HUMANISE technology or digital transformation is doomed – that’s the stark message from Adrian Thompson, Founder of imageHOLDERS, as he prepares to address the Retail Technology Show in April.
“Businesses make the mistake of thinking this is about technology – it’s actually about people, what engages them and how they behave. If you let technology lead the way, rather than the user journey, you’ll fail,” Thompson says.
imageHOLDERS works with a range of brands, from McDonalds to Nordstrom on tailored interactive kiosks and device enclosures that help drive user engagement, streamline processes and boost company revenues. The British specialist allies closely with its customers to design sleek and intuitive easy to use solutions that enable and empower both employees and consumers.
“We’re in the heart of a digital transformation that will define our era in the same way as the industrial revolution,” continues Thompson. And yet many businesses do nothing because they think it’s too complex – they can’t see past tech terms such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and Apps, while the real focus should be on how all those elements and more can be applied to transform the user journeys of their workforce and customers.”
imageHOLDERS helps businesses break through this inertia by talking to them about the change management involved in successful digital transformation – again, a key element often overlooked. “There are three steps to change: resistance, acceptance and the point where change actually happens,” says Thompson. “We learn where a business is now, where it wants to be, and help them understand the changes needed to get them there.”
A modular approach that designs out obsolescence
Thompson appreciates the implementation of new technology solutions may seem long and arduous, which is why having a scalable modular approach is a key imageHOLDERS focus.
“Our ability to tailor and customise solutions speeds time to market. We take a deeply modular approach – for some of our rivals ‘modular’ means putting different holes in the same sheet of metal. For us it’s about software, hardware and format flexibility – delivering future-proof solutions that can grow with an organisation’s needs. We aim to design out obsolescence,” he adds.
For every business that stalls on digital transformation, there’s one that makes an equal and opposite error: rushing to implement technology that isn’t fit for purpose. Thompson believes this is largely down to, once again, people thinking devices are a means to an end. “We’ve heard horror stories of businesses making huge investments before they’ve even run a trial – they just haven’t thought things through. I know of one company that bought 4000 Android tablets that they eventually ended up selling on eBay!”
Thompson also lays blame at the door of technology suppliers who peddle a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Everything imageHOLDERS creates – starting with its recently introduced Core range – is highly customisable and scalable. “Businesses have been burned by dead-end transactional solutions – we’re here to beat down those barriers and challenge pre-conceptions,” he says.
Digital transformation in retail
Thompson recognises retail has a unique set of challenges, which can add even more perceived barriers to successful digital transformation. “Retailers have strong brand identities; solutions have to be highly design conscious, and often fit in restricted space: square-footage is a premium, especially in UK and European stores. The evolving range of payment options adds another layer of complexity.”
However, study after study has shown customers embrace in-store technology – they want solutions that make it easier to pay, to see what’s in stock and be inspired: all these drive higher engagement and higher purchase rates.
“People increasingly expect technology to enhance their in-store experience,” says Thompson. “Once again, the retailers that succeed are those that find a great balance between humans and technology. The best retail staff are highly knowledgeable about the products and services on offer – when they have the chance to share that knowledge it adds value and converts more purchases. If you can get them out from behind a till – let the user centric tech solutions take care of transactions – it’s better for them, better for the customers and better for business.”
EQ: the most important acronym
What are Thompson’s concluding suggestions for businesses looking to embrace all the benefits of digital transformation, without the pain? “You need a high level of emotional intelligence. Don’t let technology lead the solution – focus on people and process before ‘feeds and speeds’. Also, encourage change, but don’t announce or make big moves until solutions are ready and tested.”
He has one final suggestion for businesses serious about digital transformation. “Maybe we should ban the word ‘kiosk’ – let’s think of them as imageholders instead!’