7 Cool Technologies and Takeaways from Future Stores


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I recently participated in a panel at WB Research’s Future Stores conference in Seattle. Future Stores focuses on the challenges faced by store, operations, IT, cross-channel and retail customer experience executives trying to bridge the gap between the digital experience and the store experience.

The speakers at the conference ranged from retailers to vendors to consultants, and each group brought interesting and in some cases fascinating insights into the ways technology is shaping the future of the brick and mortar store experience.

I thought I would try to capture a few of the interesting technologies and takeaways shared at the conference. Some are groundbreaking; others simply reinforce lessons that we are already familiar with. All provide good food for thought.

#1: Showrooming Is Not Much of a Threat

One stat shared at the conference was that 89% of money is still spent in the store. While I wasn’t able to follow up on how this was measured, it jives with another set of stats where 76% of consumers have participated in showrooming but 88% have participated in webrooming, meaning they look it up online and go into the store to buy it. The panel on showrooming, which included big box practitioner, Rick Castanho of Lowe’s, seemed to agree that showrooming was something you need to be aware of but not afraid of.

The data shows that the customers are still coming into stores (even when showrooming); make sure you have the systems, product, and teams necessary to take advantage of these face-to-face opportunities.

#2: Sport Chek Shows How to Create an In-Store Experience

Sport Chek is the largest Canadian retailer of sporting clothing, sports equipment, with stores across Canada. Deon Blyan and Matt Dellandrea of Sport Chek (FGL Sports) broke down how Sport Chek has re-imagined its retail spaces to create experiences that begin the moment the customer walks in the door and keeps the customer engaged through interactive technology.

The video below shows some of the innovative things Sport Chek is doing:

#3: Speed Matters on the Front Lines

Eighty percent (80%) of consumers will abandon an in-store purchase if they have to wait more than five minutes for services like helping them find products, answering questions, or checkout. Just a reminder: in customer service, speed doesn’t kill; the lack of speed does.

#4: Hointer Is Cool

Nadia Shouraboura was a speaker at the conference as well as one of my co-panelists. Nadia is a former Amazon exec who left online retailing to create a company that interacts face-to-face with customers. (How could I not love that!). To understand some of the ways that Hointer is innovating the retail space, simply check out the video below:

#5: New Technology Requires Rewiring Old Line Approaches

Mark McKelvey of REI gave one of my favorite presentations of the conference, because one of the topics he addressed was how technological initiatives affect front line teams (more about my perspective on this in next Monday’s post). Omnichannel strategies, attempting to make the customer experience seamless across channels, is the goal of most organizations today; however, as McKelvey pointed out, achieving a seamless omnichannel approach required changing legacy incentive programs. Teams that were incentivized on store sales would naturally funnel customers towards store purchases, even if that was not the best solution for the customer or company.

The change: Teams are now incentivized on regional sales, which includes website sales and which makes the incentive program itself omnichannel.

#6: Making Wool and Mirror Magic

Hafez Adel of Combatant Gentleman was a co-panelist with me as well, and he shared some of the fascinating things CG is doing with technology. Combatant Gentleman is a men’s clothing company that controls all aspects of the production process (vertically integrated in biz speak) and is able to deliver quality goods at a much lower cost by eliminating layers of markup.

This, in and of itself, is innovative. However, CG is also innovating shopping with its “magic” mirror. CG has a two-way mirror that reads RFID-enabled clothing that a customer is wearing. The mirror then displays relevant information, such as price and related items. When it comes time to check out, customers can simply use Combatant Gentlemen’s app.

#7: Disruptive Innovation Should Center Around the Customer

Mike Wittenstein of Storyminers spoke on the Disruptive Innovation panel. Mike is a colleague and fellow member of the Global CX Panel and has been “doing” innovation since back in his IBM days. Store of the future is one of Mike’s specialties — so when he speaks on the topic, I listen.

Future Stores Technologies | Mike WIttenstein Speaking

Mike Wittenstein speaking about disruptive innovation.

One of the topics was how should innovation be approached, incrementally or through disruption. The approach, of course, depends on a variety of factors, but Mike pointed out how important it is to keep in mind the customer when approaching the topic. “The most important thing is to understand sooner what the customer’s intent is. That’s the big elephant on the table. We don’t know what the customer wants.”

I hope you enjoyed the takeaways and technologies from Future Stores. The above list represents only a sample of the informative content that was shared at the conference. If you have a high interest in store of the future technologies or design, keep an eye out for next year’s show.

Also, make sure to check in two weeks from now for our follow up post: 6 Steps for Rolling Out New Technology to Frontline Staff.

Photo Credit: CTS Service Solutions, LLC

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Toporek
Adam Toporek is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast. http://beyourcustomershero.com


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