Zumiez, a specialty retailer of apparel, footwear and accessories for young men and women, is blessed with a loyal customer base. The Seattle-based retailer has worked hard to create a culture of top-notch customer service, led by its store associates. However, those store associates were hamstrung by a dated point-of-sale (POS) system that wasn't integrated with other Zumiez stores as well as the company's e-commerce site. Essentially, each Zumiez store was operating in isolation when it came to identifying the customers that walked through its doors.
That's no longer the case. After a successful 2015 pilot, Zumiez is partnering with Starmount, a retail solutions provider that powers the store as the center of the omnichannel experience, to deploy its Customer Engagement Suite and POS solution across its networks of stores in the U.S. and Canada this year. In a conversation this week at the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City, Troy Brown, executive vice president of e-commerce and omnichannel, and Rory Hudson, vice president of IT, both of Zumiez, discussed how this new software will improve the customer experience.
"Prior to working with Starmount, the stores were trying to connect with the e-commerce site as best as they could, but it was really hard to execute because of the underlying technology,” said Hudson. “From a customer perspective, each store acted in isolation. So if I shopped in store A, then went to store B, store B couldn't access my information from the experience in store A.”
This disjointed customer experience didn't meet Zumiez's high standards. Furthermore, in today's omnichannel world where consumers expect a great experience every time they interact with a brand, if Zumiez didn't provide this level of service, if figured to be left behind.
"A core element of our culture is empowering our teams to provide a great brand experience,” Brown said. “We believe our customers are having brand experiences rather than channel experiences. Because most of our transactions happen in physical stores, we knew we needed to provide a seamless brand experience, so we empowered our store team to provide an exceptional digital experience as well. To create an even stronger brand experience for our customers, we need to capture more information from each channel so we get a more complete picture of our customer.”
Starmount's Customer Engagement Suite is helping with that challenge. For example, Zumiez now has a real-time connection with its loyalty program. This enables store associates to pull up a customer profile, offering purchase history and customer information, but also how many loyalty points they have. Furthermore, the platform has tools that enable Zumiez's store associates to enhance the selling experience, including endless aisle (i.e., buy a product online that's out of stock in-store) and reserve online, pay in-store.
"For a lifestyle retailer, it's really about the combination of the digital and physical experience customers are getting,” Hudson said. “You want that experience to be the best one possible. Starmount software allows our teams to do that in a way that we've never had before.”
Eliminating Channel Conflict
Zumiez is now able to connect the dots between how customers engage with the brand online and in-store, and vice versa. That's created an opportunity for empowered store associates, who can serve shoppers better and, ultimately, convert more of them into customers.
"We are breaking down the idea of channels,” Brown said. “We believe customers want seamless brand experiences, not channel experiences. Our customers are having great brand experiences in both the physical and digital worlds. The measure of success is did they engage with the brand and transact. They vote with their wallets.”
Starmount offers an omnichannel data hub called Connect, which lets Zumiez bring data from all different facets of its business – inventory, order, CRM – into the store, where the associate can use it to drive a more personalized customer experience, from the point of decision all the way through the point of sale.
"We live in a world of empowered consumers – they want what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and they want it fast,” Brown said. “They want a great brand experience, and the real measure of a great brand experience is if your business is growing. Putting tools in the hands of our team and enabling them to give a great brand experience is part of that. By meeting customers’ high expectations and delivering great brand experiences, you will drive long-term growth.”