Interview with Trevor Sumner, CEO of Perch Interactive – Sidney Evans

As an investor, adviser, and operator in spearheading tech for almost twenty years, Trevor Sumner is not any stranger to tackling disruption and popping out alive. His present company, PERCH, has managed to innovate the in-store experience in a approach that really integrates digital. The omnichannel strategy that Trevor and his group implement is the type that takes shoppers’ steps in the direction of, touches of, and interactions with a product and transforms them into content- and data-driven experiences that gasoline additional discovery – and, of course, purchase. In reality, the ensuing sales lifts land anyplace between 30% and 80%, a variety that retailers corresponding to Neiman Marcus, Kate Spade, and Estee Lauder are prepared to guess on.

For all of the reasons above (and extra), we decided to have a chat with Trevor and name upon his information throughout 3D sensing know-how, campaign administration tools, and gadget administration to see how magical in-store experiences might be constructed to surprise and delight clients for giant and small brands alike.

Sidney Evans: To date, in 2018, retail bankruptcies are starting off the best way they led to 2017 with a battlefield of retailers not in business. In your opinion, what is occurring in retail? Why do you assume some manufacturers have been unable to outlive this shift? Why do some embrace change and succeed? Give a couple of examples of brands which have capitalized on the shift and their keys of doing so?

Trevor Sumner: I feel this retail apocalypse story is sort of a bunch of hooey. There are so much of bankruptcies and store closures, but there are simply as many retailer openings. However you don’t hear that story, do you?

There are tons of metrics that present that retail is doing very nicely. There is a regular, increasing yearly progress of over 4% and it has remained the identical for the past 10 years. What is actually occurring right here is that there is a lot of shift and churn inside the market, and there are a pair of variations that stand out.

One of them is called the barbell. On the excessive and low ends of the market, you see rather a lot of individuals doing nicely, whereas the center is getting hollowed out. So, it appears sort of like a barbell. You’re seeing corporations that used to rely on the fact that that they had a variety of goods that was principally undifferentiated, the malls that had the same brands as everyone else (that you’ll find online or at every different retailer). There’s not the convenience factor of looking for these, you’re not the only place to get that brand, or a selected shirt, or have all designers in one place. So individuals are capable of compete just on choice versus online. This provides the advantage to luxurious brands, that are doing rather well. Warby Parker, Allbirds, and all these digitally-first natives: the brands themselves are doing very nicely, but they’re doing it by creating relationships immediately with shoppers.

On the low finish of the market, in case you take a look at grocery stores, they’re doing extraordinarily properly – definitely Amazon shopping for Entire Meals, which is a reasonably large nod to brick and mortar being essential to Amazon sooner or later. Why is that? Part of the reason is that the grocery retailer is a frequent touchpoint for the buyer. You go to the grocery store on a weekly basis (typically much more), so proudly owning that relationship is basically essential. You’re seeing Aldi opening another 900 shops, you’re seeing Kroger and different grocery stores being inquisitive, you’re seeing Albertson’s shopping for Plated. There’s rather a lot of M&A activity within the grocery area. We’re additionally seeing rather a lot in the pharmacy area, whether it’s CVS and Aetna or Walmart partnering with Humana to vertically integrate well being providers. And, again, the pharmacy is a frequent touchpoint of the buyer, so proudly owning that customer relationship goes to be extraordinarily necessary.

So, I might say that the retail business is doing quite properly. There are rather a lot of corporations who don’t get it and don’t understand that they have to offer some sort of actual worth to the client: both enhance comfort or an expertise.

In case you go right into a Burberry or Gucci retailer, it’s an experience, nevertheless it’s not only because it’s a luxurious area. Having to go to a store can both really feel like a chore for the buyer (if it’s a problem), or you’ll be able to truly sit up for it.

For instance, the sweetness area is doing extremely nicely as a result of they’ve adopted this mindset. If, as an example you finish your lipstick or nail polish, you never find yourself considering, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t want to have to go to Sephora or Ulta.” Individuals truly sit up for that visit as a result of, whenever you walk right into a Sephora retailer, you get greeted by tons of individuals who train you about make-up, train you about the way to use it. With Perch, you’ll be able to truly stroll as much as a kiosk and, if you contact a lipstick, it is going to nearly put that lipstick in your face – thereby serving to you explore more colours of lipstick than you ever might earlier than, with out ever having to put them immediately on your face. Ulta has roughly 28 million individuals of their loyalty program, and that’s big!

