A few words with René Fang, CEO of iStaging
Rene Fang (RF) is the CEO of iStaging Corp. Previously, she held senior positions in financial and capital markets companies in Asia and Taiwan, building transformational companies and leading new initiatives. Over the past 2 years she has led iStaging to success first as a COO and now as CEO.
The fashion retailer (TFR): what is iStaging?
RF: iStaging is an industry pioneer in VR technology and virtual tours. Our strong and fundamental skill is to enable people to easily create VR without investing in expensive hardware and tedious editing operations. Our business model is B2B4C (Business-ready Optimized for Consumers) aiming to help the business user improve their sales and marketing efficiency by adapting VR and AR technology quickly and easily.
TFR: What is the entrepreneurial story that inspired the launch of the company?
RF: From imagination to reality. At first, iStaging was launched to bridge the gap between imagination and reality in real estate. We have identified the need to improve communication and information sharing between buyers and sellers by leveraging advanced technologies. Nowadays, buyers and decision makers need more and more information, there is more to selling a house than just 2D photos.
This was the first opportunity we saw and launched iStaging. Since 2014, we have acquired the know-how and developed into many different industries including luxury retail, in-store training and storefront, supported by a variety of solutions such as AR visualization, virtual exhibitions and exhibition halls.
TFR: The Fashion Retailer commented on the social impact and short at middle forward strategy for dealing with Covid-19 by fashion retail companies. Even stores will have to reinvent their purpose. The new retail business requires changes in all areas: people and processes, and technology is a key pillar and catalyst for this adaptation.
What do you think has been the impact of Covid-19 on the way traditional retailers view technology?
RF: The pandemic changed the industry and had an impact on companies that were not technologically equipped. We have seen a great wave of interest in all the products we offer: virtual tours, live guidance, 3D models, AR and our new virtual exhibition / gallery / showrooms.
COVID-19 has radically changed the way traditional retailers use technology, not only to sell products, but also in virtual training, display, merchandising, press days, internal communication, and more.
Fortunately, those who have adapted quickly will see the benefits of technology and virtual reality. Our mission is to present them with revolutionary solutions that will help achieve efficiency, customer engagement and sustainability.
TFR: You mentioned that iStaging launched a new solution for virtual exhibitions and showrooms. Could you tell us more?
RF: Virtual Exhibition by iStaging is our brand new solution for event planners, showrooms and galleries. We had a big launch in June, which generated a lot of interest. Faced with the pandemic, we had to find a solution for our customers to adapt to the market as quickly as possible. As people cannot interact like before, virtual exhibition has become a solution between buyer and seller in retail, traditional exhibitions, etc.
We help brands tell their story through virtual reality, we provide them with the space to showcase their products and build awareness of their brand. Leveraging our existing technologies allows us to provide a complete and high-value solution to our existing and new customers. Virtual exposure does not replace the physical, but helps to minimize the impact of the pandemic. However, businesses are adjusting to this new standard and we believe that virtual exposure, even after the pandemic, will be part of physical exposure.
Virtual exhibition offers a wide range of benefits such as connecting buyers around the world for press days, providing data for product optimization and improving the customer-buyer relationship. Another positive aspect of the virtual exhibit is that it can be available 365/24/7. Accessibility will help businesses provide instant updates and engage with customers at all times.
Therefore, this new solution can be used pre-event, during event and post-event campaigns. Pre-event to attract audiences, during the event to engage and after the event for data monitoring and analysis. We believe this transformative opportunity for the industry will continue to grow.
TFR: How did iStaging tackle Covid-19? What were the capacities most in demand by fashion retailers?
RF: Fashion retailers will always need to show off their new collections and products quickly, so turnaround time becomes a challenge. As long as the products are ready, they want to catch the media and journalists as quickly as possible, and make them available at lightning speed. Faced with the pandemic, iStaging meets the expectations of fashion brands by offering sustainable digital solutions: quickly digitize and share physical showrooms and points of sale in high quality.
Information such as high-resolution images, videos, 360 ° product rotations, detailed product descriptions, integration with e-commerce and wholesale platforms, data analysis and much more. other. In addition to operations such as sales, shopping sessions, press days, our customers use iStaging for internal communication: store communication, visual merchandising, linking of stores around the world, simultaneous e-training. Our goal is to increase productivity, engagement and knowledge retention.
Considering the technical power and know-how that we have accumulated over the years, this allows us to react quickly and meet the needs of the largest fashion retailers in the market, so Covid-19 is a productive time for our clients and us.
TFR: What is your vision for the future of fashion distribution?
RF: We will change both internally and externally for fashion retailers. Internally, we expect to see more and more fashion retailers adapting to the management of virtual stores, especially global brands, systems for headquarters supervision. Training will also continue to be an integral part of brands. We believe they will continue to grow and focus more on cost and time efficient solutions to improve the management of the brand's stores. On the outside, global brands have global buyers, who will expect to join the online fashion show and virtually visit the showrooms.
