Five Minutes With: James Yancey, CEO of CloudTags

What are your biggest opportunities & challenges for the next 12-24 months?

Our biggest opportunities right now is creating the next generation of “connected” stores that are equipped for the omnichannel age. With the advent of beacons, sensors, and near field communication (NFC) technologies, there are massive opportunities for disruption in the way that customers and staff collectively interact before, during and after a store visit. The purchase path is no longer linear and customers are now starting, supporting and ending their shopping journey at different places both online and offline. The big opportunity is to incorporate these new technologies to offer new empowerment and aligned incentives to store staff and customers as a win-win scenario.

The biggest challenge is getting retailers on board to go beyond simply throwing new tech into their store and plan for organizational change in how customers and staff have these new brands experiences. Without properly allocating credit for online and mobile purchases that originate in the store back to the store and associates, then digital experiences will not be encouraged by an organization. It may seem obvious that if an associate works with a customer, and engages them digitally, it can be tracked, and that value should be given for those efforts, but many retailers are behind.  Marketers know that they need to be on board with new technologies, but there are more questions on how to effectively implement solutions and organizational change with the ability to both define and measure success. While ecommerce is growing, over 90% of sales take place in the store. A continuous experience can only work well with the both staff and customers embracing and welcoming the change.

What keeps your clients up at night?

With the plethora of new technologies and the limited ability to run multiple tests due to the often understaffed size and resources of internal teams, making the right bet is critical. Most retail organizations may only allocate time and resource to 1-3 projects per year. Having the ability to make an discernible impact on the business rests in the results showing an undisputed ROI. 

Although many new technologies offer possibilities, few have the ability to get beyond a shiny object as part of a store-of-the-future project and the vast majority of retailers need to show incremental sales, not just hear customer feedback that something was cool. Picking projects that have a high chance to scale across the business in both volume and ROI is crucial. Decision paralysis and making no bets at all during this period is even worse. 

What’s the hardest thing to educate clients about?

The hardest thing on the education front is having retailers understand the combination of tech, data and metrics that extend across both store and online. Heads of retail store operations have traditionally seen investment in tech as cost cutting, loss prevention and efficiency increasing endeavors. Heads of online see investment in tech as revenue generating opportunities to engage, identify and retain customers. Combining these backgrounds into a common viewpoint on the expectations and rationale behind investment in digital experiences that necessitate hardware investments can be hard work. Retailers are scrambling right now not only to understand their customers and what drives them to make a purchase but re-educating operational store teams on digital growth tactics and metrics takes time.

What are some unmet needs in the marketing technology landscape?

There is a tremendous focus on POS and checking customers out in new and different ways. There is equal focus on a variety of mobile applications for customers to use autonomously while in the store. And although many stores have iPads for staff to access clienteling data for showing past customer purchase history and preference, they are often not interactive. A connected store needs experiences that allow staff to interactively engage while customers are in the store. This means mobile apps that have in-store modes that allow the staff devices to share data and screens. There is currently a lack in the market to create these collaborative experiences with devices. Related to the answer above, there are not good attribution systems to score and credit this type value creation that occurs in a connected store.

What social network do you anticipate accelerating growth in the next year?

Instagram will be the top social network in terms of accelerating growth over the next year.Facebook got a steal when they acquired Instagram for $1B in 2012 and still think we have yet to see Instagram’s best work. Instagram has done a fantastic job of being able to grow at a fast rate without alienating its user base and their efforts have paid off big time. The levels of engagement on Instagram are skyrocketing with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Now that Instagram has over 300 million users, now people will start to see the power of Facebook’s advertising platform at play and the possibilities of cross channel attribution with Atlas going into 2016. Specifically related to retail, we believe the Pinterest API and buy button will do well.

James Yancey is CEO and founder of CloudTags.

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