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Brought to you by Retail Insider and Webloyalty

Following the launch of the Digital Retail Innovations 2016 Report (sponsored by Webloyalty) on July 6 a series of Q&As with the leading figures behind some of the key entries in the report are being published.

Here is a Q&A with  André Hordagoda, co-founder of GoInStore that is placed at number 23 in the report.

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How did the original idea come about?

My co-founder, Aman Khurana, and I were working together in the e-commerce space for a technology provider that specialised in retail website personalisation. This technology essentially tracked visitor behaviour, applied some algorithms and then made a prediction as to the intent of the shopper ‘in session’.  The output was ‘product recommendations’ and the result was an incremental increase in revenue generated on the website. We knew that this was, in many ways, an attempt to account for the difference in experience in the digital channel versus in a physical store. That key difference is human interaction.

Around this time I was visiting my sister who managed a high-end apparel store in Westfield’s shopping centre. During the 45 minutes I was in the store, not a single person walked in, leaving her four well-trained sales staff with not much to do. Surely there would have been some hits on the website during this time?

GoInStore addresses this gap in the customer experience by restoring to the process what most retailers consider to be their most valuable sales asset: trained retail staff. Successfully delivering the service is a technical feat, but we are fundamentally allowing people to engage in an extremely familiar way, as if they were in the store.

What has been the level of take-up of the service and what are the key ways retailers are using it?

It’s an exhilarating time for us at the moment. We’ve spent the last 12 months refining our technology with a handful of genuinely innovative retailers who are excited about our technology. These are the types of company that are willing to push the boundaries and experiment – the perfect partners for disruptive tech companies such as ours. We are now moving to ‘early adopter stage’; deploying with six major high street retailers across the UK and Europe, with room for another four during the next few months. These early adopters have our full focus and commitment in implementing bespoke features, in exchange for first-mover advantage and the kudos of being at the forefront what we believe is the birth of not just a trend, but a genuine retail transformation.

What about competition in this area?

Putting a human into the digital channel is not a new concept, with the likes of live chat services.  Our USP is in utilising the physical store infrastructure our clients have as well as their already well-trained sales people. Of course, there is a lot of sophistication behind the scenes in optimising the sales potential, and we fully expect others to develop versions of what we do in time, but at present the companies we speak to have not seen anything particularly similar to us in terms of big picture vision, solution performance and full retail integration.

How has the solution been developed / advanced over time?

We have heavily invested in the brightest minds we can find from both a development and product perspective. We are constantly floating and sharing ideas, however, we are also mindful to exploit our lean start-up advantage, meaning we look to our clients for guidance in prioritising real-world feature builds. It might be cool, but if it doesn’t make things better, faster, and more efficient for our clients, then it goes to the back of the queue. Having said that, I’d love to see what GoInStore is capable of in two years’ time, considering the seismic advancements in virtual and augmented reality hardware.

Have there been any surprises along the way?

The biggest surprise for me is how quickly everything has progressed. This month we celebrated our second anniversary, which meant we had a moment to stop and reflect on what we’ve delivered. We’re extremely proud of the growth we’ve achieved across the technology, client base, employees in the business and of course our credibility. Our pitch conversations have moved from “nice idea” to “why isn’t everybody doing that?” so quickly.

What can we expect from GoInStore the future?

As we move from early adopter into the next phase of growth, it is imperative that we hit a critical mass of (retail) clients and, of course, their customers/users of GoInStore as a new way to shop. This means that broader social awareness becomes more important. I’d like to think the GoInStore name and badge (trademarked J) becomes a familiar fixture on high street shop windows – much in the same way Just Eat logos are blasted across take-away windows.  Who knows, maybe some funny viral clips would be good? There’s a lot of potential humour in virtually shopping in-store, without actually being seen.

Do you have any recommendations for entries in the next Digital Retail Innovations report?

Take a look at http://ascompany.co.uk/ – vending machines on steroids!

Webloyalty is a leading reward programme provider working with major online retailers to help them build stronger, more profitable relationships with their customers. Through our membership programmes we help our online retail partners’ customers save hundreds of pounds a year while providing the partner with an additional revenue stream. As well as incentivising customers to make repeat purchases at the partner’s site, members can also earn cashback and get great deals on everything from fashion to electronics to travel, at hundreds of top online stores.