One other example I like to use is Snkrs. And this can be a pretty emblematic of the “retail dying” state of affairs fostered by occasions corresponding to Foot Locker’s closure of lots of of shops (have to be the “retail apocalypse,” right?). Snkrs. grew 12% YOY final yr. So, it’s not that the retail business is lifeless, it’s that individuals are changing. When walking right into a Foot Locker, you observe simply the identical assortment of footwear as all over the place else; there isn’t a experience, no pleasure, no media. It’s not exciting. And it’s not something that you’d anticipate from a sports activities or athletics store.

That is why Nike modified its vision and adopted the “I don’t want to sell my shoes in boring stores anymore” mindset. As a result of of this, Nike ended up getting rid of 99% of their distributors, descaling from 30.000 to only 300 partners, they usually only need to promote their footwear in locations that symbolize their model properly. As a consequence, Nike is investing of their stores: they carry in media, started a loyalty club (that already has 100 million subscribers), and created a cellular app that lets shoppers customize their footwear. And what they’re discovering is that people who undertake their app are spending four occasions as much, and now they (as a model) get all of that great knowledge from the buyer instantly. That’s what it means to be thrilling; it’s about logging into the thrill and joy of the buying experience. So much of individuals are simply placing merchandise on the shelf, and that’s just not going to work anymore.

SE: Just lately, I attended Cellular World Congress in Barcelona and was intrigued by some brands’ main presence with pop-up shops. What are pop-up stores? Why are increasingly more manufacturers utilizing them to interact with their target markets? And what are an important elements for manufacturers to think about when using pop-up stores to advertise themselves?

TS: One of the reasons that folks don’t go to the stores serendipitously is as a result of they will go tomorrow, next week, or the week after and it’s just about the identical factor. Retailers like Zara, that are type of quick trend and turnover, ask you to go to them extra typically; otherwise, you won’t see that coat this season as a result of their season might be as little as two weeks. Half of creating joy in the buying experience is anticipating that there’s one thing new and thrilling. And that’s what pop-up shops do.

Successfully, a pop-up retailer is sort of a short-term retailer opening that often lasts a pair of weeks and then disappears. There are two major varieties of pop-up shops: malls often deliver particular brands in areas for a limited period of time (typically they even lease out the entire retailer, especially around the holidays) after which you’ve gotten others which might be opening shops inside shops. Each of them share the same objective: to create excitement and a sense of urgency that drives shoppers into the shops earlier than “it goes away next week.” There’s an immense advertising profit to this strategy, and half of it’s to just remember to have a very good relationship with the client paired with good knowledge, with the intention to inform them about it and generate that degree of pleasure and social media word-of-mouth. In case you have that store all yr round, then you definitely simply don’t have that degree of pleasure. It’s about creating artificial ranges of shortage to create excitement and it’s working extremely properly.

Now, the problem of the model is that it’s pretty expensive to design a pop-up retailer only for it to go away after the set time period. With the ability to stability the worth that it brings from a advertising and scarcity perspective and pleasure (whether it’s phrase of mouth or simply usually), alongside with the additional value of not having a everlasting construction that evolves over time, I feel it’s quite a bit of the stability that individuals are making an attempt to define. And there are lots of fascinating models. There’s a company referred to as B8ta that lets individuals put their products in retailer for brief durations of time and market them, thus maintaining every part fairly recent and refreshed typically. But pop-up stores are principally a approach to create excitement and shortage, so that buyers are more likely to are available.

SE: How has omnichannel advertising streamlined purchasing habits, with AR and AI giving consumers the chance to customise their very own experiences without requiring them to adapt to new practices? What are the top three issues manufacturers can do when creating these new experiences for patrons?

