Video game retailer, GameStop, puts it tech talent to the test in new omni-channel rollout
Omni-channel is really the future of bricks-and-mortar retailing. We’ve known that for a while now and some stores have experimented with the technology behind it, attempting to roll it out bit by bit into the wild. So far, nobody has really managed to do it successfully. Some stores would have you believe they’ve cracked the concept, but essentially they’ve done little beyond taking some online offers and bringing them into stores, or deploying QR codes and some NFC readers on tills.
So, it looks like GameStop may well be a real contender in this space, and it’s putting all its omni-channel efforts into a new branch of the business called GameStop Technology Institute. This new arm is designed to advance how games are sold, and how customers interact with the brand. It makes sense too, as technology is what it sells day in, day out, so understanding how to use it to improve customer experience is a no-brainer.
This omni-channel future requires users to have signed up to the free in-store WiFi, triggering a specific marketing message to a customer’s phone. This also alerts store staff to when a customer has walked through the door, giving them access to recent purchases, trade-in credit, wish list titles and more. And seeing as most game stores tend to have local and returning customers, most members of staff will already be familiar with the likes and dislikes of particular customers.
“You have to be careful, right, because you don’t want to seem creepy,” acknowledged Jeff Donaldson, senior vice president of GameStop’s new R&D division, when speaking to MCV. “You have to do it in a way that is helpful to the customer. But we are working on a Concierge App so that our store associates will know who is in the store and be able to better help them.”
It’s not an entirely new concept, but so far nobody has really done it. But it seems that GameStop has some more elaborate ideas up its sleeve too: “Another cool idea we have is that you can be watching a trailer on your smartphone, and you can walk up to any display in the store and just flick the video onto that display and it just comes alive on this beautiful, crisp, colourful, huge 4K display,” said Donaldson. “I actually saw this work just a couple of weeks ago.”
There’s more too, as MCV‘s Chris Dring painted out his vision of what he’d expect a store of the future to look like, demo-pods and experience areas – a la Games Workshop. He sees the walls of these stores being lined with physical merchandise and hardware that customers can just pick up and buy after having used it, and then purchase it on their phone without even needing to deal with a store assistant until they need to pick up their goods.
It seems that Donaldson already has that sort of experience “up and running” in the Technology Institute’s lab.
“I can’t really comment publically on who we are working with on that. But I can say we have strong relationships with Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Those guys are interested in what we are doing and we will certainly be working with them on some of these experiences.”
Having the backing of the three big games hardware and infrastructure developers makes GameStop’s proposition better too, as having integration with Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Miiverse would allow customers to instantly share their purchases, redeem discounts or buy digital content, directly from any physical store. It would totally eliminate the boundary between the online and offline GameStop stores. It’d even allow for customers to download software directly to their machine, resulting in zero delay between making a digital purchase and coming home to play it.
“Our president also has a saying”, continued Donaldson. “‘Stores must morph to the customer, not the other way around.’ His vision is when customers walk into our stores, they get a personalised experience.
“The initial focus is what we call the digitalisation of physical space. Essentially you merge the online and physical world. Browse behavior on GameStop.com is merged with the in-store behaviour.”
Donaldson even sees a future where customers who need help with a game, or have an issue with hardware or software, should just be able to use GameStop.com to video call their local store and ask for help. “That is something I can do in store, so it should be able to do the same thing online. GTI [GameStop Technology Institute] is more about equalising the channels, rather than emphasising one over the other.”