In-store retail technology – the future is now

In the last years, we have seen technology changing the face of fashion and retail. The Web together with online buying practices are increasingly shaping the shopping experience, giving to innovative brands the possiblity to stay closer to consumers and create a more personal offer.

This article in The Guardian, for example, highlights a great impatience for online innovation in the fashion industry.

But how is this online innovation making its way in store?

Last October, CloudTags launched a pilot installation in a prominent London luxury department store. This installation mixed technology with the sales staff’s traditional ways of selling apparel. While it was a resounding success, getting the staff on-board initially was one of our major points of focus as the early days were met with some healthy skepticism.

CloudTags tablets in action.

CloudTags tablets in action.

One of the main factors for this success is related to the understanding of technology as a staff enhancement rather than a substitution.

In fact, to quote a popular expression, the tablets in store have increasingly contributed to “mixing business with pleasure”.

From a “business” perspective, having a device enabling to interact with products in store is beneficial to build and maintain long-term relationships with customers. Considering that popular items are frequently out-of-stock, the chances of in-store purchase are proportionally decreased. The possibility of emailing people and sending them the styles they have noticed or tried in store means giving the customer the opportunity to buy them online or the impulse to come back later. Also, the idea of sending style images and descriptions of items instead of writing it down on a piece of paper or using a blurry and poorly lit mobile phone picture has certainly been a great support in the associates everyday job.

The tablets have represented a source of inspiration for staff. By filtering styles, brands and colours, they have been facilitated in helping people finding the right product. As cited by one of them, “this is extremely beneficial for staff, since many of us don’t know which styles we have in store and what to suggest to customer throughout the different brands”.

Sales associates not only appreciate the new experience brought by the device, but they also have started making requests about what to add in the application, which highlights a deeper perception of the value brought in store by technology. For instance, they suggested creating an email notification feature in order to inform customers when their style/size has arrived in store or add upcoming arrivals and the possibility to join a waiting list for new products.

On the other hand, from a “pleasure” perspective, CloudTags has involved and engaged the staff from day 1 with education and  small competitions in order to encourage them to using the tablets with customers and have fun doing it. As one of them said, “getting emails and winning stuff is certainly more entertaining than folding jeans all day long”.

As of 2014, it is time to recognize that the growing power of technology in the physical retail space means it doesn’t have to be something obtrusive and clunky, but can be used to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. Welcome to the future.