prior to the pandemic our clients would see an average increase in traffic of between 25-30%, average top line growth of 10%, and average bottom line improvements of 30% - all within the first 12-18 months. We’re passionate about ensuring the brick-and-mortar industry thrives, and it’s rewarding to be able to help retailers realize those cost saving and efficiencies at such a critical time.
In addition to those financial benefits, we help brick and mortar retailers plan more intelligently which benefits store performance and customer engagement – both of which are more critical than ever as they recover from a difficult year and a half. The power of our platform is rooted in building store-specific profiles using advanced tools to collect and analyze multiple sources of data, allowing us to gain AI-driven behavioral-based insights into each store. Those local insights allow our clients to localize and personalize products, messages, and campaigns, which in turn drive traffic and conversion rates. We also work closely with our clients to optimize their retail operations through Workforce Management and SKU Optimization tools, improved automation, and enhanced store management that strengthen and optimize go-to-market efficiencies. All of those things are helping our clients plan more intelligently, engage consumers, and drive down costs.
Q. What makes OR different from competitors?
While we offer brick and mortar retailers a technology solution, the strength of what we offer clients comes down to relationships and improving the way teams work together. From the beginning our platform has been focused on strengthening communication and relationships between HQ and stores. Virtually all of our clients have seen an increase in revenue due to the enhanced communication and visibility that comes with the platform, including increased store compliance and cost savings from store specific planograms, the visibility teams have into their store floor plans and campaign execution, and improved communication between stores, area managers and headquarters. Underneath is all is a strong belief that by improving the way teams collaborate and work together, we can elevate retail performance. Our clients tell us that our dual focus on technology and people makes us stand out against our competitors.
Q. What types of retailers do you look to partner with?
Our team and our platform are dedicated to helping retailers reach their full potential, so we’re always looking for opportunities to partner with companies that are driving the evolution of brick-and-mortar retail. We feel so honored to work with leading retailers as diverse as cosmetics and telecom, and have been so inspired by the resiliency shown by the industry over the last year and a half. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown every type of challenge in front of brick-and-mortar retailers, but employees, brand leaders and the industry at large have worked together to keep the industry strong in the face of adversity. As retail leaders look to the future, we can help them optimize their stores by working with them to plan with precision, execute to perfection and collaborate with clarity. Ultimately OR exists to empower brands to do more.
Q. Where do you see the industry going, and how will OR play a role in addresses those future challenges and opportunities?
The pandemic transformed the brick-and mortar-retail industry in many ways, and has accelerated a lot of what would’ve happened in 5-10 years. In thinking about what retail will look like in a few years, I think we’ll see more of what we’ve seen over the last year and a half, with retailers building on the innovation, strategic thinking and planning that has allowed them to successfully navigate the challenging recently thrown at them.
One significant learning has been that success comes to those that are prepared to be unprepared. The retailers that were agile and able to adapt at record speed over the last year and a half had much greater odds of surviving and thriving. Looking to the future, I think successful brands will prioritize flexibility and agility to be able to pivot and shift strategies as needed. Strategic planning will also increasingly focus on future proofing the business, with more and more retailers prioritizing auditing and scenario planning, which will see a growing reliance on data and predictive analytics.
We can also expect retailers to continue to innovate and evolve to role of brick-and-mortar retail. Demand for buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) during and after the pandemic means that brick-and-mortar retailers turned into mini distribution centers as they focused on new ways to get products into the hands of consumers. The ability of brick-and-mortar retailers to deliver faster than online services has given them an advantage in the fight for the consumer, and with that advantage, brick-and-mortar retailers are focusing on new ways to engage the curbside customer and extend the brand experience beyond the store. With a reduction in opportunities to engage face to face with customers, retailers will also continue to explore and master ways to engage customers creatively – from personal in-store shopping experiences, to virtual appointments, to augmented reality.
Sam Vise, CEO