HERO®’s monthly series of virtual events exploring the insights of individuals on the cutting edge of retail and commerce returned this week with an eye-opening discussion about how stores are becoming studios, and store associates the new creators.
Led by Hero COO Natasha Franzen, the conversation saw content creator and influencer Tim Dessaint come together with Kirsten Barrett, Retail Development Manager at Ted Baker, to talk about the way creator culture can be used to better connect online shoppers with brands and products online.
One of the greatest challenges online retail still faces is replicating the best elements of the in-store experience. Whether it’s getting a feel for the physical quality of a product, or being able to understand how a garment looks on different body types, traditional ecommerce can leave the customer disconnected from their potential purchases.
There’s also the matter of the personal touch that product experts in the shop can offer. Tim told us that the ‘human connection, for me, is the aspect that you sometimes lose when online shopping’. He believes that a big part of the shopping experience is having the ability to talk with store associates so that you can better understand the product you’re buying.
Ted Baker have been one of the first companies to trial Hero’s new Stories feature, capturing the look and feel of social-style videos whilst also offering invaluable insight into the products that might otherwise feel intangible to customers. Talking with Natasha, Kirstin and Tim offered their thoughts on how this fresh approach to replicating creator culture offers new opportunities to online retailers.
1. A more seamless multichannel experience. Ted Baker has been one of the trialists during Hero’s beta testing of Stories. ‘Anything that has potential to enhance the customer experience turns our head at Ted Baker,’ Kirsten told us. Omnichannel growth is a key focus for the brand, and Stories offered them a simple and elegant way to connect their website to their stores.
The brand is always on the lookout for new technologies that they can be early adopters of, but Stories comes with the added benefit of already feeling like a polished product. ‘The functionality of Stories is super slick,’ Kirsten says, ‘and really easy for the teams to grasp’.
Tim Dessaint is a big fan too – the static images that sites usually utilize are limiting, he says. ‘You can’t always see how the garment flows, how it drapes, and just how it sits on the body’. These are all things that customers get from an experience in a brick and mortar store, but tech like Hero’s Stories can bring these elements online as well.
2. Introducing the creator element to in-store experts. The fuel that powers the Stories function is the creativity and involvement of the store associates who are given the opportunity to create video content showing off the products they most love. Natasha asked Kirsten how Ted Baker approached the potentially difficult transition to content creators that their staff were undertaking.
Explaining the new tool as a way to create social media-esque content at work meant it wasn’t difficult for associates to get their head around what they needed to do, Kirsten says. Paired with a detailed kick-off pack from Hero themselves, it didn’t take long for the teams to start creating engaging videos.
‘We started off with a bit of a holistic approach, if I’m honest,’ Kirsten says. ‘We didn’t really want to tie the teams up too much in a big list of dos and don’ts. We provided the framework but instead we tried to focus our efforts on really coaching them through the process.’
When teams do need guidance, it’s easy for the app’s story approver to offer rapid feedback that helps the creator rethink their approach and ensure that the content meets the brand’s standards.
3. Creating meaningful content. Once store associates are ready to film, the next big question has to look at content. What makes for meaningful content? Tim Dessaint was the obvious man to answer this question, with his significant personal brand and social media following. And for Tim the most important thing content has to do is offer value. ‘Value can come in many different ways,’ Tim says, ‘most content is either educational or entertaining. And ideally you can mix the two together.’
Blending the entertainment and educational factors are a great start. Tim also looks for authenticity and uniqueness. This can come from finding the right people to take part in Stories – the ones who are immediately drawn to the opportunity. Do this right, and the staff featured in posts online can become ‘mini-influencers’ in their own right. Customers will be drawn not only to the products on offer, but the staff that they get to interact with – tying online shopping to an element of the in store experience that has previously been so hard to translate.
4. Exploring the possibilities. Having explored the foundations of Stories – from getting staff engaged to creating simple ‘how to wear it’ posts, talk turns to the ways brands might exploit content creation in the future. Kirsten is clear on her first goal for Ted Baker – at least one Stories video for every product on the site. Tim is a huge supporter of the idea; video is king now, and he believes the best way to help the customer is to offer as much content as possible.
But the Stories function is so flexible that the panel comes up with plenty of other potential uses. Kirsten sees an opportunity to create FAQ videos using the questions most asked via Hero. There’s plenty of scope for brands to collaborate directly with established influencers, utilising their expertise to heighten the quality of the content on the site. Kirsten also talks about using Stories to connect customers with the designers of different products to offer ‘true storytelling at the point of inspiration’.
Whatever the way brands use Stories, it’s clear that the fuel at the centre of it all is the creativity and the individuality of the people involved. Kirsten thinks it’s easy to see content creation form an element of the recruitment process as companies seek creative and thoughtful colleagues who can offer new insights to an online audience craving the human touch that has previously only been available in-store. With features like Stories, it’s becoming much easier to create that seamless shopping experience.