Engaging consumers in a channel-less world

A few years ago, conversations in the retail industry were all about being “omnichannel” — but today, the world is so connected that the phrase “channel-less” seems more appropriate. Retail encompasses online, mobile and in-person experiences, and retailers face a challenge in implementing technology that facilitates a seamless journey. In this episode, we talk with Chris Silver, director of global retail strategy and international for URBN, which includes the brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People, to learn about the technology and experiences that keep customers engaged.

Shoppers want a seamless combination of experiences when they enter a store. “The associate should know everything about me to help me and guide a personalized experience in the store,” Silver says, “just as we work toward guiding a personalized experience online.” It’s pivotal, then, to make sure associates have access to information — in a way that doesn’t detract from the interaction.

That’s where Silver and his team come in, working directly with associates to understand their daily needs. “Any project that comes up,” Silver says, “we always think, ‘Well, what does this do for her? What does it do for the business? What does it do for the associate?’” When a stylist is helping a customer put together the best outfit for spring or pick out the perfect couch for their living room, they can’t be worried about how to use technology. Technology has to complement the experience so associates can focus on engaging with the customer — in whatever way the customer wants to be engaged with.

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There’s a balance to be struck between giving associates the tools to make them more efficient and ensuring those tools don’t detract from the personal interaction. “That’s where customer service comes to the forefront,” Silver says. It can be easy to chase shiny new objects, but every decision comes down to one thing: Does the technology add value to the customer experience?

When it comes to new technology, Silver emphasizes the importance of testing. When Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters rolled out self-checkout kiosks, the team noticed that rather than the kiosk removing a customer touch-point, “customers are actually getting more attention,” Silver says, “and the associates are getting more time to spend with them, helping them, curating their look.”

Listen to the full episode to learn more about how the retail industry is adapting to a channel-less world, why URBN strives to make every physical location a unique experience and the role technology plays in retail innovation.

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