TS: Individuals speak about omnichannel in very basic terms, which principally means partaking consumers across no matter channels they need (digital, cellular, e mail, or in-store) and making sure that the consumer journey is constant and effective, and that you simply transition from one channel to the other fairly seamlessly. Because of this consumers have to have the ability to purchase online and decide up in retailer, or buy in-store and have it delivered on-line (from an ordering perspective). However that also signifies that the buying expertise, media, info that you simply see, advertising, pricing, all of that’s consistent.

What we’re now seeing rather a lot of is that individuals are making an attempt to figure out how one can convey digital in-store. Traditionally, in retail, the in-store group and the digital group have been utterly separated; actually, they have been just a little bit at odds and even enemies preventing over finances. With on-line growing on the price that it’s, the in-store departments have felt that in, some ways, they are the enemy. What that has resulted in is those experiences being very siloed. The manufacturers that basically understand omnichannel now understand that it’s not clever to interrupt up your company into channels, but fairly you need to actually take into consideration the overall shopper journey across those totally different channels or in an omnichannel method. For this reason we see a lot digital being introduced in-store.

For instance, I feel of augmented reality (AR) as a device – it may be used each appropriately and incorrectly. The key, nevertheless, is that it solves actual problems. At Sephora, for example, making an attempt on lipstick seems to be an enormous problem for ladies. When you’ve got ten totally different lipsticks, what are you going to do? Put ten totally different lipsticks on your face? Most people put it on their arms and check out to take a look at it near their face, nevertheless it’s a horrible, terrible expertise. Using AR to challenge what make-up seems like on your face is an excellent solution to make exploration more gratifying, check more colours and mixtures, and create a sure degree of serendipity.

We’re seeing rather a lot of AR in fixing issues akin to eager to image what furnishings appears like in a single’s condominium. And that’s one thing that’s typically very arduous to do. Will that basically match my kitchen or my drapes or my eating room table? AR helps clear up that drawback because you possibly can principally venture that furnishings immediately into your front room or your own home. The query is how do you make these experiences straightforward? If you must download rather a lot of cellular apps, then it becomes very troublesome. If you consider what proportion of shoppers have your cellular app once they stroll into your retailer, then it’s in all probability less than 10% and also you, as a brand, have in all probability spent quite a bit of cash just making an attempt to get the 10%. That is why rather a lot of these experiences wrestle: they only reach a small number of individuals.

One of the things that we’ve got executed at Perch is that as soon as you stroll into a retailer and decide up a product, it naturally logs as digital info with out you having to do a cellular app. And that includes product personalization. At Kate Spade, for instance, they have this purse referred to as Make It Mine they usually let you customise totally different elements of it and decorate it as you please, making about 1000 totally different mixtures potential. Making an attempt to configure a physical purse 1000 alternative ways can be approach too onerous. So, once you decide up a purse, it naturally opens up and exhibits you all of the options; you’ll be able to explore and decide, and find the purse that’s right for you. Quite a bit of that is about determining the right way to improve know-how very naturally in the shopper journey and never drive individuals to do one thing that’s unnatural like obtain an app, register, confirm your e mail, and only then start utilizing the app – that’s so much to ask of individuals. By that point, you could have lost the buyer utterly.

The other half of it is that there’s an incredible quantity of branding info that each one of these products have invested in. Each of these merchandise, if you consider it, have movies online, methods to’s, scores, and critiques, all of this great info that by no means makes it into the store. There’s a treasure trove of content material designed to assist educate, interact, and sway consumers that by no means makes it in-store as a result of you possibly can’t detect which products individuals are excited about. Now, with Perch-like know-how, you’ll be able to provide that right piece of info at the right time to implement the model, enforce the product, and help buyers as they discover and luxuriate in merchandise.

SE: A current Forbes article requested whether sales associates are becoming obsolete. In your opinion, are they? How is automation enjoying a task sooner or later of the sales associate? And what can brands do now to lean into this shift?

TS: I’m going again to that barbell. On the low end, there are all types of tools that help reply clients’ questions and not using a sales associate. Just over 80% of individuals assume they know more concerning the product than sales associates because we’re armed with Google, cell phones, and all of the knowledge on-line. To the extent that brands can convey that digital info in-store, you’ll need sales associates less and less.

