As new reports show e-commerce taking over a greater share of the shopping landscape, brick-and-mortar retailers are looking for a new path to growth. For brands like True Religion, the designer denim company with hundreds of branded boutiques and specialty stores dotted around the globe, the best way to combat e-commerce giants is by providing in-store customers with a more upscale, personalized shopping experience.
If online shopping is DIY, then John Hazen sees shopping in a physical store as the full-service alternative. As SVP of direct to consumer at True Religion, Hazen is overseeing the company’s push into using mobile technology to better understand buying patterns and elevate the in-store experience for customers.
“It’s no secret that today’s retail landscape has shifted from ‘shopping efficiency’ to experiential. Customers want and expect elevated treatment from their brands. Specifically, brands that they frequent,” Hazen says.
Through a partnership with Aptos and Formula3 Group, True Religion has been able to extend the functionality of its Apple Watch app. Associates on the sales floor are alerted via Apple Watch haptic response whenever members of the brand’s loyalty program have entered the store. The Apple Watch app incorporates profile photos from loyalty members’ social media profiles, so associates can recognize and greet customers by name. They are also able to pull up details of all previous interactions, both on the web and in-store, along with buying patterns, sales histories, and suggested selling recommendations based on the data that’s been gathered through the Aptos CRM.
Speed is at the heart of most e-commerce plays. But True Religion believes its success will come from offering a slower, more personalized approach to upscale shopping.
“The number one thing it has done is slow the customer down. When a customer slows down we are more likely to convert them, the customer is simply more engaged,” Hazen says. “Our store associate can have a conversation, show them things interactively, ‘throw’ products on the screen to start a conversation, it creates more — and longer — one-on-one moments.”
True Religion’s new app also serves as a link between store associates and the retail enterprise. Store associates can lookup product inventory details and help customers complete their transactions from anywhere in the store, which means more cross selling opportunities and shorter lines at the point of sale.
“It boils down to connection, and often an associate has minutes, if not seconds, to make that connection,” Hazen says. “The more you can relate, and be relevant to a potential customer can make all the difference between them walking out, or converting.”
From an operational standpoint, the system helps associates and managers understand which products are trending in each category or location. Associates can also filter items by price point. This eliminates the information gap that often lies between associates who actually work with customers and executives who may work in office buildings across the country.
Hazen believes that the Apple Watch represents a great opportunity for success in the mobile retail technology market because it’s less likely to get left behind, as compared to an iPad, and more mobile than a traditional desktop computer.
“In contrast to say an iPad, which gets left around the store and there is this ‘lookup’ or ‘warmup’ period that adds too much friction to the consumer interactions,” he says. “With the watch, the store associate will always be ‘on’ and notified in real time. A wearable doesn’t get left on a counter.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.