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In-store CX: New Balance and Rituals

During our visit to NYC for the NRF 2018 Big Retail Show, Essential Retail was invited to join Salesforce to take a look at two innovative store designs. Both New Balance and Rituals are Commerce Cloud customers using Salesforces’ eCommerce solutions, but on this tour we headed to their stores on 5th Avenue to check out some of the innovative technology they are using to create unique experiences for customers visiting a physical store.

New Balance, 150 5th Avenue, NYC

As you walk into the New Balance store on 5th Avenue, the first thing you see is an illuminated ceiling timeline which tells the New Balance story while guiding customers through the store.

If you follow the timeline to the rear of the store you are met with a foot measuring machine which has the ability to 3D scan customers’ feet within a mere 1mm margin of error, in the hopes of reducing the level of returns from ill-fitting shoes.

The Volumental machine is integrated with an iPad application which the staff use to show customers their 3D scan and to advise them on particular styles or insoles to help find the right fit of shoe.

Ellen Dorsman, key account manager at Volumrental pointed to a 20% increase in conversion rate for New Balance when the sales assistant uses the technology to scan a shopper’s feet.

Jamie Merrick, Salesforce's director of strategic solutions for commerce cloud, said while the 3D foot scanning technology is a way to make interactions with the brand more personal, it could also be used to connect with a shopper’s online experience.

“For example, customers getting a personal fit analysis in a shoe store could be encouraged to create an account that they can access online,” he said. “With this insight from the customer, a brand could deliver a more accurate and personalised recommendation on which other shoes would be a good fit or could complement the purchases they've already made. I think we'll continue to see retailers who are ahead of the curve strive for that seamless transition from in-store to online (and back again).”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the store, a glass partition wall separates the store from a product customisation workshop area, with industrial machines lining the walls. Here customers can watch shoes they have designed using the New Balance app being made right in front of them.

Merrick described this New Balance workshop as “retail theatre”.

“Mini-factories are encouraging more customers to come in-store to experience the brand and, in turn, driving loyalty,” he said. “In my mind, that's the sort of initiative that will help retailers stand out from the growing competition coming from the likes of Amazon and Alibaba. It gives shoppers something extra to ensure that they keep coming back. It's actually something that the sporting goods sector in general has done quite well by embracing that desire for personalisation.”

Rituals, 172 5th Avenue, NYC

Customers visiting the Rituals store on 5th Avenue are greeted with a serene welcome and a waft of the calming Rituals scents.

Unlike New Balance, the use of technology in this store is less obvious. A face-to-face personalised experience is of the utmost importance to new balance.

Rituals CEO, Raymond Cloosterman described his company as a “true experience brand”.

“You come into the store and receive a hand massage and a cup of tea and we also have spas in some stores to deepen the grand experience. We’re not too pushy to sell and we try to make you feel welcome,” Cloosterman explained, speaking to a group of NRF delegates visiting the store.

He said the brand was the product of a “dream which got out of control.” Following a corporate career at Unilever, Cloosterman launched Rituals in Amsterdam after travelling the world.

“A few insights I gained was the need to slow down, we don’t know what it is to enjoy the little things in lift anymore.”

He said the Rituals stores themselves have become the company’s advertising medium, as it reinvests all of its money back into its stores and to make better products.

One investment was to create a smartphone application with Salesforce Commerce Cloud which provides a sales channel for the brand, as well as yoga videos and meditation exercises. The yoga and meditation element acts as a customer retention tool because the app becomes part of their daily routine and lives. 

“One of our dreams is to take yoga and meditation as a platform,” said Cloosterman.

Merrick pointed out that much of the brand’s in-store experiences are ‘touch-and-feel’ as opposed to digital.

“From the water island where every guest is welcomed to try the products themselves to the herbal tea that you are offered as soon as you walk in the door,” he said. “The challenge is in delivering that same experience online – where scents and textures don't come across. With the app, Rituals has addressed this by creating an interactive experience. To look at how to bring the experience to mobile, the app features magazine-style content, recipes and meditation programmes that align to the brand philosophy. By focusing on experience first – and then following it up with a seamless purchase journey – they are able to engage customers and differentiate themselves.”

But Cloosterman said the company is not in a hurry to deploy the latest technologies. “I tried to build an omnichannel – I hate that word – business,” he explained. “To get eCommerce to 20 % you have to do things differently, and offer the necessary applications such as click & collect.

“We’re not in a hurry, we’re one of the younger brands and we owe it to ourselves to build this integrated approach.”

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