The Internet Retailing Conference brought together a Head of Ecommerce, a User Experience Design Lead and a Marketing Manager – Mobile to debate where digital is leading the store environment. Read on for the thoughts of representatives from Tesco , Schuh and M&S , HEAD OF ECOMMERCE, SCHUH
“Our key objective is to sell product, and we take the view that multichannel helps us sell product and technology has a defined role in the business,” Sean McKee, Head of Ecommerce at Schuh, told delegates. He explained how the firm operates via tablet, mobile, contact centre, stores and its website. Multi-touchpoint journeys are now the norm, he said, but “bricks and mortar are still integral to how we see the business”.
He added: “We see smartphones as the most important thing that’s happened to retail since the internet. Every time a new device comes along we see a little change in the way our customers are consuming.” Consumers shopping at Schuh via a mobile device are five times more likely to look for a local store and six times more likely to reserve stock for pick up, he said.
By next year, McKee predicted that mobile traffic would become the most popular way of buying and by 2016 it would account for the majority of sales at Schuh. Unsurprisingly, the company is planning for that eventuality.
But what does the customer at the heart of this shopping revolution really require from a store?
For a start, it’s a place where they can pick up their purchases. Click and collect is becoming more important for Schuh. It has had a single view of inventory for web users for the past 9 years, enabling online reservations and purchases from store stock. During the first half of 2012, 17,000 pairs of shoes were purchased online for store pick-up and 43,000 pairs reserved for trying on in store.
As far as in-store technology is concerned, there’s a plethora of choice even amongst what’s happening now: payment apps; store Wi-Fi; gamification; personalised and interactive mirrors; QR codes; location-based marketing; tabletequipped staff; single view; and e-vouchers. “I think we’ll do the majority of them if not all of them,” McKee said.
It has experimented with sales floor technology including kiosks, standalone and screwed to the wall, and a monster app in Bath. He commented: “We have done that and bought the t-shirt.”
Ultimately, though, Schuh is a business with finite resources. “The reality is that customers are consuming technology at a great rate of knots and we’ll never have the capital expenditure we’ll need to keep up with them.”
McKee asked: “So, shouldn’t we enable what the customer does and their own technology?” This could be through store Wi-Fi, QR codes – “synonymous with disappoint” – and iOS app, although: “our mobile site has better sales than the app”.
“We can add value, on the customers own terms, on their own phone,” he said. Customers see stores as a place to just pick up items, so in time they won’t understand why you’d want to join a queue to pay. “Big retailers have a chance to guide customers in what the future look like,” he added.
The key differentiator for Schuh is customer service. It’s “quite basic but commercial”. McKee advised other retailers to take a simple approach and not race to the bottom. It had to be practical and there are key steps that you have to achieve “so walk before you can run”.
As to showrooming behaviour, he told delegates that shoppers are doing it “so get over it”. In fact, he said, Schuh is trying to capitalise on it and ensure that its in-store range and presentation is efficiently compelling. “Shoppers are dwelling, they are in our stores, it’s an opportunity. For us, the store is where you enable the experience, fulfil at speed and connect using customers’ own technology.”
NIKOS KARAOULANIS, USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN LEAD, MARKS & SPENCER
“We design the digital experience for people and the mobile device that they bring to store, be that a mobile website, mobile app, or iPad app for the home category,” Nikos Karaoulanis, User Experience Design Lead, Marks & Spencer, told delegates. “We come up with specific applications such as guided apps on big interactive screens and kiosks in-store to help people buy products such as beauty, and other multichannel projects.”
The first challenge, said Karaoulanis, is: “How do you give a consistent experience when your customers know how to get to things?” So the company has recently developed its first set of guidelines on building a consistent experience, for use in-house and by third party developers and agencies.
The second? “Who do we design for? My view is that we sometimes underestimate the customer.” With many quite used to using iPhone and iPad technology, for example, the next challenge is: “How do we leverage that to help them?”
Karaoulanis advised retailers to think about why they were designing something for in-store. “Is the store not enough?” he asked. Retailers should ask themselves whether what they’re doing is going to interrupt the in-store journey or help customers. “There are not that many technologies out there that will really help.”
He commented that M&S had been “pleasantly surprised” by how people were interacting with the large devices at its Cheshire Oaks store, which showcases the latest in shopping technology. It also has:
- High-definition display screens displaying the latest looks or offers;
- 12 Browse and Order screens which allow customers to order from the entire M&S catalogue in-store;
- Shop assistants equipped with iPads to help customers find items or place orders;
- First-to-market technology such as the Virtual Makeover counter and the Duvet and Pillow Selector;
- QR codes on internal and external decor which help customers discover more about product ranges and the store itself.
It is in the homeware department that the new technology comes into its own. Customers can browse the latest M&S ranges to create a living room, kitchen or bathroom using 70in display screens that showcase key design themes. They can also use iPads and 32in interactive browsing screens to peruse the entire catalogue.
As far as attribution is concerned, Karaoulanis told the audience that M&S collects sales data as well as what’s happening on those devices, since usage could be high but sales low because customers buy from a sales assistant such as a beauty counter in the case of a virtual makeover. “We capture exit points and where they are likely to buy,” he added.
On showrooming behaviour, he commented that retailers should look at how they help customers rather than being a barrier. “Why wouldn’t you have Wi-Fi?” he asked. The other issue was, what is a customer looking for when they take a picture in store, for example? They have the product in front of them, so they have the information – so what more can the retailer do to help them?