How True Religion encourages store associates to embrace eCommerce

One of the most challenging issues of seamlessly integrating eCommerce with retail stores is incentivising store associates to embrace online orders.

John Hazen, SVP of direct to consumer at denim brand, True Religion, said his biggest concern about combining online and offline channels is making the experience right for store associates.

“They’re not paid terribly well and they’re transient, so you can’t expect them to understand how to use high complex pieces of software for things like in-store fulfilment, endless aisle transactions – you have to make it really easy for them,” he said, speaking to Essential eCommerce at the Demandware Xchange conference in Miami this week. “No one gives you a manual for your iPhone, you just know how to use it because it’s intuitive.”

Hazen – who has been working with Demandware for the last couple of years on in-store projects and its web platform – said his IT team specifically changed Demandware’s endless aisle solution to take out the in-store checkout functionality. 

Demandware’s endless aisle solution allows customers and store associates to use the retailer’s web platform in store, ensuring retailers do not miss out on sales if items are out of stock.

“We took the regular Demandware site and put it in kiosk mode, but we ripped out the checkout functionality, which was the biggest change,” he explained.

Hazen said it is very important for store associates to get the immediate credit for their sales, “no matter what”.

“So I insisted the transaction had to go through the traditional point of sale, or the store associate is not incentivised," he said, pointing to the inherent friction between stores and a retailer’s website. 

“A store associate’s job is to hit a sales number, and all I’m doing is just coming in and stealing inventory from your stores or giving you tools that take away from the only reason you are here and the only way you are measured on your success. I haven’t seen a retailer that doesn’t measure on store managers hitting their targets.”

Hazen also said it is very difficult to credit the store for online sales made through the in-store kiosk because the credits go through a separate system than the in-store POS and are reported at a later date. 

“The better answer is Demandware integrating with the POS system they acquired [Tomax], because something that doesn’t go through the traditional POS is not the answer.”

Meanwhile, True Religion is about to introduce in-store fulfilment capabilities and Hazen hopes to incentivise staff through gamification. 

“Instead of me pushing the order to you as a store and saying you have to fulfil it, I’m going to allow stores to grab these orders and use it to improve KPIs of their own and measuring stores bonuses perhaps.”

Hazen is looking at developing the tool but is unsure whether it will run on the retailer’s current order management system or through the Demandware web platform. But his main priority is to ensure the tool is very user-friendly.

“We will have to build something that is a great experience – something like Uber or AirBNB – build out a tool like that, integrate it into UPS and everything else.”

Hazen said he is also about to launch a consumer facing application next week with Demandware. He expects a couple hundred thousand installs of his mobile app which is beacon-driven and sends information on the customer as they walk into the store straight to store associates via Apple Watch. The store associates will be able to see everything the customer has bought from True Religion with a glance at their wrist.

Speaking about working with Demandware, Hazen praised the eCommerce provider for its scalability. “I’ve never had to worry at night about what cyber Monday is going to look like from a load perspective – I just don’t worry about it. And they upgrade constantly and nothing is ever broken,” he said.

“Cloud is about seamless upgrades so you can get on with the running of your business and that’s the magic of Demandware that no one else can touch right now. The other guys are just hosted servers and they still go down,” he added, before comparing Demandware's system favourably to larger players in the market such as Oracle and IBM WebSphere.

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