Time Warner Cable, New York City
Time Warner Cable’s flagship in Manhattan offers shoppers a customer-centric, digitally savvy experience, complete with a large video wall, interactive product demos, a digital fireplace, and several large 21" tablets that combine product learning with internet browsing.
Multiple five-screen video walls, which are located around the store, and smaller signage tablets highlight relevant offerings to customers as they consult with associates. The showpiece of the store is a larger-than-life 90" custom-built tablet that looks and behaves like a giant mobile device.
Each piece of technology was strategically placed in the store, with customer and employee traffic flow, crowding, engagement zones and sightlines taken into careful consideration. The placement of digital experiences was designed to encourage traffic movement in some areas while discouraging crowding in others, and various techniques were used to draw customers in. The screens are placed so that they are visible from different locations in the store, each playing a different role in the customer journey.
Design: Fame, Minneapolis
Digital installations: Reality Interactive, Middletown, Conn.
Empowering sales associates in an information-enabled world
The way people shop has completely changed over the past five years. A large part of this change in behavior has been driven by online access to information. Shoppers now have easy access to more product information than ever before. Yet as the modern buying experience has changed dramatically, the in-store experience at most retailers has remained frozen in time. In particular, most sales associates do not have tools at their disposal that might allow them to keep up with the information-empowered shoppers they now serve.
The result is shoppers are increasingly frustrated that sales associates don’t have access to the information needed to serve them while associates are left wondering why they can’t get at any more information than they could a decade ago. Technology is finally making it possible to enable sales associates to deliver the type of breakthrough customer service that shoppers expect.
Some retailers have already deployed mobile devices to their sales associates and many others are contemplating a similar move. Doing so helps sales associates take care of customers more effectively. In our experience in working with retailers, we find the greatest return comes from focusing on projects and capabilities that give associates access to deep information that can help them answer questions more effectively, make better product recommendations, and transact sales quickly and easily. In our work with retailers we have seen a 20% to 50% uplift in sales when shoppers are assisted by an associate with a tablet and access to product information alone.
For retailers looking to leverage the power of mobile technology to enhance customer service, there are four main areas where our experience with clients suggest retailers have the greatest opportunity. They include:
- Access to deep product information — Associates need to be able to answer detailed questions about products. Providing ways to make accessing product information as easy as scanning a bar code is a critical first step in giving them the ability to answer customer questions. Imagine if your sales associates, armed with a tablet, could share detailed product specifications and measurements, product reviews, price comparisons, assembly instructions, videos and press coverage with a shopper while they are considering a purchase. This information is available today but it is locked away in back-office systems and paper documents or spread across multiple sites online where it is useless to associates trying to help customers in the store. Unlocking the value of this information and making it easily and quickly available to your front line sales people is a good first step for a retailer that wants to quickly demonstrate the ROI of empowering associates.
- Access to customer profile information — Many customers have interacted with a retailer’s website before coming into the store yet associates rarely have access to customer profile information that would help them deliver better service to shoppers. Associates with access to past purchase details, wish lists or registries could help them make more informed recommendations for products that work with or match previous purchases, or items that shoppers have already indicated an interest in. That same customer profile information should be readily available should a customer want to have an item shipped to their home address to avoid having to re-capture a customer’s address information.
- The ability to sell items that aren’t physically in the store — Associates should be able to sell any item and have it shipped to a customer’s home even if that item isn’t immediately available in the store. Associates can offer an “endless aisle” of products and options to choose from and help shoppers get exactly the item they need quickly and easily.
- A way to communicate with each other — Equipping store associates with a mobile device can not only enable better interactions between associates and shoppers, it can also facilitate communication between associates. Group chat and forums can help associates share tips and tricks, get questions quickly answered and learn from each other.
While online access to product information has changed the way that customers buy, mobile technology is finally giving retailers a way to take the information assets they have access to and use them to transform their in-store experience for customers. Sales associates represent an untapped sales asset for most retailers that technology can transform into a source of customer delight.
April Dunford is COO of Tulip Retail (http://tulip.io), a provider of store associate tablet solutions designed to give retailers’ store associates a customer service advantage.
Staples takes 3D-printing in-store experience to N.Y. and L.A.
Staples has partnered with 3D Systems, a leading provider of 3D content-to-print solutions, to pilot 3D printing services in two stores in New York and Los Angeles.
Each store features an immersive 3D printing experience center that lets consumers and small businesses create personalized products and use 3D printing hardware. Customers can also bring in their own 3D print-ready files to have them printed.
“3D printing offers enormous potential for small businesses, and by using Staples, they can print with the technology without having to invest in it,” said Damien Leigh, SVP of business services for Staples. “The test with 3D Systems will help us learn about our customers’ needs for a local 3D printing service, and how Staples can help them make more happen for their business through 3D printing.”
“Staples established reputation as a leader in home office and small business solutions makes them an ideal partner for testing out live, consumer-facing 3D print services,” said Rajeev Kulkarni, 3D Systems’ VP and GM for consumer products division. “We have been thrilled with the retail experience and response from our audience, and the difference it makes being able to see, touch and experience 3D printing.”
With the new experience centers, both small businesses and consumers are able to learn more about 3D printing through demonstration areas where they can use design software and see 3D Systems printers in action. Each store will have a photo booth to capture customers’ facial images for the purpose of personalizing 3D products like figurines, and customers can also print personalized smartphone cases.
Each store has an expert from 3D Systems on-site, along with trained Copy & Print associates to help guide customers. Items will be printed on site or through 3D Systems and shipped directly to their offices or home.
In May 2013, Staples said it would be the first major U.S. retailer to carry 3D printers, with the launch of the Cube from 3D Systems on Staples.com. The company has since rolled out 3D printing hardware and accessories in a limited number of stores and expanded its overall product selection.