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Before you can merchandise, you have to buy. The product mix and inventory clearly determine what goes where, but while other parts of the industry are driven by technology, buying decisions often are made in an old-fashioned way — on paper.
What if when you bought for the season ahead, you used an interactive tool? If instead of filling out forms, a tool streamlined your transactions and provided extra support to new salespeople?
At Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013, at least one company aimed to reimagine how buyers do business: BrandAxion debuted the InterAxion Showroom Sales Table with Terramar. According to President Jeff Danzer, the company developed the table to solve inefficiencies in the sales cycle, such as:
- The transcription and communication of notes post-meeting
- The timely delivery of samples
- The incorporation of product reviews, videos and ads
Danzer began designing apps to run on a Samsung SUR40 Surface Table or any Windows 7 or 8 tablet to speed up all of the above, and then some. Microsoft surface tables have been around for about five years, providing an interactive and social experience in the consumer world. However, according to Danzer, until now no one has figured out how to use the technology in business.
The table has visual recognition. That means that once a product label is scanned, all information about that item appears and can be interacted with. Notes can be entered and sent immediately. For example, when “send medium sample” is entered, there is no lag and the sample can be on its way before a presentation even ends.
Pico Manufacturing Sales Corp., an underwear manufacturer, has invested in the table to make buyers’ experience more visual and accessible. The biggest advantage? Pico officials say the technology allows the presentation experience to take center stage. According to Pico’s Marty Litt, an additional perk is that when more than one line is involved, the entire process can take place in one room without sales reps bouncing around.
While there’s no Apple version of the actual table (Danzer says Apple can’t run off this type of large format visual recognition/touch technology), an iPad-friendly version is in the development stage. The tablet form of the app will do everything the table version does, with the exception of visual recognition.
Russ Pittman, vice president of sales and marketing at Terramar (www.terramarsports.com), which debuted the table at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, decided to invest in the sales tool because for an industry that sells technologically advanced products, the transaction process is old school.
“How can you sell technology without using technology?” Pittman said. “It amazes me that everything is still done with pen and paper.”
Pittman acknowledged that as with any new technology, bugs need to be ironed out, but he’s looking forward to the next version. The tweaked product is expected to include an API interface that accommodates direct orders, provides inventory availability and includes a planogram function to allow buyers to visualize how the product will look in their store.
Using technology to give buyers an interactive experience sounds like a win-win, and if it eliminates the need for heavy catalogues, it’ll even save a few trees.
SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright
is the founder of Merchandising Matters,
which provides merchandising support to brands, retailers and their agencies.
Reach her via email at email@example.com
with questions, ideas and suggestions.