3 AHA moments about tech and the associate experience from Retail Insights Denmark
The experiential retail revolution is in full swing. And the evolving but crucial role of technology to deliver great in-store customer experiences is at the heart of this ongoing industry transformation.
During Retail Insights Denmark, northern Europe’s largest retail conference, Axonify’s VP of Global Partnerships, Liam O’Meara, was joined by Thomas Nørøxe (CEO of Joe & the Juice), Dhi Matiole Nunes (co-founder of The Latest) and Martin Urrutia (Global Head of Innovation and Retail Experience at LEGO) for an informative discussion about how to leverage technology to improve the store experience for all and better meet rapidly changing consumer behaviors by enabling store staff.
Here are 3 of the biggest AHA moments from their panel.
1. Friction doesn’t always have to be a negative thing
Wanting friction in stores might seem counterintuitive to the ongoing movement for self-serve, seamless experiences, but it’s a notion worth exploring. Why? Because friction is human, and it allows for learning opportunities and interaction between staff and shoppers, if treated as such.
“We enjoy a bit of friction because, first of all, it’s real,” says Urrutia. “It allows our store teams to interact with our guests and get to know them. I know it’s very important to have those stores with no staff, but I don’t think it offers the right experience when you’re shopping for toys. Having more friction enables our store teams to engage with our guests. Eliminating 100% of friction would make it too cold and automatic.”
And it appears he’s not alone in this thinking.
“We want more friction,” offers Nørøxe. “We want to have that human interaction. Everything that you see in our stores has to be handcrafted and consumers find it more entertaining to really interact with that. That’s where we use tech to give workers the tools to enhance that moment between them and the guest.”
2. Boring stores are out, bespoke experiences are in
Unimaginative, predictable (and sometimes flat-out boring) retail experiences just aren’t cutting it for today’s shoppers. But they can happen when retailers are too focused on the status quo and not focused enough on innovating the people side of the shopping experience.
Retailers have a unique opportunity to use technology to create memorable and meaningful bespoke experiences that encourage shoppers to explore, get inspired and ultimately lead with their wallets. Urrutia emphasized that it’s past time to recognize tech for its dual purposes: convenience and engagement.
“Who wants to go to a bad or boring store? We have not only the responsibility to be experiential, but the expectation from shoppers that they’ll be able to visit, have fun and engage with us when they come,” he says. “My team’s focus is ‘How do we use technology to engage people and build on excitement?’ Along with making sure that associates will get the job done correctly and our shoppers can save time.”
Nørøxe agreed. For him, fostering innovation in Joe & The Juice stores—from health to ambience to sustainability—has helped them keep up with competitors and stay on track for building their next 100 stores.
“Understanding our customers today through digital media and also social media is very important to who we are as a brand. Not only can I talk about the great coffee, juices and food that we have, but also the connection we have with our people. Technology enables us to continuously speak with the new generation and take them on board to further embrace the things that will give them a better experience.”
A great experience with your company can turn customers into brand evangelists, but stores that don’t offer innovative opportunities will continue to see the same heads-down shoppers who buy only the essentials and leave as quickly as they arrived.
3. Tech use needs to be meaningful or not at all
A tech-enabled store can accomplish a lot, but the technology’s use should be intentional and in-line with what your brand is trying to accomplish during an in-store visit.
“We should use technology to enhance who we are—not change who you are,” Nørøxe says.
After all, digital distraction from devices that don’t need to be there can actually end up detracting from the overall shopper experience.
“We try to use technology in a very meaningful way for customers,” says Nunes. “What we don’t do, for example, is have an iPad beside each of our products because people would spend much more time looking at pictures and videos than touching and feeling products.”
“The Latest is an experience-focused store where we encourage that kind of interaction with each product. Instead, we use tech to scan the entire store, so we know exactly what’s happening in every square meter. We can know how many people have passed in front of products, how long they stay, their demographics and more. Then we use that data to give all the brands the same attention and attraction by moving products so there are no more cold spots.”
Leveraging in-store tech should be evaluated through the customer lens with an eye towards the purposeful journey you want them to take from the moment they step inside to when they visit the checkout. Today’s retailers must understand that enhancing the shopping experience needs to leave room for human interaction that’s deliberate and meaningful.