Guest international Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers Q&A:
Nadia Shouraboura, founder, Hointer
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
Definitely to unleash the power of in-store shopping by bringing the best of online technologies to physical stores. It’s a great opportunity for Hointer and for my fellow retailers. While with Amazon, for many years, I was enamoured of online retail. Lately I realised that the long-term winners are going to be retailers offering a combination of physical and online shopping, but they have to do it well and in a new way.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Catching up with our Millennial customers. Many of them embraced the convenience of online shopping and are slowly giving up on in-store shopping, because we make it hard for them to enjoy it. We have to invest energy in improving in-store experience the same way we invested in online experience a decade ago.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
I actually wouldn’t change much. Sure, there were many things I learned about the way customers want to shop in physical stores and what technologies drive sales and what technologies tank my sales, but it was a great learning process and I’d do it again.
4. What is the future of the physical store?
It’s very exciting. Physical stores are the perfect place for customers to experience products and they are also the best place for retailers to up-sell. At Hointer customers on average try-on 12 items – six of them recommended by our system. And customers buy a lot more. Stores can also serve as a powerful fulfilment network, winning against pure online retailers by being closer to customers.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
There will be a lot of innovation in ways customers experience products in stores – if we don’t make it very exciting, customers are going to stay home and shop online. Customers will use their mobile phones as remote controls for their in-store shopping. They will be requesting items with their phones and enjoying creative experiences designed by retailers, playing with products in physical world at the same time accessing online world for supplemental information. We saw a lot of innovation in online shopping over the last decade, now it’s time for stores to re-invent and that’s what the next decade will be about.
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
I don’t think of mobile phones as a separate sales channel. I think that mobile devices will be a part of most buying experiences, whether in-store or online. Digital information – images and videos – are important when making buying decisions and mobile phones are the most cost-effective platform for retailers to deliver that information. Customers already have mobile phones and are paying for connectivity, hardware and upgrades.
7. If you hadn’t been a retailer/technologist what would you have liked to do?
I’m doing exactly what I want and love. I started my career as a mathematician in the Soviet Union and I lived the first part of my life without retail, because all Soviet shops were nearly empty. I was shocked the first time I saw a real store in Budapest and I thought it was fake. After that I just fell in love with retail and it’s hard to imagine doing something else.
8. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself and Hointer so far for achievement?
I give Hointer 1, because it’s Day 1 for us. 15 years ago people didn’t think of shopping online and now many people shop online. We have to make similar progress in physical shopping. It’s not going to be one giant step. We have to take many small steps fast and get to a much better experience. No one retailer is substantially ahead right now, some take small steps, some don’t. Those who will be taking many small steps fast are going to attract a lot of customers. Retailers we are working with are taking steps, but it’s just Day 1. We need to keep on going.
Hear more about Shouraboura and Hointer at the Connected Stores conference in May 20-21.