In an environment cluttered with marketing messages, commercials and social media feeds, fashion apparel brands and retailers struggle to cut through the noise and reach consumers in an effective way. And even when companies reach through to grab their attention, converting that engagement into something actionable such as a sale or coupon redemption is challenging as well.
But David Buckingham, chief executive officer of point-of-sale marketing firm Ecrebo, believes there are windows of opportunity where the shopper is ripe for actionable engagements. Here, Buckingham explains what solutions Ecrebo, which has clients that include Uniqlo, Pandora and Topshop, offers and how it can help brands and retailers improve customer engagement and retention.
WWD: As the retail market experiences a transformation, companies are making investments into technology — including POS marketing. How critical are these solutions? What are the benefits?
David Buckingham: The technological investments retailers and brands can make are going to help them run their business better. In the particular area where we offer it, point of sale, there is a very wide range of benefits — in terms of customer retention, loyalty and increasing share of wallet.
The intent is to help them be as customer focused as they possibly can. So I agree. And there’s lots of different technology out there that is affecting how we do our work today. [Different technologies] also work together to provide as holistic a view of the customer, and to enable research about customers so retailers can serve them better.
WWD: Can you briefly discuss the core services your company offers? You mentioned some of the benefits, maybe you could walk through that in more detail as well.
D.B.: We are a point-of-sale marketing specialist. What does that mean? It means we allow retailers to communicate in a targeted, private fashion. We keep this at the point of sale. That includes both digital and physical communication. We’re in an ever-increasingly digital world. But the physical store still garners a high proportion — if not the majority — of sales. It’s where the real customer experience is driven.
Our solution is a software system that sits on top of the point of sale. It does a few things, which allow retailers to communicate with the customers — mainly that it intercepts the transaction as it’s happening, so we don’t need to integrate with the point of sale, which is a real win for retailers.
As we intercept transactions, we send the transaction up to the cloud where and if a customer is identified for a laundry program or for a payment card, for example, or some other way that we can recognize a customer, pre-loaded marketing messages are triggered specifically for that person who is in the store. At the point of sale, [the technology] can print an additional message as the receipt is printing. It could be a coupon, it could be an offer, or it could be some kind of incentive to come back into the store again. Or the very same technology can also be used to deliver a digital receipt, which could included embedded marketing.
So, essentially we’re looking at transactions, identifying customers as they come through the doors, and making certain they’ve got relevant messaging in real time. It’s designed to encourage pointed behavior as far as interaction with that retailer is concerned.
WWD: And it happens in that moment; you’re capturing them in the store. How critical is that?
D.B.: It is critical for both the customer and the retailer. And it’s because the round trip to the cloud and back down again typically takes about 0.3 seconds. So there is no disruption to the transaction, which is really important for both customer and retailer. It’s real time. I guess the other point is that people think about coupons and point of sale as being yesterday’s tech. It’s not yesterday’s tech because customers are interacting at the point of sale. And through our technology, you can reach all of them.
WWD: And in that moment you’re able to cut through the marketing noise in a way that improves the overall experience for the consumer; is that right?
D.B.: Yes, absolutely. There’s a real-time element, you can’t overstate that. Clearly, the fact that the customer is in the store, they’re very engaged with that retailer to some degree. If we can support that transaction with a relevant message at that point in time, retailers will experience higher retention rates.
WWD: You’ve been with the firm for three months now. How would you describe Ecrebo’s corporate culture?
D.B.: It’s very entrepreneurial. It is a software company, and the two founders are still involved with the business — Dr. Hassan Hajji and David Vernon. The company has been around for seven years, but there’s still a lot of start-up energy and enthusiasm. It’s been very interesting for me because I’m not from a software background by any means, I’m more from a commercial marketing background. So there’s quite a good mix there. What I’m really impressed by is the dedication and loyalty [of the employees], and a desire to push the boundaries of what we’re technically capable. That leads to a very hard-working culture, but one where we are fortunate in that we’re experiencing a lot of success.
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