#166: Accessible In-store eCommerce – the missing brick in the future of commerce
In this edition of the Ecommerce Coffee Break Podcast, Giles Corbett, Co-founder & CEO at cloudshelf.ai, joins us for a chat about the future of commerce and the importance of Accessible In-store eCommerce.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- The importance of brick and mortar
- How to compete with big brands while having a small/medium store
- A deep insight into shopper’s psychology
- How to take your promotions to a whole new level
Links & Resources
About Our Podcast Guest: Giles Corbett
Giles Corbett is an experienced entrepreneur and retail-tech expert with a passion for developing innovative solutions to transform the future of commerce. With years of experience in the industry, Giles recognized the potential of remote working during the pandemic and identified the need for smaller, more localized retail outlets to utilize digital solutions in order to meet consumer demands. Drawing on over 20 years of experience in developing and launching successful consumer-facing B2B SaaS solutions, Giles founded Cloudshelf.ai, an innovative platform that provides retailers with the tools they need to thrive in a rapidly changing market.
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Claus Lauter: Hello and welcome to another episode of the e-Commerce Coffee Break podcast. Today I have a super interesting topic for you and something that I haven't seen before. It is basically having in-store e-commerce with Shopify. Now you might be wondering what that is. Wait a second, we go into that. So as an expert for this, I have Giles Corbett with me.
He's the co-founder and c e of Cloud shelf.ai, and we discussed the missing brick in the future of e-commerce, and that is accessible in store commerce. has worked for years in developing retail tech business in Asia. He realized during the pandemic that remote work is changing the future of e-commerce and the winning solution there was going to, evolve more and therefore smaller local outlets that would have an avid need for digital solutions to make up what they [00:02:00] can't, , stock or display in store.
So we'll dive right into this and I say hi to gals, How are you today,
Giles Corbett: Claus. I'm doing really well and I'm absolutely delighted to be on this podcast with you, and I do indeed hope that some of what we've got to say will come across as quite different and interesting to your audience.
Claus Lauter: Definitely will be. I'm a hundred percent sure about that. So let's go back to when you got the initial idea, and I think that happened sometime during the pandemic. So what happened there? What was the initial.
Giles Corbett: Idea. The identification of the need was before the pandemic. You said that we were working in Asia.
You're absolutely spot on. I was, , working with, the most successful e-commerce company in the world, Alibaba. And we were doing projects with them on helping them bring, customers from physical stores and locations into their online. Now I found this absolutely fascinating at the time because, why was the world's most [00:03:00] successful e-commerce company, , working on trying to seduce people in physical locations.
when we met with Alibaba's leadership, they said that they actually reckoned that their future depended upon them being able to access 1 million physical points of sale within the. Five years or so. China is China, so a million is of course an absolutely enormous number. But I wasn't aware of any retailers I was working with at the time in Europe or the US sharing that perspective.
And in fact, when we spoke with most. , , what they were saying is, listen, the future of commerce , is online. The only thing that slows that down is people learning how to go and buy something online. And once they've moved online, the experience is so much better that it is inexorably lost to brick and mortar retail.
during the pandemic, we saw something very strange. [00:04:00] So in the uk for instance, the Office of National Statistics publishes very timely data on a bunch of topics, including where people are shopping, and we would see as each lockdown began. Of course, predictably a massive shift of transactions from stores.
And McKinsey published a report saying that E-commerce had just moved forward by 10 years in three months, and that was the common view. But then something very strange happened. Lockdowns ended, the stores reopened, and nearly all of the traffic that had shifted online during the pandemic shifted back to stores afterwards.
So these were people. Who had found ways to buy water, shoes, bikes, whatever it was that they needed online. But given the opportunity, chose to come back in store and we saw that happen after the end of the first lockdown in the [00:05:00] uk and we were thinking with my brother, co-founder of Cloud Shelf, is there something going on here?
the next lockdown hit. We saw the same pattern appear and at that point, that was it. Okay. It was a decision. Yes. We've heard Alibaba tell us for years about the importance of brick and mortar. We've read all of the pwc and the Deloitte reports and everybody else's report on how consumers and millennials and Gen Z all like shopping in store.
