The Interview: Daniel Langhorn, multi-channel lead, size?
Sneaker and streetwear retailer size? relaunched its ‘size? experts’ concept in early July after pausing the service on 24 March 2020, when stores were forced to temporarily close due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More recently, the retailer has upgraded the service, provided by leading innovative engagement technology company, Hero, to include ‘chat and reserve’ and a two-way video call with size? experts live on the shop floor.
Taking customer service to another level, it’s allowing customers to chat to in-store experts and receive product and styling advice from the comfort of their own home. After a trial period in select size? locations, the service has now been rolled out to all of its 33 stores. Multi-channel lead Daniel Langhorn tells us all about it.
How would you best describe the size? experts concept?
It’s really about mixing digital with bricks and mortar. We originally launched it in July 2019 – just with Nike – as a three-month trial, but then we opened it up to all brands across multiple size? stores, and we’ve recently added new features.
When coronavirus hit, we tapered it off until we got on our feet again and reopened our stores, though we did have a short period where we had some size? experts operating from their homes. During the lockdown we really looked at our priorities and what’s important to our customers, and how we best deliver that to fit their needs. We call it size? experts but it’s powered by the Hero platform, which regularly refreshes features and what we can offer.
So, what’s new?
Coming out of the lockdown, we redid all the marketing for size? experts and worked really closely with Hero. They told us of key features that we could start promoting that they could then update when we went back live with the service last month. That includes the new ‘chat and reserve’ feature and video calling.
Customers visit size.co.uk, or sizeofficial.fr in France, simply click on the product they’re interested in, or visit the size? experts page and click the size? experts icon located in the right-hand corner of their screen. Users can then select one of three options - product advice, stock availability or size and fit. Customers are then connected to the nearest available size? store expert who can assist with their enquiry.
Who are the experts?
They are people in our stores who the store managers and ourselves have identified as the most knowledgeable members of staff in the stores. So, there might be a guy in Manchester who is an absolute expert on Nike Air Max, or he might be really good on performance running shoes, or retro vintage runners. Then there might be someone else in our Birmingham store who has a massive North Face collection and is really knowledgeable about that brand. Equally there’s people who excel on the customer care and service side of things.
When were the new ‘chat and reserve’ and video call features added?
It was about five weeks ago now. We had the chat feature previously, but the ability to now reserve a pair of shoes is new. If you see something on the size? website, you go on the widget which appears on the product page and chat to someone who connects you to an available size? expert at your nearest local store.
The shoes the customer is after may be sold out of their size on the website, but this gives them the ability to see if they have their size available at their nearest store. They can then reserve them and make an appointment to go in for them. It allows us to give customers piece of mind.
Our experts can also offer other information such as, if you don’t want to go in when the shop is likely to be busy – which is clearly a concern at the minute, they might recommend booking a time slot for say 4pm on a Tuesday. That’s not only geared around providing our customers with a good shopping service, but also keeping them and our staff safe during these times.
How does the new video call option work?
The video calls are basically like FaceTime that can only be initiated by the customer. For example, the customer can call and up ask to see the selection we’ve got right now in a particular store of say Adidas ‘terrace’ shoes. All of our instore size? experts have a hand-held device with video capability, and they can set themselves to ‘available’ at any given time when they are not busy serving in the store.
You can literally get a tour of the shop from your own home, and even get advice on how to style a jacket or whatever – with recommendations that can be pictured and sent to the customer, viewed via video or information related by just having a chat – so there’s three options.
Our people on the shop floor can text, send images through or take a video call depending on the customer’s preference. It’s definitely taking customer service to the next level and providing customers with the opportunity to discuss the finer product details. Other retailers, such as Harvey Nichols, offer a similar kind of service, as do a few high-end jewellery stores. It’s utilising that expert knowledge from the people we have working in our stores.
Does it keep staff busy in stores during quieter moments then?
Yes, it does. There’s so much potential in the stores because, on a quiet day, you could have staff sat idle waiting for customers to come through the door, which is a waste because the people we have working in our stores are really passionate about the product. It’s about being proactive and utilising our assets and the people we have working for size? They have a bank of knowledge which can really help our online customers too. It works both ways, as our staff can give advice and the customer can then go and place an order on their mobile or desktop through our website, or they can see it’s not on the website but is in a store - so they will go in. It’s driving sales both ways.
What has the uptake been from customers since you’ve launched these new features?
It’s getting there. There’s a good few thousand customers who are coming through and initiating chats every single week now. We recently launched the new features in our Carnaby Street and Paris stores, which didn’t offer size? experts previously. Our Brixton store, which isn’t a particularly busy store, has had a really good uptake for size? experts recently. If you’ve got a really busy store, like the one on Carnaby Street, then a person on the shop floor is going to make themselves available for video calling and online customer advice less frequently. So, some of the quieter stores actually have the most traffic for size? experts, which in turn means that staff in those stores are attributed to those sales.