BIG INTERVIEW: Thomas Sabo's Ivar Campbell Cole

Jewellery retailer Thomas Sabo is looking to use new in-store technology to help ensure it can maintain consistent levels of good customer service across its global retail operation.

Through a new partnership with in-store analytics provider ShopperTrak, the jeweller is confident that it now has the tools in place to efficiently manage its store staff rotas based on footfall patterns, which will enable the company to provide a positive level of service in its 86 stores across 13 different countries.

The move comes at a time when the importance of the store experience is pushing to the top of many retail boardroom agendas, and Ivar Campbell Cole, operations and project manager at Thomas Sabo, told Essential Retail that the physical retailing experience is crucial for jewellery businesses like his.

"We have found, especially in the UK, that online is incredibly important but our stores are equally important," he explained.

"A lot of our managers are reporting back this year that people have found the product online but have actually entered the shop to buy it. Yes, we have lost some sales through showrooming, but the internet is helping us the other way as well.

"Buying jewellery is such an emotional process – you want to try it and touch it – so for us, all channels are supporting each other."

It is against this backdrop that Thomas Sabo has started working with ShopperTrak to count customers and identify sales patterns in the store environment. Over time, the retailer will now be able to look holistically at how merchandising, training, staff scheduling and individual locations impact global sales and conversion rates.

Previously, Thomas Sabo worked with a solely customer-counting company, but senior management are now keen to take advantage of new technologies to capture richer data.

"Before we had a footfall counting system we could only really use turnover to evaluate our store performance, but now we can look at conversion rates and our store managers can see all this data in a nice user-friendly portal," Campbell Cole noted.

"They contain average conversion values and ShopperTrak is hopefully going to introduce items per receipt or items per customer so it becomes a one-stop shop for our managers."

ShopperTrak cameras are placed above the shop-floor so they only show the top of customers' heads, and footage is not stored. This has allowed Thomas Sabo to roll out the in-store analytics system to countries where there is more complicated legislation surrounding data protection.

"This has been very useful because of our home market is Germany, where surveillance laws are much stricter than they are in the UK," the operations and project manager acknowledged.

"Because the ShopperTrak analytics tools do not record anything or capture people's faces, it has allowed us to expand this system into our wider markets."

Store managers across the Thomas Sabo network are currently learning how best to use the new in-store analytics, and Campbell Cole says that they majority of them have embraced the new technology.

He said that many managers have identified the tool as something which can benefit them individually, as well as the company as a whole. Others have taken some time to get used to the new way of operating, but area and regional managers are spending time highlighting the potential positive impact it can bring to the company.

"We are in the process of teaching our store managers about the key performance indicators and letting them know that just a 1% increase in conversion rates might equate to thousands of pounds in revenue increase," Campbell Cole added.

"It's a big project and there are lots of things to learn. Managers want to improve store performance, so they are willing to embrace any tool that helps them achieve that."

Thomas Sabo has an array of concessions within department stores around the world, and the next stage of the ShopperTrak partnership will see the analytics system introduced in these shop-in-shops. Individual footfall won't be counted in these typically crowded selling areas but the implementation of performance analytics is seen as a way of helping the retailer's senior management gather an overview of the entire estate's performance.

It is another example of the retail store coming into focus once again, and Thomas Sabo is clearly confident that introducing in-store analytics is the right move for its business as it looks to grow further in the years ahead.

"One of the reasons we like the Shoppertrak tool is, for us, customer service is incredibly important," Campbell Cole explained.

"It's a competitive market out there, and it allows our customer service levels to be consistent across the global estate. They would expect the same service in Hong Kong, Canada and London, etc – and that's all about staffing.

"I hope it will get us to a more consistent customer service level, which is very important for a brand like us."

Jon Crossick, UK managing director of Thomas Sabo, will join ShopperTrak's regional sales manager Charlie Taylor at RBTE 2014. Their conference session, 'Empowering the Store: Foot Traffic Data and In-store Analytics for Sustainable Growth', will take place in Theatre A at 11:30 on 11 March.