A couple shops with masks firmly in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, especially, technology has played an essential role in retailers’ goals of unlocking value. Notably, the pandemic has seen companies accelerate technology adoptions by several years, and according to Ali Asaria, founder and chief executive officer at Tulip, while the last generation of store technology was costly and cumbersome with little flexibility, retailers looking for alternative solutions will be met with technology that fulfills enterprise needs with all the benefits of a lean SaaS.

Here, Asaria talks to WWD about the new needs and challenges facing retailers, shifting consumer behaviors, and how clienteling and personalization have changed.

WWD: What are the new challenges that you have seen retailers facing in the current environment with the pandemic?

Ali Asaria: This year has been very disruptive for retail from store closures to supply chain to changes in consumer behaviors. In response, retailers had to quickly adapt with agile and innovative digital solutions. As we start to return to some normalcy over the next few months, brands will continue to face new challenges. Despite the growth in online spending, the average transaction value is still smaller compared to the physical stores because of the lack of personalization. Therefore, retailers will need to focus on driving traffic to the stores while complying with social distancing protocols to keep customers and associates safe.

Our customers are rethinking the use of their brick-and-mortar stores to drive more holistic experiences with offerings like in-store consultations, contactless checkout and curbside pickup. They’re also leveraging digital channels to connect consumers with associates through appointment booking and video chat to enhance personalization and drive sales.

As store traffic continues to decrease, another challenge facing retailers is how to best optimize store performance. With limited capacity and traffic, brands will need to maximize sales during operating hours, which means a greater need for operational efficiency and analytical tools to help them with scheduling and budgeting. With the continued growth of digital channels and limited store openings, retailers will need to continue embracing omnichannel to provide a seamless shopping experience.

Ali Asaria

Ali Asaria, founder and chief executive officer at Tulip.  Courtesy Image.

WWD: How does Tulip’s solution help retailers overcome these new challenges?

A.A.: From the beginning, Tulip has been committed to building products designed to rethink how stores operate, and with a global and mobile-first, cloud-first approach. Our platform allows retailers to lead and thrive in a world where shopping is changing rapidly. In response to the pandemic, we launched five new products designed to help retailers engage with customers and drive sales during store closures. We introduced features and functionality such as omnichannel live chat and remote pay to help store associates stay connected with their customers from home.

Now with the stores reopening, we’re helping brands welcome customers back into the store safely whether it’s through one-to-one appointment bookings or picking up online orders in-store.

WWD: Has clienteling changed?

A.A.: Clienteling is no longer a nice-to-have service, it’s a must-have for business continuity and survival. It’s also no longer just an in-store solution, it’s become a tool to enable physical and digital selling. It not only empowers store associates the opportunity to continue selling, in-person or remotely, in a personalized way, it transforms them into digital stylists or consultants using digital tools such as social messaging apps to communicate. Clienteling has long been associated with luxury brands, but we’re now seeing more specialty retail labels embrace clienteling to engage with their customers and use data to create more personalized experiences across all channels.

And clienteling apps have also evolved over the years with enriched features designed to collect and analyze data to address the needs of different retail segments from luxury to specialty brands.

For More WWD Business News:

Staying True With Data-Driven Personalization

Catering to Consumers’ Demand for a Speedy In-store Experience

Pairing the Art of Decision Making With the Science of Artificial Intelligence