TFR: in AR and VR for fashionI pointed out that omnichannel shopping requires an entirely different approach to the customer and the way products and services are delivered. Client experience requires the reinvention of product display and information (traceability and transparency), customer service, store layout / architecture, inventory management, etc.
Brands such as Burberry, L´Oréal, Zara or GAP are among those that have already created VR / AR experiences through smart editing solutions or AR shopping apps. Walmart introduced in 2017, VR to the world of employee training and development using technology to upgrade training at Walmart academies nationwide. In addition, Decathlon used VR to show off its Quechua tents.
What are the benefits of VR / AR from a customer perspective? What role does it play in the customer journey?
RF: VR is present throughout the customer journey, the event before the purchase, the purchase and the post-event. At different stages, virtual reality offers different value.
The pre-purchase event aims for more comprehensive information, better attraction and global press days.
During the show or the buying process, real-time response. TourRing Our live brand-customer interaction tool helps elevate interaction and build relationships. Another use of TourRing is in a more exclusive environment, between the personal stylist / buyer, it can be used to help stylists interact with their overseas clients in real time. AR can help inland navigation, and information objects can appear in space illustration products and information.
After the event, virtual reality can help in after-sales service, customer satisfaction. Brands can also obtain data to analyze visitor and buyer behavior for the product optimization process.
TFR: Executives who are still “behind the technology” might view VR / AR solutions as “too marketing-oriented” with little return on investment or not playing a significant role in day-to-day operations. How does iStaging add value to operations, productivity or business performance?
RF: iStaging solutions are used in different departments of a fashion retailer. We have technologies that are used in store training and supervision, in communication and storefront management and we also have customized solutions for visual merchandising, online sales and press days.
More specifically, the challenge of communication between the head office and the branches. We solved the issue of how and where to display products in the showroom, making it easier for branches to follow head office guidelines. A proven example, that VR and AR, if used effectively, can shatter the myth of "marketing-oriented" solutions. The flexibility we offer as a business gives our clients the freedom to be creative and think outside the box.
TFR: The start-up environment is very competitive. What do you think are the main success factors that lead you to be competitive in the market?
RF: We place a strong emphasis on user experience to make the business user adopt our solutions faster and easier. Another element of our competitiveness is our strong technological power and our know-how. We have been working with luxury brands for years, we have proven that we are able to adapt and provide flexibility according to the orientation and requirements of the brand.
Are you a retailer ( or retail sales associate ) who’s struggling with how to approach shoppers ? Worried that you lack the magic touch, or that you’ll come off as an annoying salesperson ? Would you rather be awkwardly staring at your store’s point of sale software screen than actually talking to the customer in front of you ?
You should keep reading because, after years of being one of the strongest sellers at my store, I can assure you : anyone can sell. That’s not to say it’s not going to take a lot of practice. But over the years, I’ve found that a customer will tell you verbally and/or physically how to sell to them. If you’re listening properly and looking for the right cues, you can always tell if a customer is interested in what you have to say, what approach to take with them, and what exactly they’re looking for.
Check out the tips below, put them into marche, and you should find yourself successfully closing sales : Practice Active ListeningActive listening isn’t just about standing in front a customer silently. There are a few important things you should be doing to engage in this practice :
The most important part of active listening is to not form a response while the customer is speaking. This is really to do, and is going to take a lot of practice. It’s very natural to latch on to one part of a comment and form a response to it, and then shut out the rest of the comment. to become a good listener, a sales person must resist doing this. Active listening should engage your whole body. Things like nodding and having an open stance show the customer that you are listening to what they have to say. Once it’s time for you to speak, give the customer a quick summary of what they said. This has a few purposes. First, it allows you to come up with a response post-comment without things being awkwardly silent. Second, showing the customer that you heard everything they had to say will often open them up to providing you with more information than they initially supplied.
Practicing réactive listening means that you are fully engaged with learning what the customer wants. This engagement makes a huge difference. Not only will you understand what the customer wants in a deeper way, but you also gain their trust easier.
Next : Pay Attention to Body LanguageAlong with réactive listening, you should be practicing ‘active looking. ’ ( Yes, I just made that term up. ) People will betray a lot of what they’re thinking in the things that they do with their body. A lot of body language experts will tell you some odd things to look for, like watching if someone scratches their nose, but I don’t think that level of depth is necessary. In fact, I think that if you’re watching for a customer to scratch their nose, you’re probably not practicing active listening.
However, there is still plenty of body language you should be paying attention to while you’re actively listening. Let me give you a short list of tells you can easily pick up on during a conversation with a customer. 1. Eye ContactWhere a person’s eyes are looking is one of the easiest ways to tell what they’re focusing on. If the customer is looking at you, or the products you’re working with, that’s a good sign. It means they’re engaged with you and are interested in what you have to say and sell.
