Date: August 2, 2012
Published on: ITinCanada.ca
By: Rachel Levy Sarfin
The next time you fly to Philadelphia, take a look around the shops in the airport. Even if you are not in the market for a new cell phone, stop in Airport Wireless anyway. You will discover that stores like Airport Wireless are going to completely change the way people shop.
In the next few months, Airport Wireless will be installing technology from Vancouver-based SaaS firm iQMetrix. The retail services provider offers two products to help stores attract and retain customers as well as process their transactions. XQ Interactive Retail is a suite of applications which allows customers to connect to merchandise through touch screens that provide in-depth information. RQ Retail Management system is SaaS-based software which helps retailers control their inventory, simplify the sales process, create a database of customer details, perform accounting and reconciliation programs, provide information to employees and monitor the store’s performance.
XQ Interactive Retail begins working before the customer enters the retail outlet. Advertisements displayed on large screens using the AdPlay function of the system will catch the eye of passersby. Using XQ Stream, outward facing screens can also show social media streams. Once inside the store, rather than walk past walls with hooks full of dangling merchandise, shoppers will approach tables with large touch screens. With the flick of a finger, customers can page through product descriptions and compare wireless phones. Once they have decided which phone they want to buy, a salesperson retrieves the product from the back room. If the customer makes a purchase off the display screen, XQ Interactive Retail sends the electronic shopping basket to the point of sale. (XQ Interactive Retail integrates with any point of sale software.) If a consumer is not ready to buy, the salesperson can send information about the product in question to the buyer’s phone.
Anne Weiler, vice president of marketing at iQMetrix, explained that Airport Wireless came to her company with this concept for a future store. “It aligned well with XQ Interactive Retail,” she said. Weiler added that the tables with touch screens create a “clean” look in the store, as the merchandise no longer clutters its walls. Because the inventory is stored in the back of the store and not readily available, Weiler believes rates of theft in such stores will decrease. The concept might remind some shoppers of Apple’s stores, although at Apple stores, shoppers test live devices whereas at XQ Interactive Retail-powered stores, buyers use touch screens to view product specs and other information.
Airport Wireless is not the first store to feature XQ Interactive Retail technology. Sasktel rolled out the product information display system in September 2011 in over 11 of its stores. At Jump.ca, the largest authorized Sasktel dealer, the conversion rate of visitors to customers rose from 11% to 29% after the software was installed. Walkouts decreased from 6% to 0%. Weiler added that the drop in walkouts increases salespeople’s confidence.
Weiler’s firm created XQ Interactive Retail because of what she called “the tremendous disruption and shift” taking place in retail. This shift began with the rise of eCommerce. Customers can now shop at any time, and with mobile devices, anywhere. However, bricks-and-mortar retail outlets allow shoppers to see the merchandise up close and handle it, talk to a salesperson and “walk away with the product.” Armed with their smart phones, consumers now enter bricks-and-mortar stores with their networked mobile devices, look at the item they wish to buy and then purchase it elsewhere online. Weiler referred to this phenomenon as “showrooming.” “Showrooming” hurts retailers, as they lose revenue while struggling to pay rent and retain staff. “Retail needs to change to provide a superior experience to online” shopping, Weiler explained. “Technology in the store can deliver a better experience.”