10 Key Takeaways from the Internet Retailing Expo 2015 (Part 2 of 2)

10 Key Takeaways from the Internet Retailing Expo 2015 (Part 2 of 2)

On Wednesday 25th March, and Thursday 26th March 2015, The NEC, in Birmingham, United Kingdom, played host to the Internet Retailing Expo 2015 - a E-Commerce and Multichannel-focused expo, attracting retailers, industry experts and visitors, from far and wide.  The show attracted more than 5,000 visitors - a 20% increase YoY.

This is the second of a two-part blog post, covering 10 key takeaways from the "Mobile in Multichannel" talks I attended, at the Internet Retailing Expo 2015.  Remind yourself of what was covered in "Part 1".

6. Invest your your time, money and effort, into in-store tech, wisely

Clarks, SchuhRiver Island and Made.com all shared examples of how they have each invested previously in-store technology, but all four organisations have seen varied levels of success from their efforts.

ABOVE: The outside of a Clarks store.
[SOURCE]: V3.co.uk, (2015). [online] Available at: http://www.v3.co.uk/IMG/839/211839/clarks.jpg [Accessed 18 May 2015].

Chuck talked about how Clarks installed in-store Wi-Fi throughout their stores, which made a lot of business sense, but in turn, didn't quite work out so well in a physical shoe store.  Without really eluding to why this wasn't as successful as anticipated, "Showrooming"  (using in-store WiFi, to compare prices, with other retailers) may to some extent have contributed towards this - particularly, if Clarks find it difficult to compete on pricing with their competitors.  I must stress, that this is purely speculation; however, as someone who often (rather naughtily) abuses Boots' in-store Wi-Fi for this exact purpose, it's quite possibly, the case.

He did however suggest that a future involving digital signage, iBeacons and in-store Wi-Fi, could change the way we shop in-store.  The combination of this technology would open up all sorts of personalised advertising opportunities.

Stuart also made a great point, on the back of his experience in trialling in-store technology, with Schuh:

Customers in our experience, don’t interact with store technology - they interact with their own technology, which is often newer, than what we have on offer in-store. We shouldn’t prohibit the ability for customers to use their own technology.

ABOVE: A Square Reader which into the standard headset jack of your smartphone or iPad, allowing you to transact anywhere.
[SOURCE]: Friskymongoose.com, (2015). [online] Available at: http://friskymongoose.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/square-action-shot.jpg [Accessed 18 May 2015].

That said, they have seen success from mobile point of sale, whereby in-store colleagues each have access to an iPod Touch, with a built-in card reader that allow staff to transact anywhere in-store.  He pointed out, how it's shaved a whopping, 100 seconds off the time it takes to complete a transaction in-store - a real queue buster in that sense!

Likewise, River Island's, Helen Colclough, shared with us how all in-store colleagues at her organisation, have Android devices to help with assisted selling.  Their initiative, to offer the Instagram app pre-installed on each of these devices, helps store staff to better understand what the Business are looking to push most, in an effort to help sell those garments, in-store.

Made.com, predominantly being a pure-play retailer, have a much smaller physical presence in comparison.  That said, Annabel Kilner, talked us through some of the cutting-edge in-store technology, her company have trialled, in their three showrooms.  Being a furniture retailer, space can be an issue.  As such, Made.com have introduced 3D projections of some of their bespoke items in-store.  Mac stations are also available in their showrooms for customers to browse the full Made.com range online.  In-store colleagues, are similarly kitted out with iPads.  Annabel said that NFC technology has seen real success in-store.  They work with a company called, "CloudTags"who specialise in the use of smart tags, sensors and tablet devices, to find out more information about the products on show in-store.  In essence, when a customer arrives to a Made.com showroom, they will be able to pick up a tablet and scan any product in-store.  The customer will then be presented with more detailed product information, along with an array of social sharing options.  They essentially take home a wishlist.

ABOVE: A look into Made.com's use of smart tags.
[SOURCE]: Vimeo, (2014). Made Case Study. [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/103937106 [Accessed 17 May 2015].

