Drapers’ latest roundtable debated the best strategies to craft a connected retailing experience.
Roundtable: Connected retailing
From in-store iPads to contactless payment, the fashion retail environment is evolving at lightening pace. However, to achieve a truly connected retail experience, do retailers need to go back to basics and use the technology to put the customer first?
To debate the issue Drapers invited digital and CRM (customer relationship management) specialists from New Look, Jigsaw and Dr Martens to a roundtable event at London’s Covent Garden Hotel on February 24, held in association with multichannel retail technology specialist One Iota.
The session opened with an analysis of in-store strategies. New Look group digital director Jack Smith discussed the need to recognise a store’s multiple functions, from browsing and shopping to a collection point and distribution centre.
Around 20% of New Look customers order in store, confirmed senior retail programme manager Emma Armitage: “When we launched our order in-store solution we thought the smaller stores would do really well, but it actually performs better than expected in the big stores.”
For former Bravissimo interim marketing director Alison Lancaster, the key to a connected experience is excellent store staff who are prepared to upsell: “People get so hung up on the technology that they’ve forgotten the art of great shopkeeping. The best technology is only as good as the people serving the customers. You’ve got to think customer first and then everything is possible.”
People get so hung up on the technology that they’ve forgotten the art of great shopkeeping
Alison Lancaster, former Bravissimo interim marketing director
Jigsaw head of online trading (ecommerce) James Williams believes click-and-collect is still one of the main ways to connect the retail experience: “When the customer visits our stores to collect an online order, where appropriate we encourage our staff to open these parcels with them so they can try the items there and then.”
The company has worked on connecting its sister brands, so customers of The Shop at Bluebird can now click-and-collect at any Jigsaw store location or choose home delivery. Each store is supported with an iPad, while fully integrated stock systems allow shoppers to call and reserve items in store.
Armitage predicted the general uptake in click-and-collect will change store layout: “When we launched the service five years ago, click-and-collect had its own changing room and lockers, but the volume wasn’t there. Now the volume is growing and shoppers want that convenience, so we’re going to revisit what we planned five years ago.”
One Iota chief executive Damian Hanson has witnessed 3%-5% incremental sales growth among clients using connected technology in store.
“Superdry now has up to five iPad minis in each store as an assisted-selling device,” he said. ”Staff use them at key points to drive conversion. It means they can carry on selling, even if they’ve run out of stock, and smaller stores can sell items they don’t typically stock.
“We have also worked with JD Sports on their recent flagship Oxford Street store, implementing a suite of interactive retail experiences from fully shoppable touchscreens to high-impact digital signage and iPads. Having interaction points is a key theme and there’s a lot of experimentation in creating retail theatre.”
One Iota client solutions director Paul Aspden highlighted the importance of offering a convenient range of payment methods and expected the upcoming launch of Android Pay to be a game changer.
Uniqlo UK omnichannel executive Anais Bellid confirmed the retailer will be launching Apple Pay and contactless payments in its Oxford Street flagship, which re-opens on March 18.
Continuing on the theme of payments, Hanson asked whether retailers had reached the point of allowing customers to use their own device to self-checkout.
“Apple is pushing the boundaries around self-checkout, but there’s something about customers questioning whether they’re allowed to take the item out of the store,” said Smith. “It will come, but the customer needs to drive this rather than us imposing something on them. If it doesn’t add value to the customer or creates any friction, why bother?”
Next the discussion turned to data and how retailers can use information to enhance the shopping experience.
Aspden encouraged retailers to consider their data clarity and quality: “You need to clear up your data now to build the foundations to move forward. Email communication is starting to suffer in terms of the sheer volume hitting people’s inboxes, so we need to think about what data is actually important, how we’re collecting it and ultimately find new ways of utilising it.”
Smith agreed that retailers must determine what they want to achieve with the data they possess: “We have really high-quality data, but we often don’t have a clear plan about how we’re going to offer our customers something, change their behaviour or deliver something personalised. We just send out an email. So we must have a clear view of how we want to increase the lifetime value of our customers.”
Dr Martens global director of digital Kelly Lees acknowledged that most of what retailers want to know about their customers is intangible: “Tech is great, but if you’ve got great sales people in store they intuitively understand what each customer needs and we can use this insight to learn more about our customers.”
Charles Tyrwhitt head of customer services Mathis Wagner agreed that to market your brand effectively you need to know how to treat shoppers: “We all know there are very good customers you need to treat differently, and from a loyalty aspect it’s important to understand how they’ve purchased, what’s their average spend and how long they have been with you. Once you have that data you can tailor your response.”
One Iota head of multichannel solutions Joe Till urged retail businesses to analyse and simplify the shopping process: “Different people can have different shopping journeys depending on the time of day, day of the week and what they’re purchasing, so we need to strip back the barriers around the basket and let them swap between different devices.”
Lancaster encouraged retailers to learn from innovators outside the fashion world such as Uber and Airbnb: “We need to think more like dot.com start-ups to be prepared for the digital retail world. Devices are just an enabler to get people closer to your brand and instead we need to focus on doing the basics brilliantly.”
The consensus was clear: technology can enable connected retailing but it is crucial to get back to basics, and empower store staff both in store and at head office to work together to give customers the best experience possible.
Bravissimo: Alison Lancaster, former interim marketing director
Charles Tyrwhitt: Mathis Wagner, head of customer services
Dr Martens: Kelly Lees, global director of digital
Hawes & Curtis: Antony Comyns, head of ecommerce
Jigsaw: James Williams, head of online trading ecommerce
New Look: Emma Armitage, senior retail programme manager; Jack Smith, group digital director
Thomas Pink: Frederik Klitvad, global CRM manager
Uniqlo: Anais Bellid, UK omnichannel executive; Stephanie Williams, UK customer services coordinator
Sponsor: One Iota
Damian Hanson, chief executive; Joe Till, head of multichannel solutions; Paul Aspden, client solutions director
Drapers: James Knowles, online content editor; Charlotte Rogers, features and special reports writer