If they’re looking around, at someone else, out the door… anywhere that’s not where you are – that’s not a great sign. Usually if this is the case you should say something like, “Let me know if you need anything else, ” and let them do their own thing. No eye contact doesn’t mean you won’t be able to close the sale – but it could spell dysfonctionnement if you don’t pay attention.
Hands/ArmsAnother important thing to pay attention to is what people do with their hands and arms. Typically, if someone’s arms are crossed, they are uncomfortable and probably not interested in what you have to say. You should tread gently : let this customer know you are there to help. If you’re talking with a customer who is clearly shy and uncomfortable with talking to you, I recommend acting in a more reserved manner and avoiding things like answering questions the customer has yet to ask. In addition, because this positionnement reflects a closed off mind, I mostly suggest avoiding suggestive selling. Suggestive selling does not work well on someone who is not interested.
Open arms and palms facing towards you, however, are an génial sign. If your customer has taken this sort of positionnement in your conversation, you’re doing well. In fact, I would definitely recommend going for it with suggestive selling. ( Of course, make sure you’re showing them items that are actually related to what they want, not just some pre-placed item that your directeur wants to get rid of. )
Facial Expression—Particularly the Curve of Their MouthLastly, you should be paying attention to the termes you customer is making. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to pay close attention to your customer’s facial termes. Even if a customer is pulling a straight face at you, most people’s mouths are fairly expressive in small ways. Often, the corners of the mouth will be curving slightly up or slightly down. Down is not good for you – it indicates frustration or annoyance. Curving up, though, is an excellent sign. Additionally, you should pay attention to how tightly the lips are held. If they’re pressed tightly together, it can mean the same thing as crossed arms.
That’s the three major areas of body language you should be paying attention to while actively listening to your customer. Keep in mind that while the customer’s body can give you an indication about how they feel towards you and your product, it’s the listening that is going to yield you the important information about what they want. Now that we’ve established good customer reading techniques, let’s talk about what to do with the information you pick up :
Respond With Similar Body LanguageOne of the easiest ways to set someone at ease is to “mirror” their body language. You don’t want to go overboard on this – that can seem creepy or just mean. But little things are really important. Start with pace and timing. Is the customer in a hurry ? Or do they want to take things slow and steady ? Speak and act at the same pace as the customer. If she’s in a hurry, speaking quickly and speed walking across the store, then you should speak quickly and speed walk across the store as well. If she’s speaking slowly and moves slowly, your speed talking and walking will only come across as aggressive to her.
In addition, you can do subtle things like adopt a similar positionnement, or use similar hand gestures. With the hand gestures, be careful. You don’t want to come across as mocking your customer. Don’t make juste replicas of hand gestures, keep it general. Determine if someone is ready to buy ( or not ) based on non-verbal cuesHere are a few more tips to help you differentiate shoppers who are ready to buy versus those who aren’t interested.
According to SCORE contributor Lee Perlitz, signals that shoppers are interested in a product include : Spending time looking at or discussing one product type – When a customer spends time focusing on just one product, there’s a good chance they’ve already set their sights on that one and are interested in purchasing it. Looking around for somebody to help them – Catch the shopper’s gaze when you see them looking around. According to Perlitz, you can approach them “if they sustain the glance or raise their eyebrows. ”Body language – A shift in body language signals “a change in esprit state that may well indicate readiness to buy. ” For example, if the shopper suddenly looks relaxed after you’ve answered their questions, that could be an indication that they’re ready to buy.
Be sure to approach customers once you see them exhibiting these signals. Failing to spot these signs or not acting in time could result in you missing out on the sale. On the flip side, here are the non-verbal signals indicating that someone isn’t ready to buy. Avoiding eye contact – If a customer doesn’t hold your gaze when you look at them, it likely means they’re not ready to make a purchase yet. Making ‘not now’ excuses – Statements like “just looking” or “not now” are clear signals that they aren’t ready to buy. Perlitz recommends that retailers “make an encouraging remark to keep them looking and back off. ”Looking at many different products – Not being focused on just one product is another indication that shoppers should be given space.
When you see or hear people exhibiting the signals above, then it’s best to hold off on the hard sell. Figure out the type of customer that you’re dealing with and respond accordinglyAs you know, there are several variétés of customers who walk through your doors, and you need to tailor your approach accordingly. tera help you do that, we’ve put together a quick slideshow summarizing the most common variétés of customers in retail. Check it out below :
More tips ? Those are our tips and tricks to help anyone become a good sales person. It’s important to remember that truly good sales people work on creating trusting relationships with their clients before they sell them anything. If you are capable of creating a trusting relationship, you are capable of selling. These tips are intended to help you create that relationship.
What tricks to reading customers do you employ ? Let us know in the comments below ! Author Bio : Cara Wood is a marketing administrative assistant at Capterra, a company that puts software buyers in touch with software vendors ! When she’s not at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.