Q&A: Isabell Aakervik, Chief Expansion Officer at Sitoo
Isabell Aakervik is the Chief Expansion Officer at Sitoo with extensive international experience in both retail and software which gives her a deep insight and understanding of how IT and digital solutions can benefit business.
Sitoo are at an incredibly exciting stage in their growth journey and – fast off the back of their success in the Nordics – have secured a growing customer base in the UK and US including high profile brands like Mint Velvet, ETON, Sunspel and Rally House
You’ve been at Sitoo now for five years, can you tell us more about your background?
As the Chief Expansion Officer at Sitoo, I am responsible for scaling the company’s presence and impact across new markets and regions, as well as fostering global strategic partnerships and alliances. I am also a proud member of the MACH Alliance Growth Council, where I collaborate with other industry experts and influencers to promote and advocate for modern, agile, cloud-native, and headless technologies and architectures.
My retail story started in the mid-90s working in a store before being tasked with rolling out a PC-based POS solution in the late 90s. This led to me being hired by a POS company where I worked for 11 years across all areas of the business – from solution architect to partner manager. I then moved into a consultancy role and then spent four years working for a fast growing tech company in the workforce management space.
I didn’t think I’d ever go back to the POS world but when Jens Levin (Sitoo co-founder and CEO) knocked on my door five years ago I fell in love with the product, the mindset and the technology behind it. To me, it was the future of retail I’d been talking about ten years previously. I knew I had to be part of it because it’s something I deeply believe in.
What does Sitoo do?
Sitoo is a Unified Commerce Platform anchored by POS built with modern cutting edge technology. The POS is a native app built for iOS and Android that empowers store associates to always say yes and give customers positive shopping experiences every time and everywhere. Our technology enables retailers to connect all their sales channels, meaning all their stores, eComm and marketplaces etc. all together, in real time. This means things like fulfilment, inventory management, scalability, cost efficiency, and the in-store experience are all radically transformed. Plus, because it runs on smart devices, available on iOS and Android for both tablet and mobile devices, it makes the stores using it look sleek, modern, and exciting.
What’s special about the platform and your approach?
Unlike other vendors, our focus is only on our platform and the POS. We’re not an eCom or ERP company adding a POS to what we do. This means we can do one thing and do it really well.
We’re also cloud-native which means our software is built in the cloud, for the cloud and is super easy to integrate with other best-of-breed systems, easy to scale dynamically, easy to deploy, and incredibly resilient.
The software retailers choose – whether it’s a CRM, eCom, footfall counter or POS – and their IT architecture, play essential roles in helping them deliver the kind of experiences their customers desire.
We’re a certified member of the MACH Alliance and this gives our customers – and future customers – an additional level of assurance that we are the best of the best and firmly committed to an API-first, open, cloud-native approach to our development.
Being part of the MACH Alliance is a quality stamp. Innovation, a pioneering approach, and pushing boundaries of what’s possible with retail technology sit at the heart of everything we do. We truly ARE all that MACH stands for: Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless and that’s why we joined.
How does Sitoo give retailers a competitive advantage and what does this look like?
I would say first and foremost it comes down to putting the retailers in control of their own destiny and empowering them to create the kind of customer experience everyone wants.
We all know what it’s like to go into a store and come out empty handed because they didn’t have what we wanted in stock or they didn’t have the right size. Our customer journey ends right there and the store loses a sale. We’re not happy and the retailer isn’t happy. Catching this lost revenue is where we can help and, of course, being able to make a sale wherever the customer stands. There’s absolutely no need anymore for retailers to be sending customers to cash registers to stand in lines. Finalise the sale where the customer is and send them on their way with a great experience.
Secondly, the feedback we receive from every single customer is how simple the POS is to use. They will often say ‘it just works and does what it’s meant to do.’ This means that – because store associates don’t have to worry about tech or be stuck behind a register – they can focus 100% on the customer and give them what they want every single time.
And finally, it gives them the flexibility they need to run their stores on their terms. If you’re a retailer and you don’t have this then, in the next ten years, you’re not going to thrive. You need to be in control of your decisions and your strategic positions and you cannot be limited by legacy.
If you can’t put yourself in a position to have a unified approach to your sales because of legacy systems then you’re dead in the water. A lot of brands are still stuck with systems that aren’t fit for purpose. It’s limiting them from growing, from generating more revenue and from being innovative and efficient.
Retailers like Nudie Jeans and Lakrids by Bülow – who have just opened a flagship London store – are two fantastic examples of forward-thinking retailers who are using Sitoo to empower their store associates and delight their customers.
What are the biggest challenges facing retailers now?
There are always challenges in retail. It’s one of the fastest moving industries in the world and, the combination of changing customer behavior and ever advancing technology, means retailers have to always be smart to stay ahead of the game and the competition.
Right now, one of the biggest challenges retailers have is to become more profitable.
I believe the biggest reason behind this is poor CX that stems from store associates that aren’t empowered. In order to deliver an immersive experience, you need the right labor, the right tools, and the right mindset. We need to put the store in the palm of their hands and give them more – or at least the same – information than the customer has themselves. If you can empower store associates with real-time information, a 360 view of the customer, connected sales channels that enable stores to be used as fulfillment centers, and a smiling face then your customers will get an extraordinary experience, they’ll become loyal customers, and they’ll recommend you to others.
As it says in the 2023 Gartner® Retail Technologies Hype Cycle™ report – customer experience and business agility have become the principal competitive differentiators in modern retailing – and this is what retailers have to be focussing their energies on.
How do you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
It starts with empowering store associates and this is dependent on the different kinds of types of tech you use. Change can be scary and daunting – and it’s easy to think you have to change all your systems at the same time if you’re going for a best-of-breed approach. The reality is you don’t. Start with whatever you think will give you the most value. And if you commit to going down the modern composable, MACH architecture approach, then start with putting a piece in place that can connect to systems you already have, then as you go along on your journey you can swap other systems out as and when you need to.
The MACH approach works so well because you know the vendor is one of the best in their field. And it puts the power in your hands to create the type of architecture that works and delivers for your business, your employees, and your customers.
This way makes it way more efficient. For example, this year we helped a customer roll out Sitoo across 200 stores and integrate it with their ERP system in only a few months. And since the roll out they’ve already seen a dramatic decrease in the number of calls to their IT support team from stores as well as almost doubling their customer capture at checkout. Now the POS roll out is complete, they are looking at bringing in a best-of-breed CRM as their next step.
This approach is backed up by data. The latest research into MACH Technology shows that 70% of organisations have generated measurable business value from MACH, 48% have seen an ROI from their MACH investment, and close to two thirds have saved over $1 million because of this approach.
What excites you most about the future of retail?
From a Sitoo perspective, everything is happening super fast right now. We’re constantly innovating – at speed – to better the product and because we come at it from a retail perspective rather than a tech perspective everything we do is built to benefit the retailer, their store associates, and their customers. Sitoo has also been named as a Sample Vendor in the Gartner® Hype Cycle™ for Retail Technologies, 2023 in the Unified Commerce Platform category.
Looking at the industry as a whole, the technology space is really exciting because the potential is so huge. Stores are becoming way more than just stores – they’re everything from showrooms to fulfilment centres – and when they’re powered by best-of-breed tech they become the heart and soul of successful retail.
In January, we’ll be attending NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show in New York City. We’ll be a part of Zebra Technologies Booth #3203, showcasing their Modern Store Concept, which is all about helping retailers solve ongoing store challenges. We would be happy to meet you there to chat more about retailers’ biggest challenges. Schedule a meeting with us here