Interview: Dune takes steps to understand in-store bounce rates

Basket abandonment and bounce rates are phrases traditionally associated with the online world, but as the retail world continues on its digital journey this language is finding its way into the store manager's lexicon.

We've been told for years that online pure-plays have an advantage over bricks and mortar retailers, in terms of customer knowledge, because of the digital footprint people leave behind when they visit a website. But technologies are now emerging that can give businesses more information about the behaviour of shoppers in their stores.

Companies such as Finnish firm Walkbase and Portugal-based Movvo have the technology and the analytic capabilities to help retailers and shopping centres understand customer behaviour in more specific detail. Both vendors are targeting the UK and Europe as part of wider global growth strategies, and footwear retailer Dune recently kick-started a partnership with the former to help shape its store operations.

Dune's retail omnichannel manager, Dave Abbott, says the company will be looking to use the Walkbase technology to gain real-time insights on customer conversion, visit patterns and customer journeys, as well as to measure the impact of visual merchandising and monitor staff performance.

"From a store manager's perspective, it's great; you can see conversion and dwell time for the previous hour – so they have more information to hand if they need it," he explained to Essential Retail.

"From a business perspective we see it more as a weekly summary, which we do with conversion any way. We can understand how our customers shop differently in different settings – shopping centres, high streets, different parts of the country – it's really interesting to see how we get more information from that data."

When the partnership was announced earlier this month, Dune was clear that it will be using Walkbase's capability to incentivise its store staff to provide a better customer service.

Abbott commented: "The key deliverable, which sold it to us, is we analyse data on conversion. It tells you how good your day is and how many people have converted, but you see dwell time and you get a bounce rate.

"The correlation between those areas will be key. For example, if you are a manager that has been on an hour lunch break and dwell time increased, you know staff were doing well, or if it decreased then customers weren't being engaged."

As footwear sellers, Dune staff are obligated to serve every pair of shoes they hold in stores – there is no element of self service for customers visiting one of the company's 50 UK stores or its franchised store network around the world.

"Obviously if you're not engaged with customers you'll lose that sales opportunity straight away – that's a real key focus for us to begin with," said Abbott, reflecting on how the Walkbase tech will be used in the immediate term.

"We'll expand on that at some point to look at numbers of staff versus abandonment rate and bounce rate."

The Walkbase technology replaces traditional footfall counting procedures at Dune, and is just one example of the retailer upgrading its systems for the modern retailing environment.

Importance of the payment piece

Last week, all of Dune's London stores introduced Apple Pay-friendly NFC terminals, meaning customers in the capital city can tap and go with their smartphones when purchasing shoes and accessories.

"The tech looks great and I think it makes the payment journey more seamless which is what you need to do as an eCommerce business or a bricks and mortar business," Abbott explained. "It should be the easiest piece, actually making it simpler at the till."

Reflecting on new ways customers can transact with retailers, including the recent Topshop-Barclaycard collaboration which sees a range of items such as wristbands, smartphone cases, stickers that hold a small bPay contactless chip used for payments in store, he added: "It's interesting how payment might change where you're not just swiping cards you're swiping nearly anything to pay for stuff in stores."

Dune is keen to be a leader in introducing some of the new technologies available to retailers operating on the UK high street, and it had hoped to launch with Apple Pay in the summer. But at the time, the processes were not fully in place for all retailers to accept £30+ Apple Pay transactions, and Dune does not typically sell products for under that price.

Abbott understands the plethora of new in-store tech available today is necessitating a significant educational drive for retailers, to ensure their staff understand how new systems function. Marks & Spencer was a launch partner with Apple for its UK mobile payments unveiling, but Abbott agreed with this publication that there were numerous examples of store staff unaware they could even accept this transaction method.

"We've done a lot of training around Apple Pay and whenever we launch a new technology. If you're main job is selling shoes it's actually quite hard to keep up to date with what is going on technology wise.

"Hopefully our store staff are well up to date with it."

Smart store tech and new horizons

Essential Retail has covered a broad spectrum of stories on how virtual reality and smart mirrors are being deployed in retail stores, with Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren recently experimenting with those technologies respectively, in the US. Burberry, meanwhile, is an acknowledged leader of using in-store tech at the point of sale.

But could any of these features find their way into a Dune store in the near future? Abbott is not so sure.

"It's hard to work out how the investment repays itself at the moment," he said.

"If you are a Burberry or a real high-end brand, you can add value to the product. In Burberry, they had interactive mirrors and every bag had its own video. It's an amazing experience undoubtedly, but when you're doing it for stores that have several thousand people coming through on a Saturday and it's not a huge store format you limit your space."

Dune has trialled Google Street View in its flagship London store, but Abbott expects that kind of tech deployment might be more useful in a larger multi-brand arena such as a department store. Indeed, much of the company's focus from a tech perspective is going towards delivering one view of stock, using systems from Island Pacific, while the business is close to a roll-out of mobile point of sale across its store estate.

Staff scheduling technology is also being assessed, and the likelihood is that RotaGeek's software will be used alongside Walkbase's analytics, allowing Dune to measure in-store traffic bounce rates in conjunction with staff levels.

"We looked at some of the bigger players but if you're not scheduling for big warehouses or real big business you end up paying a fortune for something which is overcomplicating the system. RotaGeek doesn't take all the decision making away from the manager, which is what we're trying to get to."

And like many retailers, Dune is looking to grow its top line through international expansion – and opening stores in foreign territories has become a high priority. It will be unveiling a second store in New York City in the coming weeks, following a successful launch in the Big Apple in 2014.

"It's a huge area with lots of people and has an international feel to it – that sits quite well with what we do," Abbott acknowledged.

Dune's second NYC store will open in the Roosevelt Field shopping centre in early December.

Dune Group marketplace manager, Lorna Beament, will be speaking as part of a panel discussion at RBTE 2016. The event takes place on 9-10 March 2016 at London's Olympia, and you can click here to register for a free visitor pass.

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