CompUSA Makes Retail Stores Multichannel

Stores that successfully bring the e-commerce experience to the brick-and-mortar environment are most likely to differentiate themselves from the competition, said Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of Systemax Technology Worldwide.

Speaking Aug. 9 at eTail East in Baltimore, Fiorentino said he’s seen this connection between the Internet and retail help Systemax’s 39 CompUSA stores. By creating as many touch-points with the Internet as possible on the sales floor, CompUSA saw a 20% increase in in-store conversions in 2009.

“We knew right after we bought CompUSA (in January 2008) that shopping in the store was a bad experience,” Fiorentino said. “As an Internet company, we knew we could leverage the power of the Internet to give the in-store customer a multichannel sales experience.”

Systemax calls its integration of e-commerce and store sales Retail 2.0. The company remodeled its existing CompUSA stores last year to include the integration, and incorporated the concept in stores it has opened since 2009 and in its recently-opened stores.

Fiorentino said Retail 2.0 includes Internet touch-points connected to as many products as possible on the show floor to assist the customer’s purchasing decision.

For example, all display laptops and personal computers are connected directly to that product’s page on All display televisions are connected to computers where spec pages are easily accessible.

The waterfall display area for cameras is also connected to the CompUSA site. When a customer picks up a camera, that product’s page is displayed on a 32-inch monitor positioned in the middle of the waterfall. The customer can then use a keyboard at the front of the waterfall to surf through specs, product reviews and pricing info.

In a phone interview conducted Aug. 16, Fiorentino stressed Retail 2.0 is not about replacing sales people. Instead it’s a “Cliff’s Notes” for sales people, as well as a training tool, since CompUSA can broadcast messages through the system.

Fiorentino explained it’s not an easy task for even the best sales people to memorize the details about every SKU on the sales floor, especially when you include video cards and other computer accessories.

Bringing the Internet right to the product also keeps the sales person from interrupting the customer interaction because he or she is running to an Internet kiosk to retrieve product information.

But there’s a second layer to Retail 2.0 as well. Fiorentino explained there are customers who don’t want to be bothered by sales people and prefer to do their own research. This keeps them from grabbing their mobile devices while in the store and searching for product information and possibly leaving CompUSA to buy from another retailer.

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