But like everybody else, we were slightly skeptical, , believing. Maybe people just say they like shopping in the store and given half the opportunity, they'll just go on Amazon and do it there. But here for the first time, Klaus, we had real hard data. We had data that showed that consumers, when given the choice would switch back from online to install.
And that really got a thinking. It got a thinking about fantastic. We've got a market there that we don't think anybody else has really identified yet. What is it that they need? And this. [00:06:00] Really comes back to our background and all of the work that we've been doing in retail tech for bigger retail groups like Tesco, next Marks and Spencers and others.
And the big issue that we saw that these retailers were facing was the one of walkouts. You've been into a store and you are looking for those jeans or , the shirt or the glasses or whatever it is, and you can't see the product that you want because maybe it's outta stock or it's in a backroom somewhere, or there's nobody there to help you and you leave the store without buying it.
that's a lost sale for the retailer. Turns out. These lost sales were actually a trillion dollars of lost sales revenue to retailers every year. A big number, big, big number. And that's why some of the biggest retailers like McDonald's, ikea, h and m Dick, they've invested millions in creating digital, interactive solutions, endless type solutions.
To enable [00:07:00] them to go and serve you as a shopper when you come in and you can see all of the shirts, but yeah, no, I was looking something a bit different. Well, you can see on the screen and hopefully buy it. But these solutions are really hard to build. They cost hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars to create, and they're done as one-offs by the retailers, and the experience isn't great.
Our idea was that we could actually use our knowledge in SaaS environments and AI to create an experience that would be completely automated and stunningly simple. So simple that even the smallest corner retailer could add the cloud health app to their Shopify admin panel. Within minutes have the kind of experiences that you can see running behind me on the screens right there.
And that was the idea behind Cloud Shelf. So to do what a McDonald or an h and m or an IKEA can afford to [00:08:00] go and do custom, but just make it available to every single retailer worldwide. to begin with, we chose Shopify as our go-to-market platform. We've loved the experience with them. They've been fantastic with us.
, their staff rated cloud shelf as the staff recommended app, et cetera. So that's been really, really good. , and we've been able to build an absolutely stunning experience on the back of that. Anyway, that was a really long answer to a very simple. But I think it
Claus Lauter: gave a very good overview of what we have there.
So I think one needs to keep in mind , what you said, what happened. and I don't think it only happened because of the pandemic that might have been just speed up the process. But we as humans, we just that look for community. And that might be even just going out in a store in a brick and mortar store and roaming around
Giles Corbett: it didn't happen because of the pandemic. , but the pandemic gave us the data to prove the case. But one thing did happen during the pandemic.[00:09:00] , look at where I'm working from. I'm working from my home office right now. Now, I didn't use to do that. , but since the pandemic, well, guess what?
That's been a big change and many of us now spend a lot of time, , not necessarily all the time, but a lot of time working from home, which means that we start shopping around where we live more. Than we used to go and shop around where we worked and sometimes where we lived. Well, now we're shopping more around where we live.
Guess what? There are many more places where people live than places where they work. And what this means is that you have more and more high streets that are attracting people, and therefore any brand that wants national coverage needs to be in more places. And that means they need smaller stores because they can't afford to.
enormous stores in many, many places, smaller store formats mean that they can go and show their stuff, they can stock their stuff. They need digital solutions, they need cloud shelf. the pandemic, didn't change consumer's behavior in my mind, [00:10:00] around the desire to shop in store. But what it did do is it changed where those stores would end up being in the long run.
The data, at least here in the UK is clear on that. , city center urban center shopping has been in decline, whereas local high streets have actually seen their business increase. And that's a change , that benefits us and where a solution such as ours can benefit the retailers themselves.
Claus Lauter: What I like on your solution is that really empowers the small and medium enterprise to offer a service or something that they couldn't offer before, and now they can compete with the big guys. So give me a practical experience on how to implement this in your brick and mortar store and, , what is the user experience if they come into the store and from the merchant side, what do they need to do to get it up and.
Giles Corbett: it couldn't be simpler from the merchant's perspective, assuming they're already using Shopify. , so if they're using Shopify, they just go into add an app as they do for many other apps, and they go and select the cloud shelf channel. And it installs and within a minute it analyzes all of the products and collections and data around the products in your website doesn't touch your customer.
