Retail Customer Experience: Small Surf Shop Plans to Overtake E-Competitors With Technology
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer Experience, a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.
Friction, a newly opened surf and skate shop in New Smyrna Beach, FL, is banking on technology to outsell its competitors, particularly its online ones. The store has outfitted its staff with iPads equipped with Apple’s FaceTime, a video calling software application for supported mobile devices, to connect online shoppers with in-store reps.
“We honestly didn’t feel comfortable competing directly with other online skate retailers who can offer similar products at similar price points, but with a much more robust automated ordering system in place,” said Dekker Dreyer, managing director at Friction. “It felt old, stale, and tacked-on.”
Adopting the technology allowed Friction, which opened its first store last month, to avoid competing on the same turf as even the more established online players.
“We could beat them on our home court with experienced sales reps that know our products and live the brand,” Mr. Dreyer said. “When you dial into Friction you don’t just get a customer service call center, you get guys who represent, in every way, what our products are about. We’ve found a way to expand the hip little indie shop feel into online retail.”
Social media commentator Jeff Greenhouse agreed, saying that the type of online-offline convergence that Friction has embraced could bring the human element back into online shopping.
“That’s something that has been lost in the rush to e-commerce,” he said. “Phone conversations and web chats just can’t replicate the experience of a real face-to-face interaction with a knowledgeable representative. I would expect to see a lot of other retailers follow Friction’s lead and offer this type of hybrid shopping experience in the next 12-18 months.”
Discussion question: Do you see the potential for advanced online video chat technologies to bring the in-store experience to online sales? Can the “human element” at brick & mortar serve as a major competitive advantage versus pure online retailers? What hurdles may such adoption face?