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How Pier 1 wins with ARTS-based standards

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The only story greater than a company's success during tough economic times is the steps they take to revamp their presence in the industry. In the story of Pier 1, the home and furniture retailer's e-commerce presence needed a makeover. The solution, SVP and CIO Andrew Laudato said, started with ARTS.

This was the background given in Monday morning's opening keynote at the ARTS Users' Conference in Dallas. Laudato explained that when new leadership took the helm in 2007, a first step was removing the company's e-commerce site all together in order to ensure a more streamlined commerce approach across all channels. While this was an optimal time for many retailers to enter the e-commerce scene, Pier 1 used this as an opportunity to take a step back and find a cloud-based solution model to meet their business needs.

"We turned e-commerce off to focus on core business fundamentals," Laudato emphasized.

Over the next four years, the Pier 1 IT team worked with ARTS to tailor an RFP to find the right solutions for their business. Using ARTS research and best practices as a benchmark, three big operational themes emerged. Although somewhat different, the foundation for each was the same: start with investing in stores and technology first.

Omnichannel opportunities. Leveraging their already strong bricks-and-mortar distribution network and cash-in-store model, Pier 1 2 You was the first revamped site to emerge in June 2011. Shoppers could now view products online and pick-up in-store, a feature that did not exist back in 2007. And since Laudato and his team stuck with the solution providers already working with ARTS standards, both sides started on the same page. The complexity of uniting more than 200 team members across three countries was simpler because all of the vendors were working from one set of ARTS guidelines.

E-commerce evolution. The new-look launched on July 31, 2012, and has, "been multichannel from day one," Laudato said. Not looking to reinvent the wheel, many of the same principles used in Pier 1 2 You have been applied to their online sales division. "If you want to appear seamless to the customer, you've got to operate seamlessly on the back-end," he added.

New POS technology. A little further down the pipeline and before implementation across their 1,000 nationwide stores, Laudato alluded to how the company's point-of-sale technology will be receiving an upgrade. A pilot program will be launched at select stores later this month which will include removing their longtime label credit card system and replacing this with a card loyalty model. This will go a long way in helping to streamline Pier 1's omnichannel operations and order management strategy, all of which should be fully-functioning across all stores by July 2013, Laudato said. Another big component is applying a cloud-based model to take a stronger hold on loss prevention.

In closing, Laudato said the key to dealing with complexity that comes with retail technology is to take a "mutually suspicious, loosely coupled" approach. Tying this idea back in to the industry, he said this was essential in improving his company's flexibility at times and making sure, "you're sending clean, healthy data from your system" to keep delivering a memorable customer experience.