Q&A with Rob Avery, VP of Professional Services, STRATACACHE
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What are the most important connected store trends for retailers to focus on?
Rob Avery: Personalization has been around for a long time. With technology, loyalty apps, computer vision and everything from license plate readers to facial recognition, all the IoT features that we can offer know who you are while you’re there.
How can you make the experience as seamless as possible? Through personalization, which dovetails into buy online, pick up in-store, I can use that kind of concierge or white glove experience. People are going to continually expect that.
RTP: What challenges have retailers faced regarding designing a connected store journey?
Avery: A lot of the same challenges faced by my team as we focus on creative and development with a heavy focus on UX — many retailers face the same things when they’re trying to understand the customer and work backwards. By leading with UX, we try to understand the personas that we’re helping solve problems for. [Using] first- and third-party data, retailers understand what customer activity was like online and mapping that to what’s happening in the store. There’s definitely a gap there. And if we give transparency into why we’re collecting data as we’re building up these solutions, customers will be a lot more accepting of it.
RTP: What are some of the most useful solutions in connected store design that retailers have embraced?
Avery: Sometimes it’s simple. Sometimes it’s complex. We have hardware that is an embedded player with a screen on 23-inch or 47-inch shelf-edge displays, and it’s great when used in conjunction with buy online, pick up in-store. During wintertime, if my order is ready and I pull into a special parking spot, it would be great if an outdoor board showed me where I am in the queue and when my stuff will be ready so I don’t have to get out of the car. It’s that transparency for the end user customer, or even the back of house staff.
Using QR codes that allow the customer to change content they’re seeing on screen are useful. We’re trying to make sure to deliver a similar in-store experience that is comparable to the experience and expectation a customer has when using Amazon or a brand’s site reviews, videos or product information. In-store, rather than having to get out my phone and start researching, how great would it be if that information were at my fingertips?
RTP: How has IoT facilitated the development of connected store design?
Avery: A customer came to us when sales were dipping among a certain product for which they were once the No. 2 seller in the region. This business wanted to examine user behavior after rolling out a new planogram and had a hypothesis about customer behavior. We used heat maps along with the door counter. The client had a native app so we were able to do some Bluetooth stuff. But we wanted to see all customers, not just somebody with a loyalty app. We relied on three stereoscopic cameras that showed the hypothesis was wrong. We developed a new planogram and the company went from approximately 30,000 units a year per store to 70,000, and ended up becoming the No. 1 seller of the product. It’s IoT but it’s relatively simple.
Other customers go toward the other end of the spectrum. Another retail customer in Thailand wanted an SDK (software development kit) and a native app. They have a geofence and we used an IoT device embedded in parking spaces. When customers showed up, through the native app, they said ‘I’m here.’ The brand wanted a tight turnaround for the customer.
RTP: In what ways have interactive digital signage and kiosks enhanced the customer experience?
Avery: Having UX at the core of the tech we’re building creates that North Star. How do you make the experience fun? How do you make the store different than online? Give people a reason to come.
Leaning into kiosks, enhancing the customer experience, we’re now showing how we can do personalization where people would scan loyalty app badges. If you’re a large retailer, you’re scanning loyalty information but we don’t want to be creepy about it. You’ve given us information that helps with personalization. It’s going to bring users back to the seamless fun, novelty and delight all day that is different from shopping online.