Ellis Brigham exploring new in-store technology deployments

Outdoor and adventure sports equipment retailer Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports is considering various new technology deployments, illustrating the evolving role of specialist retail stores.

It is part of what the retailer has identified as a need for shops to become more concierge-like – focusing on offering practical advice rather than solely providing row upon row of product, according to Chris Rigg, the company’s retail director.

“We’re looking at some sort of tablet or kiosk system, so our sales operatives can tell customers anything about product ranges and – whatever the size of store – they can access all stock,” he tells Essential Retail.

“In the past, we’d hand out catalogues or tell people to head to the website. But with kiosks you can bring that alive in the store, and we’re talking to companies in the coming weeks about how we do that.”

Rigg says the retailer is also currently conducting a trial on its website with conversational search platform, Zoovu, which uses artificial intelligence to direct users to products more efficiently.

“At the moment it’s just on the website but this is where our future is. If you can’t see a sales associate in store, we may have a tablet or kiosk where customers go to a product selector.”

Ellis Brigham stores are on a journey to becoming more tech-enabled (image credit: ellis-brigham.com)
Ellis Brigham stores are on a journey to becoming more tech-enabled (image credit: ellis-brigham.com)

Commenting on the retailer's approach to investments, he adds: “I don’t think it’s about ‘is it online or is it in store?’ anymore. It needs to be in both places – it’s all just customer service whether that’s digital or physical.”

Rigg suggests the retailer might also look at putting apps on staff’s own mobile devices to support them when serving customers. Such a move would be indicative of the more proactive, advisory role store staff at many retailers play today.

“When I was a store manager 15-odd years ago I would have gone round and ticked them all off for having their mobile phones on the shop floor, now half the time they are showing customers the website or looking at other stores’ stock for lead times,” Rigg notes.

As reported by this publication, Ellis Brigham has already introduced Qudini’s online booking system for customer appointments. It will also soon be using the supplier’s virtual queuing tech to ensure walk-in customers seeking a consultation can check in on their mobiles, leave the shop, and wait to be alerted when an available slot emerges.

Rigg says a lot of effort has gone into the reopening plan after lockdown, ensuring stores are operating in a suitable way for these times. The online booking service for in-store consultations was a major part of that work, but so too, like the wider retail industry, was preparing staff and setting up shops in accordance with official safety guidance.

But now attention is turning to the bigger picture, he notes, acknowledging summer is traditionally the “fallow period of the year” ahead of the winter rush. “We’re now open and it’s relatively quiet on a day-to-day basis [at head office], so we’re turning our attention to longer term projects where we can add more value.”

Photo credit: ellis-brigham.com