Data doesn't touch the billing data. Everything is [00:12:00] secure. There are no G D P R , issues at all, but it does all this. And then it enables you, it prompts you and says, okay, great, Klaus, love your store. , I see you've got some women's fashion, you've got some jewelry, you've got some accessories, which is the range you'd like to create a cloud shelf for?
And you're gonna say, well, I'd like the jewelry because in my store I've got indeed all my shelving, et cetera. For the fashion. And I've just got a small area for the jewelry. But since the pandemic, when I connected into fair.com and ankle store, I now have 3000 jewelry items on my website.
So it'd be fantastic to be able to display them in store. Great. So you go and select the jewelry collections. Cloud Shelf says, boom. Ready, here's a preview of your cloud shelf. it's there. You can try it out. And that means that you can say for instance, huh? , I want all earrings. I want to see the gold earrings.
I want to go and see, , anything that you have by this designer or whatever, and it'll present the [00:13:00] products. You find, the product that you like, shows you all the details. You say, yep, I want that one. Add it to my basket, and then cleverly it will display a secure QR code on the. Rather than being a website that would ask you to go and enter all of your details and you as a shopper, uh, can then just scan that QR code from your phone and pay in one click, , on your phone without installing anything in a completely secure manner.
That's it. cloud Shelf, Is designed to be able to run on just about any hardware out there. So if you already have an iPad or an Android tablet or maybe a Samsung TV or whatever, you can go and display Cloud Shelf directly on that. You don't need to buy, , special hardware. , and if you do want special hardware, well we now work with partners worldwide that would be delighted to provide that to you.
So the idea clouds is. A retailer who thinks, my job is selling stuff. It's not building websites, it's not building solutions. I'm not a [00:14:00] technologist. That person can have this up and running literally in under 10 minutes. , in fact, we have a video that shows the entire install process in real time done in under 10 minutes.
So in under 10 minutes, you can create that jewelry range for your cloud shelf and you can allocate it to a screen and you can start selling. That's all the setup experience. From the shopper's perspective, , and this comes back to a lot of experience that I've had running digital screens across thousands of stores, , what we found.
Is that if you just take one screen and plop it in your store, however beautiful the screen is, and ours really are very beautiful. However beautiful the screen is, people , will look at it and they'll kind of walk past if there's only one of it in your store. The subliminal message to the shopper is are this is something that is used by the staff.
It's not for the shopper. there are two solutions, solution. You go and train your store [00:15:00] staff and this one I always recommend so that when they go and see somebody looking at the shirts and hesitating, they go and say, can I help you? Yes. Nice looking. Something of a different shape card. Ah, how about something like this?
And then you take the. Shopper over to the screen. You show them on the screen, they're delighted. They feel that, they've had all of the human contact they wanted in store, and they're getting all the benefits of being able to see everything. So that's solution one. And solution two, you can just put many more screens.
, and then naturally people register them , as those screens are part of the experience and the usage goes up phenomenally. Two simple things to do. One, install the app into your Shopify app store, and two, make sure that the staff in the store know what you're doing about this. Do those two things and you'll start generating many, many more sales with Cloud shelf.
It's a very
Claus Lauter: interesting finding on, , shopper's psychology that you have there, that more screens activate them one screen, they're not interested. [00:16:00] Very, very interesting. Now, when it comes to delivery of the goods, of the products, , will will they always be shipped? Or if the product is in store, will , the merchant know that they have to hand it over?
How does that work in, in real life?
Giles Corbett: In the smaller stores where effectively, , the store staff receive a notification through Shopify that somebody has just placed an order for the product and then they can go and, if the store offers pickup ins, Store or delivery, assuming the customers click the pickup in store, then they'll be notified and they will fulfill that order exact as they would any other click and collect order for bigger retailers.
We connect in directly to their ERPs, et cetera, and then it's managed.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Sounds great. from the merchants that you have as customers, is there any specific industry or niche or vertical that's more adapting to system
Giles Corbett: others? Very interesting question. We didn't know at first, we had some hypotheses, but we went out and we've tested it.
, the whole of the first year of [00:17:00] Cloud Shelf was just spent, , working with individual retailers to go and get their feedback and go and constantly improve and iterate on the solution, but it also gave us a lot of insight into where it worked best. as I go and break this, Actually with hindsight, it's not rocket science.
