Theatro’s SVP of Marketing, Adam Silverman, gave his second podcast interview about Future Stores Seattle with MarketScale Retail, a B2B digital content publication. You can listen to the podcast HERE or read a summary of the interview below.
BACKGROUND ON ADAM SILVERMAN, THEATRO SVP OF MARKETING
First, a little background on Adam Silverman. Adam has extensive experience innovating and operating multichannel retail businesses. For nearly 20 years, he has held eCommerce and marketing leadership positions for top tier retailers such as Musician’s Friend, Target, and Wet Seal. During that time, he led significant digital transformation projects including selection and integration of enterprise commerce applications, created award winning digital shopping experiences including the first social commerce application, and developed effective brand strategies.
As Principal Analyst at Forrester, Adam drove research and thought leadership of in-store technologies and strategies and has been featured as a retail technology thought leader on NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Internet Retailer. The following interview summary is from his perspective as a retail thought-leader and technology innovator.
ABOUT FUTURE STORES
Future Stores Seattle took place in mid-June in Seattle, WA- it’s an industry event for retailers operating physical stores that looks at the future of retail store. Retailers who attended discussed the current state of retail and vendors talked about what the future of stores looks like. Its overall a great conference for the industry to get together and discuss the physical retail.
There is a ton of transformation that is occurring now in this industry. The current store is antiquated and has not changed significantly since the rise of “the mall.” Consumers coming into stores are armed with cell phones whereas only 10-15% of associates are connected. This has created a dynamic where consumers have become more empowered than the associates. So, from customer’s perspective the store’s value has diminished. Consumers want the product immediately and look forward to engaging with an associate who is very knowledgeable. That’s where Theatro can help—Theatro makes a voice controlled mobile app platform which assists the instore associates and helps them to stay connected. It’s a voice-controlled technology, like Alexa or Siri, that connects associates to each other and to enterprise systems through the power of their voice. Associates don’t have to look down at a screen as voice apps runs on the platform. It’s like a smart phone without a screen. So rather than using your finger to interface with a screen, you can use your voice and simply say “check inventory.” It is a game changer because voice assistance is a new interface for associates. Everyone is connected to Theatro in a new way that is more productive and helps customers to request tasks, acknowledge the help that is needed at front end. Every associate is connected with power of voice.
INTRESTING TRENDS TAKEN FROM FUTURE STORES
Future Stores conference is headlined as the in-store experience conference. It deals with digital transformation with a focus on customer experience. Most retailers are focused on the front end of it like interesting displays, personalized targeting promotions and virtual reality etc. That’s interesting and it can drive benefits but they need technology that delivers operational excellence. Suppose when you go to a store and don’t find what you are looking for—it’s a bad experience. You end up finding the information on your phone and find another retailer who has it. It is important for the store to have the right item at the right time. And that’s where AI comes into the picture like in supply chain and merchandise planning. The customer won’t even know that that technology exists. But what they will know is that the retailer has the right product at the right time and that equates to a positive experience. Theatro plays a significant role on the operational side.
At Future Stores, there were themes likes “omnichannel is dead”. Omnichannel is a process where all of retailers’ systems are connected; such as buy it online and pick up in store or vice versa. All of infrastructure is connected and provides unified experience. This is outdated now as it focusses mainly on systems and not the customers. Most associates don’t have basic access to inventory information. And omni channel should be a part of an integrated system with completely seamless sources of data across all channels. It’s not extremely profitable. But it is customer centric; therefore omni channel is dead because everyone has to do it.
HOT TOPICS AT THE CONFERENCE
The other theme is customer experience. It’s not an initiative but it is a mindset change. In the digital world it is a lot easier to test the user experience. In a store, it’s a little bit harder. For example, changing a fixture. It takes a lot of time to decide how to change it and allocate the time/resources to get it done. This process makes in-store change too slow to happen. It’s best when retailers borrow the ideas of digital like A/B testing to quickly test improvements to the instore experience and move faster at implementing the most effective changes more broadly. There are not many retailers who have this mindset het though.
Imagine if you could deploy a process change across five different stores, five different test cases and see how they perform. This can be done with Theatro but retailers need to get there first. Retailers are still hanging onto their old point of sale solution and they think of replacing it only at the end of its life or when it is not functioning correctly. But retailers need to think of the customer’s needs. If they’re using outdated technology, they are likely to lose market share. An up-to-date point of sales system is a must—one that allows them to meet needs of customers.
The other final thought is associates being connected. Lot of point solutions are around changing schedules, training etc. Retailers buy these from various vendors so they end up being separate systems that are not integrated or connected to various systems. This is where Theatro comes into the picture! It’s a flexible platform that connects all the systems under one roof.
There is a presentation by Sam’s club where they are using technology to measure and improve the checkout. Self checkout is longer than having an associate doing it, but consumers felt that it was faster and better than having an associate doing it. A frictionless checkout or no checkout would be an interesting application here (like Amazon Go). Regardless, the retailer should offer a flexible option. Some days a customer has a ton of items and needs the help checking out. Other days they’re not int he mood to chat with anyone and want to self-service. This decision depends on the day and the context. Speed is the key customer care-about at checkout and Theatro can help here too. An associate simply says “Register backup” and they actually get immediate help (without the noise of overhead paging or the “wait and hope” that someone actually comes).
The main theme of Future Stores Seattle was to experiment with new technology and try to move out from the old technologies faster!