With automated checkout and a few of the Amazon-Go-type performance, we’ll see rather a lot much less want for human intervention in the buying process on the low finish. And, from a convenience perspective, this is great because it removes rather a lot of friction, we get our questions answered, and we (as shoppers) get what we’d like.

That stated, at the larger finish, part of the entire expertise is that service facet: once you go into Sephora, it’s since you’re excited to talk to a makeup artist. So, where automation goes to be really useful is providing the sales associates access to that treasure trove of info that they will now leverage and provide extra info to the client. They will pull up your profile and say, “Hey, we know you purchased these pants and we just got this shirt in, so here’s how it would look when matched.” There’s going to be much more info for gross sales affiliate to reinforce the consumer experience in-store and even be capable of automate the connection outdoors. These days, when after leaving the shop, I can still keep a relationship with that gross sales affiliate because they could have my private e-mail, inform me when something’s back in inventory, remind me to return back to the store because there’s a special occasion they usually know that I care about Gucci sneakers – whatever it may be. We now have the tools for gross sales associates to build deeper relationships which are extra informed.

And, so, you’re going to see each of these things occur. Again, on the low finish of the market, automation will improve comfort and remove the need for gross sales associates, which is seen as considerably of a problem. And, on the excessive finish, empowering tremendous gross sales associates that present even better experiences.

Saks Fifth Avenue is working with a company referred to as Gross sales Flooring to do that. You’ll go to Saks Fifth Avenue on-line and, based mostly upon where you’re buying, your chat could be answered by the gross sales affiliate who’s in your local store. So, despite the fact that you’re on-line and on the internet and also you assume you’re somewhat nameless, it’s your native sales affiliate right there on-line for you. They will say, “Come on in store! We got it if you want to try it on. I also have that great pair of Gucci sneakers that you were interested in 3 months ago.” The question is at what point will that develop into creepy versus helpful. I’m hoping it’s going to be far more helpful.

SE: What’s subsequent for the retail business?

TS: I feel this can be a tremendously fascinating time the place we are going to see so much of chaos. We’re going to see a lot more store closures and it’s going to freak lots of individuals out. There’s going to be lots of individuals saddled with debt; finally, I feel of these individuals as committing suicide.

The most obvious example that comes to my mind is Toys ‘R’ Us. Everyone seems to be talking about the best way the brand goes beneath. And the one factor I can assume is: how are you going to not create a tremendous experience at a toy retailer? Should you can think about Perch in each aisle of a Toys ‘R’ Us, where you decide up the Frozen doll and Elsa starts singing. Or you decide up the Luke Skywalker figurine and, all of a sudden, lightsabers come out of the digital LCD screens. Or you will have video and entertainment in every aisle. When you put a Chuck E Cheese in each Toys ‘R’ Us, so that everyone needs to have their party there. It turns into a place for video games, with Lego championships and chess tournaments, and the place where youngsters go to have fun – and, oh, by the best way, you should purchase toys. That, to me, was a no brainer. However, saddled with debt and saddled with (I feel) a scarcity of vision on the way to change the shop expertise, Toys ‘R’ Us (finally) declared chapter.

Sadly, we’re going to see so much of that, but manufacturers who adapt experiences are going to be those who win. And you’re going to see this in huge ways, especially from the department stores. The department stores are, principally, going to be gutted as retailers with boring experiences lose their sq. footage. Malls are going to put in bowling alleys, film theaters, style runways, event areas, and pop-ups. There’s all the time going to be some programming going up on the mall: some band enjoying or some instructional events comparable to cooking courses. Will probably be reimagined as the group middle that was centered around purchasing, but now’s centered round experience – and there will probably be buying there, too.

I feel that the longer term of retail is experiential. I feel the longer term of retail is about discovering products, with the expectations of the individuals of the digital age where there are movies, tips on how to’s, evaluations, and proposals. Once I go and walk right into a Greatest Purchase, why are all of the merchandise on 3×5 cards? That doesn’t make any sense. All of these products have videos and large quantities of media that I should have the ability to discover. And, so, I feel the longer term of retail goes to be really fascinating, fascinating, media-rich, and interactive. It’s going to take some time to get there, and there shall be winners and losers, but the people who perceive that core expertise – that core pleasure – in going purchasing are the ones which are going to achieve success.