Cue CIO Shane Lenton details how technology can underpin brand strategy. This exclusive excerpt is from the latest downloadable report, The Brand Book, which you can download for free here.
For a 53-year heritage brand, Cue is not shy about embracing new technology.
In fact, the retailer is arguably always at the forefront of technological innovations and capabilities.
And despite the challenges of the pandemic, the business continued to roll out digital solutions.
According to Cue’s chief information officer Shane Lenton, the launch of a virtual styling solution and a multi-channel wishlist are two of the most exciting additions the business has made recently.
While similar in nature to other virtual styling solutions – in that the customer is connected via a video call to an in-store stylist to chat fit, style and purchase – Lenton says Cue’s solution goes beyond just a video call.
The customer has to sign in or sign up to make a booking, they are then asked a series of questions about what they like and what they’re buying the garment for, and they can then select a stylist they’ve worked with before or choose a stylist based on their profile.
"Then from there – something we've been working on over the last probably 18 months – is bringing a lot of the data and the AI recommendations to the virtual session," Lenton says.
"The same recommendation platform that we use to recommend products on our website and within emails; we're basically providing our stylists with that technology in store.
"So, they've got the full customer history – if they have transacted with us – because the customer needs to sign in to make the booking.
"If it is a new customer, we're using the behavioural interaction that they've had on the site as well as the purchases, purchasing behaviour and history of other customers.
"We're presenting products that are available at that specific store to the stylist so that they can use that combination of anything that the customer’s provided during the booking process, the customer history as well as these AI recommendations to get a really good, curated offering of product ready for those sessions," he explains.
And the strategy is paying off, with 60% of sessions resulting in a transaction, and the average transaction value being five times normal.
Lenton adds that while virtual styling was hugely successful during COVID lockdowns, as things get back to normal, the solution can be used for its original intention.
"And that is for the customers that can't get the store because of either choice, geography or time," he says.
Further connecting the digital and physical retail worlds is Cue’s multichannel wishlist.
The solution seamlessly transitions between customer’s online profile to their in-store experience.
Lenton explains that the driver for the introduction of the multichannel wishlist was the recognition of a missed opportunity.
"Those that execute a wishlist well online will notify the customer if the item’s low in stock.
"They'll notify the customer if the item goes on sale.
"They'll also provide some reminders, and even if the products comes back into stock, they'll notify the customer which is a really powerful tool and customers generally respond to it quite well.
"However, if you think about it then at store level; a customer walks in, staff can spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour with the customer, and items they haven't chosen to purchase that they've looked at, is where we can lose that relationship with the customer and those products.
"So the real opportunity for us was to introduce the wishlist in store," Lenton says.
So essentially, Cue has taken the best elements of a digital wishlist strategy and brought it to a store level.
"At that point in time, when the customer through their visit in store his hasn't chosen to purchase particular items, the staff member will offer to add them to the wish list," Lenton says.
"’Don't worry about taking photos,’ which is often the sort of standard user behaviour where a customer will take photos of the swing tag or, or the product itself, and then hopefully go away later and have a look at it.
"In this situation, we're able to add it to the wish list, the customer receives an email an hour after their visit from store to say, 'thanks for visiting the store today, these are the items that you looked at.'
"Then from there, the customers have been notified if those items are low in stock, go on sale, as well as the reminder that we put in place," Lenton says.
Again, the results a proving the solution to be a successful one with the wishlist communication driving $100,000 per month of directly attributed purchases.
Even more astounding is that of that $100k, 70% of the sales are happening back in store.
"The wishlists are actually driving people in store," Lenton says.
"It's not just that they looked at it, they've tried it on and then they'll buy it later on online, this program is actually driving a lot of people back into store, who are traditionally in store customers.
"That's their preference on how they want to shop, but now they're getting notified," he says.
And while technology has assisted Cue in providing the best service to customers, Lenton adds that the people are just as important to the delivery of the technology as the technology itself.
One such area is retail security, Lenton explains.
"We've had a really good team in place and leadership around that loss prevention space for quite some time now.
"It’s as much about the technology as it is about the people and their awareness.
"So the team certainly, pre COVID, during COVID and continuing on, we haven't had to really change the way we're working around that space.
"We have a lot of the general security measures in place with the security tagging and security gates and that sort of technology," he says.
However, as COVID drove online shopping while stores were closed, Lenton says that some retailers may have had to update their shrinkage policies once they began fulfilling from store.
"That visibility, and that accuracy of inventory has been critical for a good few years.
"Now, I think what a lot of organisations have found pre COVID, whilst there was a little bit of focus around that, because they weren't doing or needing to do store-based fulfilment, the problem probably wasn't getting the focus that needs or it wasn't such a critical factor.
"Whereas now, as they've shifted to do store-based fulfilment, they're now realising some of the challenges that have around shrinkage and inventory management at store level – and they were playing a lot of catch up," he says.