LAS VEGAS — As the AVB team introduced new technological roll-outs during the annual Summit here, CEO Jim Ristow thought of a time when retailers realized that they needed quality websites in order to keep pace with consumer demand. Now, he said, retail has come to another such crossroad in the shopping experience.
“Five or six years ago, the light bulb went off that (retailers) have to have a really good website,” Ristow said. “We believe we’re at that exact same point in the shopping experience.”
To bolster the shopping experience, technological advances include an integrated experience that merges online and offline shopping, point-of-sale advances that add more real-time looks at inventory, a deeper endless aisle and more. It’s part of an effort to improve the experience for retail sales associates and consumers.
Besides the new sales and merchandising services, existing tools had already been available to members, which helped the group gain significant market share during the pandemic. A big part of the announcement was that AVB took those varied tools and services, which can be overwhelming to a retailer, and bundled them together into four simple tiers of service under the Alta banner, as part of the group’s Simplify + Unify initiative.
“Our members have the best salespeople. What they didn’t have was a tool that tied all this information, all these processes and all the stuff that people are getting online with what they’re doing in store. There’s a gap,” said Dave Meekings, chief operating officer. “Consumers go online and see all this information, images, videos, specs, documents. They come to the store and the salesperson, the best they can do is go online themselves and pull up the same exact thing. We’re taking all that data and information and putting it in an interface that’s designed for the sales professional.”
The AVB officials agreed that the advances are necessary because of the way technology has become more integrated in everybody’s lives and has become the expectation, rather than a novelty.
“Think of how technology has supplemented things you have done every day,” said John White, chief marketing officer. “When you go into a restaurant, they don’t hand you a menu; there’s a QR code and you scan it.”
One of the new features can sync an online shopping journey with a store visit. A consumer visits a retailer’s website and selects a piece of furniture and puts in their cart but wants to sit in it before making a purchase. With the system, the consumer can share information with a salesperson in the store, who can then pull up the history to pick up where that consumer left off.
“It works in both directions. You can start with the salesperson and can finish online at home,” Ristow added.
Updates to AVB’s Kiosq platform add more SKUs to a retailer’s offerings. “In the home furnishings space, there’s a very limited selection compared with what’s out there. You might have 200 SKUs on the floor but there are 200,000 available. It’s the way to get some of that inventory,” White said.
AVB is also working with a handful of POS providers to create a system that will integrate with them to offer real-time looks at inventory, prices and more.
“They’re to the point now that if you’re on that system and use it to its capabilities, you can tie into our tools really seamlessly and it’s one unified platform at that point,” White said.
Additionally, AVB has a browser-based POS system, Sync, in beta. It’s designed to integrate with AVB’s existing systems and provide the core needs of a furniture or appliance retailer.
Thomas Lester is Retail Editor for Furniture Today and Digital/Managing Editor for Home Accents Today. A graduate of Emory & Henry College’s Mass Communications program, Lester spent a dozen years working for newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina covering an array of subjects, ranging from community news, government, education, ACC sports, professional baseball and more before joining Furniture Today in 2013. Reach out to me with your story ideas, tips and more at tlester@furnituretoday.com.
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