By Robin Phillips for HOLM
A previous HOLM blog post discussed the importance of empowering retail sales staff with technology to put them on an equal footing with today’s ‘mobile first’ consumer. Yet there remains a reluctance among retailers to roll out in-store technology. They have their e-commerce platform for that sort of stuff after all. Then there is the risk of getting it wrong – an expensive mistake for any ambitious retail director.
But the problem is that customers simply do not silo your retail business into ‘stores’ and ‘e-commerce’; they view you as a single brand and expect a seamless transition between their online and in-store activities. In-store technology is the only way to provide this true omnichannel experience. Here we share five ways to make your in-store tech a success:
Offer customers free WiFi (and for goodness sake don’t ask them to log in)
In-store technology starts with empowering the customer: letting them call up that online wish list, send a product snap to their friends, and compare prices. If they cannot do these simple things, you are immediately making your in-store experience inferior to your e-commerce platform. This gives customers less reason to visit your stores than ever. In any case, you’ll need the WiFi to run your in-store apps to create mobile selling opportunities across the store.
More practically, free WiFi increases customer linger time in the same way as other amenities such as a restroom or cafe. It may also give potential customers a reason to visit your store in the first place. Apple, as with most things, was a pioneer of this approach. Back in pre-smartphone days, ‘free internet access’ had people flocking to its retail stores to have a sneaky check of their Hotmail accounts!
Give your staff (at least) the same tech as your customers
You’ve empowered your customers, what about your sales assistants? As we touched on in our previous blog, retail has reached a point where a customer with a smartphone has more knowledge about stock than a sales assistant. Frustrating for the customer, and humiliating for your staff. It is vital to provide your sales team with the same devices as their customers. John Lewis, for example, has armed the majority of its staff with iPhones. These devices must give the customer and sales assistant exactly the same data view of the customer purchase journey and stock availability across all channels. The good news is technologies already exist to make this process superior to anything we have seen before. RFID, by example, provides an up-to-the-second view of stock levels, resulting in slicker selling and a better customer experience.
Use in-store tech to create theatre (and sales)
It is not just enough to put staff and customers on an equal footing, retailers need to provide customers with a unique in-store experience that they cannot get online, why would they visit your store otherwise? Successful in-store technology, therefore, has to leverage the two obvious advantages of visiting a bricks-and-mortar store: physical product and expert human knowledge. Even better if you design it to convert purchases.
This can be as basic as giving sales assistants access to a customer’s profile so they can steer customers to those much coveted ‘wish list’ products. Or it could be more sophisticated like an in-store ‘express styling’ app white labelled from HOLM, that matches customers to clothes that suit them according to body shape.
Allow untethered payment
Sending a customer to a cash desk seems downright old fashioned and inconvenient, (particularly following the amazing personal experience you have given them in step three.) Instead, enable both your colleague and customer devices to process payments and provide email receipts. This means your customer’s journey ends in a quick convivial transaction rather than a queue.
Train, test and reinforce staff behaviour
Though most of your staff will be tech-savvy, introducing in-store technology involves so much more than showing them how to use new software.
The introduction of in-store tech will shake up long ingrained customer service routines. For years, little has changed about the customer journey: enter the store, browse, fitting room, then till. Technology will shake that up: a customer might ask your team to find a dress they’ve seen online, use AR to find a matching jacket, and pay for both there and then on the shop floor. Staff training needs to be as much about shifting mind sets, as it is the technical side of things. What impresses with HOLM’s app, is how simple it is for staff to use and because it mobilises customer service earlier in the shopping journey, substantially increasing basket size and sales conversion.
As with any IT roll-out you, in-store tech needs a thorough testing period before going live. Once your staff are comfortable with their new gear, it is important to measure performance with KPIs including:
- in-store conversion
- basket size
- customer frequency (over time)
- stock turn
- customer satisfaction (NPS or equivalent)
- employee satisfaction
HOLM’s in-store personal styling technology matches clothes to customers depending on their body shape (one of more than 4,000 body shapes for women calculated by our algorithms). Their USP is accurate recommendation from the first visit. Following a two-minute measuring process by your sales staff (theatre – tick, customer service – tick), customers are presented with a ranking of garments guaranteed to make them look great. The result? Happy, loyal customers, a thriving bricks-and-mortar store and a customer profile that boosts sales across all channels. Happy staff too, as the application has been carefully designed for simplicity and ease of use, so training is minimal.
About the author
Adviser to HOLM, Robin Phillips is a board level retail leader with deep digital experience. Recognised industrywide for delivering profit growth to top tier high street names through omnichannel transformation, most recently as Kurt Geiger director of digital. He previously served as Boots UK director of omnichannel, and Waitrose e-commerce director. A pioneer of customer facing technology; Robin delivered in-store customer experience apps on iPads in all 2,500 Boots stores.