As shoppers increasingly gravitate toward tablets and smartphones as personal shopping assistants, innovative retailers are moving in lockstep by arming store associates with mobile devices to help deliver a better overall shopping experience. Integrating video into physical stores via tablets is still a largely unexplored road, and there are definitely some areas to consider, according to Seth Brady, director of user experience and conversion at Brookstone.
"Like any multi-channel retailer, our challenge is to deliver an engaging and consistent experience across all channels. At Brookstone, we're also exploring ways to leverage mobile devices and video to improve the overall customer experience across those channels, whether these devices are in the hands of our customers or our associates. "
Brookstone first considered bringing video in-store with the launch of a custom iPad app during the 2012 holiday season. "We tested an iPad app on a limited scale at first to help us gather information on how tablet video could work in-store," Brady explains.
Brookstone has used tablets in-store for several years. "Our associates fly the Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter and demonstrate Brookstone's Big Blue Audio line via iPads/iPods and Bluetooth technology. The tablet has proven to be a powerful, demonstrative asset," added Brady.
Businesses interested in using tablets in-store should consider the environment. Reliable wireless Internet connectivity is key to the experience.
Brookstone's experience showed that access to video on-the-fly in order to share in selling situations is a key engagement ingredient. "Initially we spent a lot of time developing a search auto-complete feature to make it easier for associates to search for products. However, what we found while testing was that associates were far more inclined to navigate via tapping from category to category, not via search, to get to a product page," Brady says.
This initial testing yielded some great insights about user behavior with both tablets and video content, and opportunities to expand use of video to create a more engaging in-store experience. "Brookstone is committed to delivering a one-of-a-kind brand experience for our customer," Brady says. "Even though we invite customers to pick up and physically engage with our products in-store, there may be features that are not readily apparent that can really shine with video. Video enhances the overall experience of the product, which in turn drives better engagement with our brand."
Another tablet-centric opportunity the retailer is pursuing leverages video as an associate training tool. "Video is a powerhouse on the sales floor when it's used in training situations," says Brady. You can package up a 15-page PDF on a major product, send it out to the field, and hope this gives the associates what they need to become product experts. But we know that people learn in different ways and have found that video as a training medium can be much more impactful than the written word. You can digest more information faster in a visual medium. So when the associate does engage with the customer about the product, they can provide a very helpful, knowledgeable experience and ultimately close more sales on the floor."
"In all, we are pushing video and mobile together in some exciting directions," he says. "We're harnessing the power of video and making it easier for our in-store team members to use video as a tool to share knowledge with customers." Asked what the future holds at Brookstone with regard to integrating video and mobile, Brady only says, "It's an emerging space, and one that we're excited to be a part of."
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Justin Foster is an entrepreneur specialized in e-commerce and online marketing. In addition to co-founding video commerce startup Liveclicker, Justin also founded the Video Commerce Consortium, the industry's largest trade group devoted to advancing the use of video in e-commerce. Prior to Liveclicker, Justin led the services practice for WhatCounts, an email marketing technology provider, where he was responsible for client strategy and development. He also founded the Email Marketing Roundtable, an industry group that represents over 1,500 email marketers worldwide. Justin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pacific Lutheran University with emphasis in Information Science and Entrepreneurship and a minor in Chinese from Beijing Foreign Studies University.