As the rise of eCommerce marches onward, physical retailers increasingly rely on store transformation initiatives to reinvent brick-and-mortar stores to maintain majority market share and boost consumer interest. One such retail reinvention shifts the role of store associates from a sales position to one of service.
Enter Tulip Retail, the cloud-based software company that offers a mobile app suite for store associates in a retail setting. Founded in 2013, Tulip’s mobile application enables four main in-store services, the first of which is assisted selling.
“Picture a retail worker with an iPad or iPhone in their hand,” Bill Zujewski, EVP of marketing at Tulip Retail, said. “They bring up the Tulip app, and now, they can access the catalog, store inventory, as well as inventory in other stores and online.”
Tulip also provides a mobile checkout and POS module to enable line-busting, as well as a clienteling feature that enables store associates to communicate and follow-up with customers outside the store.
“It’s a follow-up email or a text that their order has arrived,” Zujewski said. “We’re trying to give tools to the sales associate to try and build a more personal relationship with their clients.”
The last piece of Tulip’s mobile application is an employee module that allows workers to collaborate with other stores or headquarters on merchandising plans and new product lines. The feature also includes in-app chat and document sharing.
Tulip’s first markets include apparel, luxury and merchandising companies, including clients like Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, Kate Spade and Toys“R”Us — all large brands who want to develop a personal in-store experience and build a relationship with their customers, Zujewski said.
Using Tulip’s applications allows retailers to better overcome what Zujewski called the “digital divide.” In an increasingly mobile, connected world, consumers are more knowledgeable about products they want to buy before they buy them. The more consumers know, the less sales associates can add value.
“We put a ton of product information into the app,” Zujewski said. “Associates can make comparisons, access consumer reports, ratings and reviews. They can have a more intelligent conversation with that customer.”
Recently, Tulip Retail announced a strategic partnership with SmarterHQ, a leading multichannel behavioral marketing platform, to give store associates using Tulip additional access to customer insights from their activity on a retailer’s website. The SmarterHQ platform will be integrated into Tulip Retail’s mobile application, allowing store associates to access customer activity from on- and offline channels in a single, unified customer profile.
With this additional information, Zujewski said, sales associates can make personalized product recommendations based on purchase and viewing history. While being too forward with the information could unnerve a customer, said Zujewski, a casual mention of an item or two of interest is enough. And, he noted, the younger generation is much more tolerant of Big Data tracking.
“Each business will be a bit different,” Zujewski said, “depending on their particular philosophy. But it does seem like the younger generation doesn’t care as much. With them, associates may be frank and say, ‘I saw online you were looking at this. Are you interested in seeing it here?’”
Adding value to sales associates and enabling in-store transformation are catching on quick. Zujewski said that Tulip had grown by nearly 400 percent in the past 12 months alone. The company has increased from one to over a dozen retail customers. Tulip Retail now employs over 120 people.
Moving forward, Zujewski said Tulip Retail will continue to focus on creating technology for the retail sales associate, from managing events and handling appointments to managing compensation. Tulip is investing in developing an employee dashboard where sales associates can keep track of their stats — customers helped, sales made, tasks completed, etc. — and be able to keep track of their personal goals.
Additionally, Tulip is looking to build employee training into its mobile app.
“This younger generation — when they’re not using the employee app that we give them — they’ll have their phones out anyway,” Zujewski said. “We’re looking at other things in the app for when a customer isn’t there. We’re starting to build self-paced training so that, when there’s time between customers, they can learn more about products, messaging and other things like that.”