56% of customers use these devices in Made.com shorwooms.  21% then go on to e-mail themselves their wishlist.  Annabel said that these customers are likely to go on to convert well - there's no need to send them follow-up e-mails in that sense, especially given that we're all already bombarded with e-mails in our everyday lives.

Made.com are looking to further invest in in-store technology over the coming months, where they see key opportunities and areas for growth, in personalisation (through iBeacons), social showrooming ("Made Unboxed"), augmented reality (first trialled in Notting Hill Gate showroom, but still early days for consumers), image recognition and 3D modelling tools for room planning.

7. Break down, internal, competitive barriers

ABOVE: Newcastle United teammates, Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer, fighting midway through a match.
[SOURCE]: Metrouk2.files.wordpress.com, (2015). [online] Available at: https://metrouk2.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/wpid-article-1269355595927-08d6a758000005dc-506266_636x300.jpg [Accessed 18 May 2015].

Schuh's, Stuart McMillan, made a great point about the importance of working together towards the same objectives and sharing data internally.  The example he gave, was around the point of in-store colleagues seeing Schuh's digital presence, as competition to their in-store sales effort.  He said that the brick and mortar stores are very much numbers and KPI's-driven, so training is required to share knowledge with the in-store staff regarding why they should be talking to customers about the benefits of things like, offering electronic receipts from a physical tillpoint, for example.

During my time with Boots, all Head Office employees were asked to spend a minimum of a week each year (usually in the build up to Christmas, or immediately after), working in-store, getting to know our in-store colleagues and the work that they do.  This way to help better understand how what we do at Head Office affects those working in-store, and vice versa.  Prior to doing so, I was somewhat sceptical about what I was going to gain by way of knowledge from the experience, but it turned out that I actually learnt a lot.  Having spoken with a number of in-store colleagues, it was immediately apparent that there was friction between the in-store staff and Head Office, so it was good to be able to rectify some of those misconceptions.  This two-way learning process actually helped to reassure the in-store staff that we are doing everything we can at Head Office to listen to their individual needs (as well as the customers').  The customer feedback shared by those working in-store also greatly helped me, as somebody working in the Customer Experience (CX) Team, to better appreciate the areas we needed to focus and improve upon, within our team.

ABOVE: A Boots store similar to the one I worked at.
[SOURCE]: Siliconangle.com, (2015). [online] Available at: http://siliconangle.com/files/2015/03/boots-store2-1080x675.jpg [Accessed 18 May 2015].

Looking back, this was a great initiative on Boots' part, and one that I would strongly advise other retailers to consider.  The more we, as retailers, look to focus on our omnichannel efforts, the stronger the relationship we need to build between our Head Office and in-store staff.  It's imperative for both parties to work well together to ensure a "great" customer experience.

8. Adopt and integrate new payment options

Nearly all of those presenting, highlighted the importance of adopting and integrating new payment options, as being key to retailers' future success across mobile.

According to Clarks', Chuck Cantrell:

The payments industry is definitely in for a revolution - I think it deserves it actually.

River Island's, Helen Colclough, was of a similar opinion:

Payment providers need to catch up to today’s standard of mobile technology, but this is obviously easier said than done.

Helen also pointed out the current difficulty and frustration customers face, in attempting to use 3D Secure on mobile.

ABOVE: A "Pay with Amazon" button displayed on a retailer's website.
[SOURCE]: Cdn.abclocal.go.com, (2015). [online] Available at: http://cdn.abclocal.go.com/content/wls/images/cms/104387_1280x720.jpg [Accessed 18 May 2015].

Both Apple Pay and Amazon Payments were referenced as two examples of payment methods that retailers may look to introduce to their checkout processes, in the near future.

SecretSales.com CEO, Nish Kukadia, said that Apple were looking to play the "long game" with Apple Pay, suggesting that it's not here for the short-term, with reference to the NFC technology we have access to today; however, there is lots of fascinating research, about where this is emerging.  Chuck also eluded to the fact that with Apple Pay entering the industry, it will really change the way both retailers and customers alike, view payments.  He went on to say, that consumers become more and more comfortable with security, when vendors like Apple and Amazon are involved.