, stores that have things that are big, therefore you can't display all of them. , these big things if they're expensive, therefore you can't afford to stock all of them. If you have those two or one of those two conditions, , then you are lightly to benefit more from cloud shelf. What that means is that grocery retailers, we've got a.
They find it interesting for promotions, et cetera, but they don't report vast increases in sale through it furniture, retails, , prams, luxury shoes, et cetera. they all, generate a lot of additional sales through Cloud shelf. No.
Claus Lauter: Makes perfect sense. Now, you said the implementation, the setup is very, very straightforward.
, how do [00:18:00] the merchants promote the service? So not only in store, but do they promote or market date, the store, , the service also out of their store? Is there any kind of promotions that they use?
Giles Corbett: We haven't yet come across a retailer promoting it out of the store online. But what did happen is that, Some of the smaller retailers were saying to us, the solution's so beautiful that in the evening we turn the screen around and we put it in the store window and we say, well, hang on.
We can do a lot better than that. And so we created the second version of Cloud Shelf that we call cloud shelf display mode. So the interactive mode is the one that's there on the smallest screen on the. Where you can touch and search and find and shop and buy, and the display mode takes all of the same analytics that we provide for the content and just creates it as an absolutely stunning display loop entirely, automatically.
But, With each one having its own QR code so that when you are walking past the store in, you're in South [00:19:00] Africa, right? So in Pretoria, say, you go and see the rug that you really like and you scan it. Then that transaction is recorded as having come from that store in Pretoria. , and the benefits of that sale are allocated back to that store.
we are now seeing many of the retailers use Cloud Shelf to promote into the street. To go and use this digital signage, , to bring in. And that has actually proved a real hit with all of the companies providing digital signage solutions. Why? Because the one nightmare for them is helping the retailers keep their content up to date.
So they're all delighted because, Klaus with Cloud Shelf. By the time you've finished entering into your Shopify admin that you are just introducing a summer sale on your shoes. By the time you've click save, all of the cloud shelf screens have already updated, and they're already showing that sale either in the store window or [00:20:00] on the interactor screens in the store.
Claus Lauter: That's an amazing solution. I see a lot of potential there. I'm just thinking about weekend markets. Brick and mortar stores and airports, wherever. You don't wanna carry your goods from A to B. , that might be the right solution. So.
Giles Corbett: Well, you know what, that's exactly what a company that provides, , solutions.
In Stadia throughout, , the UK has just told us, and they've said that what they like is for us to go and power all of these divisive throughout the stadium so that people can go to the match, enjoy their team, winning or commiserate when they don't by the kit, , but without needing to lu it around or spill beer over it or whatever.
And have it delivered to. By the time they get there. There are many, many solutions. Last night we were helping, , one of the retailers at a luxury, , brand event. , and they were only able to take certain elements of furniture to it, and of course they could use cloud shelves to go and promote their [00:21:00] entire range.
So for creating popups, events, fairs, markets, yeah. Cloud Shelf is a, is a real, real.
Claus Lauter: Absolutely. Tell me a little bit about the pricing structure. How do you charge
Giles Corbett: for the service? We charge a monthly fee, , per location, and the fee per location can vary slightly depending on which options you take, but it's as simple as that.
So if you know that you have four stores or a hundred stores, it's very easy to see in advance exactly what Cloud Shelf will cost you. We don't take a cut of sales because we don't actually want to go and make any difference between whether. The shopper finally buys the shoes through the cloud shelf screen, or maybe they found the shoe through the cloud shelf screen, but they've also picked up, , a t-shirt and a belt, and then they've gone to pay for it , at the till.
And we're absolutely delighted when that happens.
Claus Lauter: no, it sounds great. Where can people find a
Giles Corbett: about. Cloud shelf.ai is the easiest place to go. , there's [00:22:00] chat there, , reach out and one of us will be in touch really, really fast. Cool.
Claus Lauter: I'll put the link in the show notes. Then you just wanna click away.
Thanks so much for your time. I think that's very innovative version on increasing your sales on Shopify through a completely different way, and I really would like it. Thanks So,
Giles Corbett: Brilliant, Klaus, lovely to be here and I look forward to a follow up at some point. ,
Claus Lauter: thanks so much.
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