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Crate & Barrel COO Michael Relich knows who his brand’s prime customer is but that isn’t enough to remain competitive in the competitive furniture and home décor market.

He wants to know what his customer wants and how to foster that transaction in the most seamless approach possible and is betting on mobile technology to make it happen.

The 55-year-old brand’s prime shopper is typically in their late 40’s and looking for high quality home furniture and décor and make such purchases within one to two years. That’s a big distinction compared to competitors’ customers, explained Relich, as most purchases are spread much further apart in time due to the high price tag in buying home furniture.

Today’s shoppers, said Relich, also want greater insight on how potential new furniture will fit and look within the home space and that can be tricky given the dozens of options with fabric and furniture sizes.

That’s why Crate & Barrel is implementing advanced mobile technologies to provide consumers a real-time view of what a room would look like given perspective choices and the ability to purchase in a quicker, easier transaction.

“It [mobile and digital tech] makes it quite powerful,” Relich said during a session talk at the Shoptalk conference held in March in Las Vegas. “Technology will make it all seamless.”

It all began in 2012 when Crate & Barrel launched a 3-D room designer app for the iPad. The app lets users redesign any room in a 3-D model, switching in hundreds of different fabrics and furniture choices.

The mobile app also empowers associates and their role on the show floor, noted Relich.

Despite many industry analysts’ declarations that the physical retail showroom is dying, Relich believes just the opposite, citing that nearly 92 percent of his brand’s sales are happening in the store.

The mobile system also facilitates purchase and helps eliminate the potentially stressful cash register scenario, which Relich said can prove a bit “daunting” when a consumer is making large purchases such as furniture.

“We see a much higher conversion with the mobile POS and, while we have a ways to go, it’s helped a lot,” he said.

The mobile tech also provides the ‘endless aisle’ capability which is gaining traction in the retail environment as floor space becomes a more expensive proposition.

“It’s about helping shoppers find what they want, a curation tool not full of junk, but which reflects our brand,” Relich said.

The mobile strategy is also providing greater data and analytics which is creating a deeper and clearer view of customers for the brand and associates.

“We’re able to stitch data with customer information and we then have a customer’s status on purchase and associates are aware and able to access that customer data,” Relich explained. The goal is to replicate the recommendation engine initially put into play, he added.

“If associates can have that kind of recommendation for a customer, that will be powerful,” he said, as it’s all about the ability to “zero in on customer intent.”

Further down, the road the Northbrook, Illinois-based retailer hopes to integrate beacon data into the customer ‘view’ to help best identify its best customers.

“It’s all about identifying who is ready to make a purchase decision and it’s not just about providing them a discount. We’re pretty happy with the route we’re taking but we can do a lot more.”

Don’t miss the next chance to hear retailers talk about real-time customer experience strategy, success stories and tips for avoiding missteps, including Scott Emmons, head of the Innovation Lab at Neiman Marcus. Attend the upcoming ICX Summit happening June 5-7 at the Four Seasons in Dallas.To check out the agenda, click here and to register for what promises to be a valuable event, click here.

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Photo Credit: iStock

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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