The Retail Bulletin InStore Engagement Conference 2012
Here are some extracts from recent interviews – for the full interviews, click on the links.
Guy Cheston, media sales director at Harrods says, “Although I feel we were quite pioneering with our digital installations, and our most recent one sets a new benchmark, you have to try and stay ahead of the game as technology advances fast. Because obviously what was suitable five or six years back goes out of date quickly,”
The big advance for Harrods has been a move away from operating single screens towards multi-screen ‘video walls’ of which it operates two. They are each made up of 16 screens – with each wall having its own playlist.
What makes the Harrods digital signage strategy different, according to Cheston, is having third-party advertising as the primary content on the screens, which generates revenues. “These are predominantly adverts of brands in-store, which drives customers to their concessions. We get a return on investment from these ad sales,” he explains.
But he is fully aware that these changes are happening: “Hand-held devices are part of the future - and there will be payment methods on phones soon – as well as interactivity with physical signage. We’re looking closely at it but we have no definitive plans on this at present.”
Steve Moore, leader of customer experience at The Carphone Warehouse said, “With 15% of Google searches undertaken on mobile devices and 20% of the hits on Carphone’s website originating from such technology, it is clear that “particularly in developed nations people are using mobiles as their first point of reference”. Within the multi-channel journey mobile devices are proving an increasingly important component.
To facilitate their seamless use within its stores Carphone Warehouse, like a growing number of retailers, is introducing free wi-fi within its outlets. This is part of a multi-million pound investment with BT to put broadband into its stores that will give its customers free wi-fi and also provide the business with further bandwidth to drive other projects.
To boost customer engagement he says Carphone will be able to push relevant content to devices when customers pick them up. This might involve a certain level of personalisation as some devices are able to detect – via motion sensing and their cameras – some broad characteristics of the customer using them.
Claire Zuurbier, workstream lead for new channels at Marks & Spencer, reveals what the retailer is up to in-store with new technologies.
“We’ve been operating in a multi-channel environment in-store for a few years and started with the ‘Shop Your Way’ approach where you could go in-store to buy an item or [if out-of-stock] go to an order point and buy via an online catalogue. Last year we looked at how to make this easier and create some theatre,” she says.
The additional aim has been to utilise in-store technologies to enable customers to access a much broader range of products than could be fitted into many of the group’s smaller stores. The ‘Style Online’ initiative has been introduced as a pilot to “bring the best of M&S to your local store” and is focused on widening the fashion range and showcasing its sub-brands including Autograph and Limited.
Style Online is an “integrated store proposition” that comprises physical samples of 60-70% of the ranges that are not available in-store along with interactive touch screen devices that show footage of catwalk shows, enable customers to pull items together to create outfits, and lets them place orders for these goods.
Simon Smith, head of multi-channel customer and employee experience at O2 UK thinks that Retailers should not rely too heavily on technology within their stores as it should be regarded merely as a supportive tool for employees on the shop floor because customers typically visit stores for some interaction with a person.
“Be clear about this. People still make a conscious decision to go into shops to see and play with products and there is a resonance to talking with an advisor. You therefore need to be careful with what technology you adopt,” he advises.
Smith says the likes of O2 are asking their customers to invest a lot of money in products and they therefore want to touch and feel them before they commit to a purchase. “They want to get their hands on them and get a share of attention in-store. There is a re-assurance from this,” he suggests.
To date he believes in-store technology usage has been a little too “gimmicky and game-ified” with clunky implementations, whereas the objective should always be to “look at technology to support the sales process and make sure the time spent in-store is used most efficiently”.
Although using social media is moving up retailers' agendas, and their stores are for most multi-channel businesses still the main sales driver, the majority of merchants have yet to work out how to link these two elements to enhance engagement with their customers. Jeremy Waite, head of social strategy at TBG Digital, suggests “many retailers are absolutely awful at this as they’ve not yet figured out how to join the dots” between their stores and their social media activities”.
What they have a problem with is creating a link between the customer interaction online and their subsequent purchase offline, something that Waite says Google refers to as ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline).
He continues,"Retailers’ technology is in the main not advanced enough for them to track these customers who have engaged with them through social media and then gone into their stores to make a transaction”.
For many businesses he suggests a problem area is their till systems. He recommends having them rigged up to take customers’ email addresses when they make a purchase that can then be matched to their activity when they go online and engage with social media platforms. “You can track what they are doing and see how influential they are. Part of measuring ROI and attributing purchasing habits to online behaviour can be solved by doing this,”
Other speakers at the conference include Tesco.com, McDonald’s Restaurants, Schuh, Vodafone, Co-operative Group, White Stuff, Star Micronics and eDigitalResearch.To benefit from their experiences and vision for the future, click here to register your place now.
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