Oscar Jacobson says it has put a technology backbone in place to support ambitious international expansion plans.

The Sweden-based men’s formalwear brand has been operating for 114 years, but an updated omnichannel platform is expected to give the brand a new lease of life.

Central to the company’s new look and agility is an integrated retail solution that it says links in-store operations with back-end systems to give shop staff, online teams and head office the real-time information they require for successful modern retailing.

Oscar Jacobson's IT application manager, Marcus Knutsson, believes an investment in iVend’s core retail suite looks set to provide a platform for other new customer touchpoints such as click & collect and Klarna in-store payments.

In an interview with Essential Retail, Knutsson describes some noteworthy uses of technology at Oscar Jacobson as the brand – already famous for its golf fashion apparel in the UK and southern Europe – ramps up its international strategy. We’ve picked out the top five.

1. Breaking down the silos

By the company’s own recognition, until last year Oscar Jacobson was operating with legacy systems that created silos within the business. The retailer opted to integrate iVend Retail’s omnichannel solution to address the matter, giving the business a real-time view of customer data across its sales channels.

The open API platform was implemented by Retail Store Scandinavia into the retailer’s existing Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP system. Any new stores added to the Oscar Jacobson portfolio will be connected to the central platform.

“We had an old version which wasn’t open and we wanted it closer to our ERP system, and the stores in each country were separated from each other which meant price updates needed to be done multiple times,” Knutsson explains.

“As we expand to new countries we’ll need more price lists and currencies, and we plan to roll out eCommerce in different countries. We want the same promotions online and needed iVend to synchronise this messaging.”

The brand currently has eight stores in Sweden, including the recently opened Täby flagship as well as three outlet shops. It has one shop in Oslo and plans to open two more in Norway this year, while the UK and Canada are among the countries in the pipeline for further openings.

The first store went live with iVend in late November 2016 and it should be in use in Norway by the end of May. The platform is viewed as a fundamental part of the retailer’s plans for future tech development.

2. In-store collect and return

“We wanted to be up and running with iVend so we had the capability to integrate the online business, so it’s the system which will define what we do later in the year and beyond,” notes Knutsson.

The IT application manager believes the provision of click & collect will allow its customers to add more items to their purchase when they arrive in store and help keep returned items to a minimum.

Shoppers will also soon be able to pay for goods in a store and have them delivered to home, thanks to the new infrastructure.

“Customers won’t need to go and buy the item themselves [back home], they will be able to complete the purchase in store [even if the product isn’t in stock at that particular shop].”

Online payments provider Klarna, which is a hugely popular platform among consumers in the Nordics, has recently started to offer an in-store solution – and Oscar Jacobson is investigating ways of incorporating that into iVend.

“If you buy something online and come into the store you might want to add a new item to the same payment method as you previously used,” says Knutsson, who believes ease of use and flexibility are the key facets of a strong payments system.

3. Localised eCommerce offering

Oscar Jacobson’s Swedish and UK websites both cater for transactions but the international online platform does not. As the company extends its reach into new territories, the plan is to enter each market with a store and digital presence.

“The main focus now is to get the Norwegian website up and running,” Knutsson notes.

“It’s outside the EU so it’s a bit more complicated with customs for example, but it is almost done. When people get more aware of the brand, [opening a localised website] is a good way to display the whole collection, especially as we’re not opening flagship stores in every city and country we enter.”

4. Personalisation

A key feature of the Oscar Jacobson offer is its ‘Made to Order’ service, which allows customers to pick specific fabrics and designs to be used in the manufacturing of their formalwear.

At present, this is the retailer’s main method of offering a personalised service – but the new iVend platform is expected to open up opportunities for much more targeted and personalised digital communication.

“We’re going to add the iVend Loyalty module and also integrate online and physical store data,” Knutsson explains.

“We need to take that to one place. It will be easier to tell customers more specific information about things they have an interest in. If we have an event in Gothenburg it would make sense to send emails to people who have been to the store or who live nearby.”

5. Front and back-end refresh

Oscar Jacobson has installed screens on its point of sale terminals containing images of the latest seasonal ranges.

In Norway, receipt information needs to be displayed in a standardised way, so the plan is to integrate the digital signage with iVend’s platform to display the required information there.

Residing in the Täby store, meanwhile, is a large digital screen providing full-size model pictures displaying the latest ranges.

“It’s an alternative to mannequins – you can explain more in a small part of the store. [These screens can] also provide inspiration for the Made to Order service,” Knutsson notes.

The retailer has also decided that the time is right to invest in a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, in DHL. The company has grown to a point where it no longer sees efficiencies in running these processes in-house and has chosen DHL to manage them from one central warehouse.

“During the high peaks when delivering new season stock, it is more flexible to work with a 3PL to deal with demand. They can add more staff to the operations when it is needed.”

Oscar Jacobson is already present in international stores, including House of Fraser and American Golf in the UK, via its wholesale arm. But the business has now hired an export manager, whose main focus will be on developing the brand in non-Nordic countries.

Once the most suitable locations have been identified, Oscar Jacobson will be bringing its formalwear to the UK as it looks to become known as more than just a golf brand outside the Nordics.