Fast-moving sectors such as clothing or digital goods can rely on a strong last-click performance to win sales. But when dealing with the complex product lines and longer purchase cycles of furniture retail, this customer journey needs to be extended all the way to the physical store, says David Kohn, eCommerce and Customer Service Director at Heals.
How David handles this and other challenges is the main topic in the first episode of RetailCraft, a new podcast in which InternetRetailing sits down with expert practitioners in multichannel retail to learn about their approach.
David, who claims to be the “most skeptical man in retail”, told hosts InternetRetailing Editor-in-chief Ian Jindal and Salesforce Director of Industry Strategy and Insights Jamie Merrick how the company is adopting new technology to blend its online and physical offerings. While he says he is not “doom and gloom” about the future of bricks and mortar he admits it is a challenge and says that a mixed approach will be key to the survival of the high street.
One way the company is anticipating this is through its bespoke internal application, which connects customers using the website’s live chat function with in-store staff. Kohn explains how the application allows functionality such as photo and video alongside traditional text chat.
“We’re trying to bring that expertise, that knowledge, that passion for the product – we’re trying to bring that into the online experience and utilise what in truth is a somewhat underutilised resource in our stores,” says Kohn.
“Staff can be twiddling their thumbs from time to time. We’re giving them something else to do with their thumbs.”
Alongside the glamour of new technology, David talks through how this works in practice: for example, bringing staff on board by offering them commission for online sales.
However, Kohn is not a full-on technology evangelist, as elsewhere he explains his ambivalence towards augmented reality.
Elsewhere in the episode, InternetRetailing Magazine Editor Emma Herrod shared insight from her recent interview with Chris Conway, Head of Digital at Co-op Food. Despite not selling groceries online, the retailer is looking to digital to enhance its in-store experience.
While the Co-op does not sell groceries online, it is balancing the requirements of its diverse customer base through new technology such as facial recognition.
You can listen to Episode 1 of RetailCraft on our site or via the links below.
In our second episode, Ian, Jamie and Emma are joined by Sarah Stagg, Digital Director at the Rug Company, who talks about how you bring design-led, bespoke and high price point products such as rugs to life through a screen.
“It’s a challenge and certainly the business is further behind in its digital journey compared to mass market fashion.
“There is a digital transformation underway and people are open to it. We just have to solve those problems and put people more at ease.”
For example, this requires building out content to reassure customers about the specifications and quality of the product they are getting, including showing the rugs in both natural and artificial light. It also requires providing strong guarantees around returns.
Also in the studio is Martin Shaw, Head of Research at RetailX, who explains some of the key findings from the recently published IREU Top500 report. While the UK has historically been the leader in online retail, the share of retailers in Western Europe offering more advanced services such as next-day delivery is on the rise.