Whilst the touch tablet market is slowing down, the Retail’s Big Show, which took place in New York in January, revealed Theatro, an American startup that offers retailers an alternative: a tiny wearable computer that clips onto a belt loop or collar and offers real-time access to a wealth of stock and customer data.
“For a lot of retailers, the tablet has proved a little tricky to use in stores, particularly in supermarkets and large-scale retail outlets,” explained Jean Philippe Baert, Vice President of Salesforce’s cloud marketing platform, to l’Usine Digitale. It’s particularly awkward for clothes retailers where sales staff need both hands free to fold and put away clothes all day long.
And yet, tablets, or at least the data they contain, are valuable sales tools: store staff can have real-time information on stocks and access customer data (such as purchase history) and thus offer a personalised, added-value service.
wearables TO ENSURE OPTIMAL mobilitY
The solution could be new devices, which is where Theatro comes in. Founded in Dallas five years ago, the startup has come up with a voice-enabled wearable device featuring a Wi-Fi connection and Indoor Location application, all in a 6 cm by 8 cm mini device that clips onto a belt loop. Thanks to a voice-recognition software programme, staff can communicate easily with the store’s IT system. So, for example, when a sales assistant is with a customer, he can discreetly say into his mike: “Do you have such-and-such item in stock?” and will receive an almost immediate verbal reply, meaning there’s no need for a screen interface.
The system can also automatically answer certain queries such as “Where’s Marie?” or “Who’s in the warehouse at the moment?” and even connect employees directly with each other. In a crowded, noisy supermarket where it’s difficult to hear announcements over the tannoy, locating a staff member quickly can save precious time.
When they want to focus 100% on their customer, staff can put the device on standby just by tapping it. Alternatively, during staff training for example, two members of staff can stay constantly in touch. For managers, meanwhile, the device provides access to location data (heat_maps) so they can identify the busiest and quietest areas of the store and thus update staff rotas and tasks in real time. In terms of productivity, this is a huge advantage.
Theatro has already been deployed by around twenty US retailers.
Read our other articles on the retail sector: