City Furniture, a regional furniture retailer with stores across Florida, has launched three of IBM's MobileFirst for iOS apps — Sales Assist, Payment and Finance — for the iPad Pro device to be used by its in-store associates as they seek to make the shopping experience more efficient and personalized for customers, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
The retailer is rolling out the apps to 400 store associates across 15 City Furniture showrooms, as well as the 12 Ashley Furniture HomeStore showrooms the company operates in Florida. The apps give store associates real-time access to the more than 8,000 SKUs complete with images, product information, colors, styles and unique customer profiles at their fingertips.
City Furniture worked closely with IBM to create the apps and is using IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform to link these new applications with the retailer’s existing applications and data, enabling a high-performance, scalable and flexible hybrid cloud environment. IBM plans to evolve the apps with City Furniture to further connect with the retailer’s existing CRM system and analytics so store associates can more easily follow up with direct marketing for prospective customers based on data from prior purchases and interactions.
IBM's MobileFirst for iOS apps come from a series of enterprise-class solutions that IBM teamed with Apple to develop back in 2014. The apps are sold to a variety of industries, retail being one. From there, IBM appears to work more closely with its clients in those particular industries to customize the apps for their specific needs.
City Furniture needed something that would help store associates cut down on the amount of time it took them to answer customer questions and find items customers were looking for, either in showrooms or somewhere else in the retailer's multi-store network. As noted in a press release from IBM, "When customers used to have questions or wanted to look at different styles of furniture, City Furniture store associates had to record that information manually and spent a great deal of time walking around the showroom to find desired products."
Now, using the MobileFirst for iOS Sales Assist app, City Furniture's store associates can find those products more quickly and complete with further images and data, while standing in one place and keeping the customer directly and personally engaged. The Payment and Finance apps also improve on what had been a desk-bound process by allowing store associates to process transactions and set up financing plans in quick strokes.
This isn't the first time we have seen a retailer put mobile technology and access to deep data resources into the hands of store associates, and it certainly won't be the last. Crate and Barrel last year embraced similar technology, and as more retailers migrate their stores to a showroom model we are likely to see more adopt these solutions.
City Furniture claims to already be realizing a difference from using the apps, saying that Sales Assist has helped average purchase order per customer more than 5% per customer with Sales Assist. Even more notable, the apps have reduced the amount of time it takes for a customer to select a product, choose services and delivery, then make a payment or apply for credit by half. That kind of improvement will produce a payoff for City Furniture both in its bottom line and its customer satisfaction ratings.