As a digitally native brand with around five years of physical retail under its belt, Outdoor Voices is constantly working to improve the shopper experience inside its stores.
On Thursday, the brand is rolling out new technology to all nine of its retail locations, after running a pilot program in SoHo location over the last four weeks and spending six months integrating the tech into all stores. With the addition of the new tech, the brand wants to improve inventory accuracy, speed up in-store checkout and make the overall shopper experience faster and simpler.
The tech will also be featured in the brand’s NYC flagship store, opening later this year.
Outdoor Voices partnered with omnichannel retail platform NewStore to overhaul its stores in a number of ways. First, leveraging RFID (radio frequency identification) technology that Outdoor Voices has added to every product on the store floor and in back rooms. Using a scanner, store associates can now quickly scan the entire store by waving a scanner over racks and stacks, for example, and get an accurate read of what sizes and styles it has in stock.
“This allows us to count all of our inventory without having to touch anything, and it can go really fast,” said Kevin Harwood, vp of technology at Outdoor Voices. What used to take eight to nine hours for an entire Outdoor Voices sales team, now takes just two employees 20 to 30 minutes, with 99% inventory accuracy. Moving forward, the brand will use this inventory knowledge to offer shoppers more opportunity to buy online and pick up in stores.
Previously, Harwood said, the brand was down to as much as 70-80% accuracy when tracking inventory without RFID. Now, if the brand’s system shows that it has one navy sports bra left in stock in a size small, but no one can find it, the associate just needs to turn the scanner on and point it around the store.
“Maybe the product ended up in the changing room, or maybe it’s behind the shelf downstairs and fell over the back. You’re able to actually go and find that last unit with this technology, which allows the customer to actually leave with the product,” Harwood said.
That tech can also help the brand’s corporate team understand what products and colors are selling well and in what stores, what’s not selling, and what’s being returned. It can even help store associates track the movement of the product in the store to see what people are trying on and buying, and not buying.
Additionally, Outdoor Voices has added a new point-of-sale system, available through an iPhone app, that gives employees the opportunity to walk around the store and help shoppers without being tied to a cash wrap. For existing customers, store associates can pull up the entire shopper history on the spot by entering the customer’s email or name associated with their account.
“The store associate can then have a conversation about products the customer has purchased in the past and potentially identify areas of upsell. The associate has all of that [customer] information right here in their hands, which is incredibly helpful,” said Harwood.
Customers can use credit or debit cards, cash or gift cards to make purchases with this POS, plus the system also allows shoppers to use Apple Pay. That means store associates only need an iPhone to make a sale. The store associate just chooses the pay-by-phone feature in the point-of-sale system, which launches a QR code that the customer scans by opening their camera app. That opens a web page on the customer’s phone with the sale total and a button to pay with Apple Pay. Analysts from Loup Ventures estimate that 127 million people have activated Apple Pay on their phones, or about 16% of iPhone users.
That has major implications for Outdoor Voices outside of the store. As a brand that heavily promotes #DoingThings, getting outside and moving your body, working with NewStore makes it easier for employees in the field to make sales. Say the brand hosts a community engagement event, like a running or yoga event, outside of the store. Employees would just need an iPhone to show products and make sales that can be shipped directly to the customer, assuming they have Apple Pay.
A big perk for the team is that the technology is very simple for store associates to learn and use.
“The training effort is very minimal. It’s two apps. It’s not rocket science.” said Stephan Schambach, founder and CEO at NewStore.