ABOVE: Example mobile checkout flow with Klarna integration
[SOURCE]: Checkoutblog.klarna.com, (2015). [online] Available at: http://checkoutblog.klarna.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/mobile_flow_kco_blog3.png [Accessed 18 May 2015].

Swedish-based, Klarna, were also given the thumbs up by the presenters, thanks to their "Buy Now, Pay Later" approach to payment, which gives the customer up to 14 days, to pay for their order.  Further still, Klarna assume all the customer risk, meaning that the retailer gets paid, even if the customer fails to pay Klarna.  It's worthwhile noting that the customer also has the opportunity to pay for their goods, immediately, if they wish to do so.  This particular payment method, was highlighted as being "interesting" for European-based retailers, where Klarna payment is deemed to be the norm, particularly in Germany.  

Nish expects the introduction of Klarna as a payment method to SecretSales.com, will increase conversion by 4% across mobile.

That said, Chuck said that it would still prove difficult for Klarna to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon.

Interestingly, there was no mention of PayPal as being a payment method worth retailers considering as an addition to their existing payment options.  PayPal offer a fantastic mobile solution, yet still, so few mainstream retailers have chosen to introduce it to their mobile checkouts, even though it's been around since 2006!

9. Consider the benefits of ALL emerging devices, not just smart watches

ABOVE: Some example LG apps built into their range of Smart TVs.
[SOURCE]: Flickr - Photo Sharing!, (2015). LG Smart TV app store. [online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/whichtechnology/5330207343/ [Accessed 18 May 2015].

Following the growth in usage of media streaming devices (e.g. Apple TVChromecast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV), smart TVs, smart watches, smart wristbands (e.g. Fitbit and Jawbone) and wearable technology in general, should retailers now be thinking about focusing their efforts on designing and developing apps for use with these devices?

Nish certainly seems to think so.

As far as smart TV apps are concerned, I'd have to disagree.  My experience with using apps native to both the Apple TV and Roku, is far from brilliant.  All of your interaction is reliant on the use of a remote control, which is very restrictive.  In light of the the fact you can mirror your smartphone / tablet apps straight to your TV (using most media streaming devices), I honestly can't see the benefit in designing a native, Apple TV app, for example.  I think time, money and resource could be better invested elsewhere.

To some extent, I'm of a similar viewpoint, as far as smart watches are concerned.  Personally, I'd suggest waiting to see if they actually take off, before rushing to design an app for the sake of doing so, as they may prove to be a short-lived fad, (like Tamagotchis were in the '90s)!  Yes, to date, most of what Apple touches, has turned to gold, but this may be one of the few exceptions.

Nevertheless, make sure you're aware of emerging technologies, and the benefits they may offer.  Research is crucial.

10. Personalise the experience

Although, only briefly touched upon, both Lysa and Annabel, talked about opportunities surrounding iBeacon technology, and their uses for location-based marketing.

A quick Google search serves up some great case studies of retailers who have, or are, experimenting with this technology (Macy's, American Eagle Outfitters, Tesco and Waitrose, to name a few), many of whom have seen success from combining it with digital signage in their shop windows.  In turn, this has allowed them to serve personalised offers (through the digital signage) to individuals in the vicinity, who have the retailer's app installed on their smartphone.

The beauty of this approach is that personalised offers can be served 24/7 - even when the brick and mortar store is shut.

ABOVE: A look into House of Fraser's use of iBeacon technology.
[SOURCE]: YouTube, (2015). VMBeacon by iconeme. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/5gouBpwwcvM [Accessed 17 May 2015].

And that's about it!  All in all, the talks were fascinating and offered valuable insight into other retailers' experiences with mobile.  I'd certainly consider going again next year.

On a slightly unrelated note, I thoroughly recommend checking out retail-innovation.com, which showcases some great examples of digital innovation in retail!

Joe Pendlebury AKA "The UX Chap"

Further Reading

Sephora: Beauty and the CX Beast

Sephora: Beauty and the CX Beast

10 Key Takeaways from the Internet Retailing Expo 2015 (Part 1 of 2)

10 Key Takeaways from the Internet Retailing Expo 2015 (Part 1 of 2)