Luxury brand True Religion uses technology to “slow customer down”

True Religion’s head of omni-channel explains how in-store technology is helping to slow customers down and make conversion more likely

Luxury clothing retailer True Religion has combined “endless aisle technology” with its mobile point of sale (POS) system to engage customers more with the brand, making them more likely to buy something as a result.

The brand’s head of omni-channel, John Hazen, says the in-store technology was introduced to “slow the customer down” during their browsing experience.

“Our flagship store in New York probably has the best representation of our view of what the store of the future is going to look like,” Hazen says.

“Our number one goal is to get people to slow down. If we can get them to look around for just a couple more minutes and start to interact with them, we’re going to have a better chance of converting that customer.”

True Religion’s e-commerce website is built on the Demandware platform. It caters to customers used to shopping using a number of channels.

In its stores the retailer has installed a number of large LED touchscreens, dubbed its digital salesfloor, which allow assistants to help customers search through the products offered by the brand.

This endless aisle solution replaces Demandware’s online checkout capability with a bar code that can be scanned by sales assistants, who will complete the transaction on their mobile POS terminals.

The kiosk in your pocket

“This is different to a kiosk,” Hazen says. “The consumer has a kiosk in their pocket. We all do – they’re called phones.”

“This is a Demandware-driven endless aisle solution with checkout removed, and it’s designed for the store associate to really showcase different products to the consumer.”

Hazen says the technology is for sales assistants to show customers products that may not be available in-store but might be available elsewhere in the retailer’s pipeline.

“They’re really designed for the store associate to try and help you find product across the entire enterprise,” Hazen says.

“There’s no way for a consumer to check out on here. They can’t put in their shipping address, their credit card, none of that.”

Giving sales assistants credit

Hazen says the solution ensures sales assistants get the credit for the sales they’ve made.

“Our business is a very high-touch business. It’s not a self-service module; it’s a merchandising tool for the store associates.

“So if you wander in and you’re looking at stuff and we don’t have a hoodie in your size, you could just order it on your phone while you’re walking out the door, but our sales people are sellers, they’re not just service people.”

Because sales assistants get the credit for their sales, they don’t become resentful of other consumer touchpoints, which helps omni-channel adoption across the business.

Smartwatch for finding stock

The sales assistants are also equipped with Band, a smartwatch that can access inventory. Like the POS system, Band is powered by Aptos Enterprise Order Management through a smartwatch application developed by Formula 3 Group .

“Band is the endless aisle on the wrist of the store associate. This combines slowing a consumer down and putting all the inventory we have across the fleet into the wrist of the store associate.”

Sales assistants can talk directly with customers about what they want from True Religion, search the inventory on their watch, and project products on LED screens around the store.

Items can be filtered using different categories in a similar way to the in-store touchscreens – by size, colour and style across all stores and warehouses.

Customers can then decide to buy the item in store or order it from another location, and the sales assistant can take credit for the sale using the mobile POS system.

“I’m a big believer that for omni-channel to succeed in stores, first the store associate has to get credit for that sale the way they do every other sale,” Hazen says.

“It can’t be something that happens after the fact. It has to happen at the exact same time and show up on all the same reports as every other sale, otherwise they tend to avoid using omni-channel and tend to avoid using the endless aisle to create that transaction.”

Both the touchscreen search technology and the Band technology are commonly used in store to search for children’s clothing, because these products are not featured in all of the True Religion’s bricks and mortar stores.

The use of the technologies has led to a doubling in the brand’s “charge and send” business, whereby transactions are completed in store and goods are subsequently sent on to customers.

iPad beater

Hazen says the solutions would not have fared so well if implemented in the way other stores have – using an iPad and customer login credentials.

“If you go to a lot of retailers and say “can I see your endless aisle solution?”, they’ll pull an iPad out from behind the counter and then they’ll have to sign in and get to the website, and by then you’ve lost the consumer. 

“The whole selling experience has been broken by that. With this, it’s a moment where we can actually look at things together. I can showcase and put on a show for you with this endless aisle solution.”

Visuals to attract

For True Religion, this need to slow people down stems from having small stores, and not always having items in stock – the store design resembles a showroom.

“It’s very easy to walk into a True Religion store, quickly look around and walk out, because most of the stores aren’t very big,” Hazen says.

The company is trialing digital signage, but Hazen says this needs more work.

Currently the signs display promotional content only, but Hazen aims to work with the True Religion marketing team to develop creative ways to use signs to slow customers down and engage them in the shopping experience.

“Our goal is to really create a Trojan horse for the brand. We want people to walk by the window, to see content that is interesting, maybe slow down, just look at the content and then notice True Religion,” Hazen says.

“It’s not just another TV screen or TV commercial. We’re trying to do something different with the LED screens.”

What’s next?

Hazen explains that originally the touchscreens allowed customers to filter products by store, but the option was removed because the inventory was not accurate enough.

“If I’m lucky, some day before I’m dead we’ll have RFID and inventory accuracy in stores where you have loss prevention and all that other good stuff that happens, but as of right now we just can’t get the inventory right enough,” Hazen says.

Currently the retailer has a tool called Blackbook, developed by Formula Three group, which allows store staff to look up all customers who have ever purchased an item in True Religion.

“I see your lifetime total, I see all of your transactions, I see your virtual closet with pictures of everything you’ve bought,” Hazen explains.

Currently the Blackbook data is consolidated by a person in the True Religion team.

“We’re using Aptos or POS and we use them for our order management system as well, so all the transactions that happen in store and all the transactions that happen from Demandware online both flow through the same CRM system and we merge those together.

“We have a person on my team who actually reconciles that into one customer.”

In the future, the retailer hopes to build on the system to create a visual tool to display a customer’s history, which will be connected to the True Religion application when it comes out later in 2016.

When you enter the store, a sales assistant will receive a notification you’ve arrived, along with information on products you’ve bought, the styles you like and what you might want to buy based on past transactions. The team is also working on introducing a loyalty scheme.

“Before you even walk up to the store associate they will know your preference in terms of fit, what style you usually go for,” Hazen says.

Read more about omni-channel retail

  • Accenture research finds customers think retailers could provide a more unified approach across all platforms.
  • John Lewis and Waitrose have attributed an increase in sales and customers to their growing omni-channel offerings.

The store can send personalised emails to customers, but has also noticed the greater importance of texting for younger people, who want to receive messages when new products come in.

“In the next 30 days we’re going to have texting built into the clienteling tool [Blackbook], so all the texts back and forth with the customer will be part of the clienteling tool,” Hazen explains.

“Our younger clients don’t want emails. They want a text with a picture of the product that’s come out.”

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excellent interview/overview
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