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Home Depot exec: In-store experiences help battle showrooming

Home Depot is tapping mobile payments

NEW YORK – A Home Depot executive at the 2012 Motorola Solutions Media Day said that by combining in-store experiences with digital tools, retailers can get a leg-up on online comparison shopping.

Executives from Home Depot, Deloitte and Motorola Solutions spoke at the event about the ways that retailers are embracing technology. The session was moderated by Girish Rishi, corporate vice president of Motorola Solutions, Schaumburg, IL.

“I think retailers in general, and especially Home Depot, know that associates are our best tool,” said Jennifer Smith, senior director of store operations at Home Depot, Atlanta.

“Amazon does not have the ability to create an emotional connection in the aisles to solve your problem, to have a conversation, to hear about your day,” she said.

“We feel like the future is making sure that we are empowering and educating associates to create that emotional connection.”

In-store experience
According to Ms. Smith, creating an in-store emotional connection gives Home Depot a competitive advantage over online retailers such as Amazon.

Home Depot has been testing digital tools from Motorola Solutions for the past two years to combine in-store service with task-related management for its associates.

Home Depot is using Motorola Solutions’ MC75 devices in-store. The devices serve as a communication method to let associates connect with each other while on the floor.

For customer service, Home Depot is using the devices to look up inventory and find additional products.

Mobile POS is also an area that Home Depot is looking closely into to not only to help with things such as line busting, but also helping consumers have positive in-store experiences.

Additionally, the Home Depot has made Wi-Fi available in its stores to help keep consumers connected while shopping.

To increase its use of service-based tasks, Home Depot is rolling out Motorola Solutions’ EWP devices to every Home Depot store by the end of the year.

The executive also said that retailers can use data to find the best technology service for the company.

“At the end of the day, we know that data about our consumers is going to be the key to being successful five years from now,” she said.

Changing shoppers
According to Alison Kenney Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail and distribution leader at Deloitte, New York, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for retailers with technology.

For instance, Deloitte recently worked with an apparel marketer to arm store associates with tablets to create a one-on-one relationship with consumers in the store. However, the initiative was not successful for the retailer.

Technology also offers retailers a way to turn around a bad store experience, per the exec.

“It’s really a transformative, loyalty-building experience,” Ms. Paul said.

Additionally, Wi-Fi presents a massive opportunity for retailers to connect with shoppers while in-stores.

Consumers expect to be connected to their mobile devices at all times. If a shopper feels disconnected, there is a good chance that they will leave the store.

With the emergence of omnichannel marketing, consumers now expect to have a single, seamless brand experience with a company, which can be a challenge with siloed departments such as ecommerce and mobile for retailers.

Mobile security
Technology also offers retailers a way to improve employee training and management.

However, security is also important for retailers and companies need to have the ability to manage systems.

“Marketing is all over the Wi-Fi networks and how they can use it to really embrace and make that customer experience a strong one  but they have to balance between being intrusive,” said Jim Welch, senior vice president of Motorola Solutions.

“If you can make it a tool that is embraced by the folks in the store – whether it is associates or consumers engaging – the returns on that are significant,” Mr. Welch said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York