The way we buy goods and services has changed forever with the introduction of innovative technologies and social media platforms, designed to take customers from their initial curiosity right through to purchase.

With the impact of the pandemic still being felt, it’s unlikely we will see a shift back to ‘old school’ shopping any time soon, if Shopify’s recent ‘This is a store’ survey is anything to go by. Shopify found that 83 per cent of Australian shoppers say it’s crucial that a brand now has an online presence, with only 7 per cent saying it only mattered if that presence is better than the in-store experience.

To mitigate pandemic disruption, many businesses moved quickly to create hybrid retail experiences, ramping up e-commerce and digital investments in innovative technologies like video to better support customers virtual retail experiences and maintain those all-important employee connections.

Retailers should look for ‘technology that disappears’

As retail is a highly visual industry, it’s no surprise that modern video technology is moving up the priority list as demand for seamless and people intuitive video solutions continues to grow.

The best video experiences should be seamless and naturally blend in with their meeting environment, effectively making the technology ‘disappear’. The most exciting thing about Neat technology is that we try very hard to make it disappear – that’s our goal. We don’t want people to think about technology, we want them to focus on each other, their interaction and collaboration.

Modern video technology must go beyond the basics of video and sound, tapping into new technologies like artificial intelligence, data and analytics to understand the spaces its devices are located in and empower collaboration in whole new ways including video framing, audio optimisation and monitoring air quality.

Video technology solutions in action

Incu, a major high-end Australian fashion retailer originally sought out Neat to help them create a stronger sense of community among their dispersed team during lockdowns.

With 13 locations, 190 workers, and a worldwide range of suppliers, the Incu team had also been struggling with ‘old school video’ related issues including echoing laptops and limited microphone range which made it challenging for their team to get work done effectively and led them to Neat.

As Doug Low, Incu CEO says, “It’s very challenging to buy clothing remotely, because a blue shirt looks like every single other blue shirt over a screen. You can’t tell what it fits like. You can’t tell what the materials are like. It’s a very tactile experience. But it’s made a lot better if the sound and picture work seamlessly – and it’s a lot easier to focus on the conversation when you’re not fiddling around with things that are not working correctly.”

“We were initially sceptical about how Neat would work, because we’d had such a bad time with the previous solution. During the virtual demonstration, we literally made Paul from Neat face a wall and whisper to us, and we could still hear him, so we thought, okay, we’re onto something here. Basically, Neat Bar ticked every box. It feels like our team on screen are in the same room now, versus before, when you almost felt like an outsider observing. Now everyone can participate in meetings.”

He continues, “Our Incu meeting style is inclusive and all about getting to the ideas. We love to discuss and let conversation flow, rather than have a strict agenda which can be off-putting for new team members. We do this because something great will come up organically that we hadn’t originally thought about. It’s important for us that everyone in the meeting can be heard, and Neat works really well for us.”

Low adds that Neat video devices also helped out recently when working with US fashion brand Rag and Bone, and their architects, on the design of a new Australian Rag and Bone store. Using video made it that much easier to review architectural designs, renders and floor plans. He comments, “With multiple people in these teams, using Neat made the meetings a lot easier.”

Paul Mangila, national retail manager for Incu adds: “Neat is such an easy tool for us to use. Everyone using it simply walks in, they plug it in to whoever’s leading the meetings laptop and from there we just know that the image and sounds is going to be clear. The microphone really catches voices which is great.”

Paul adds that time savings made by using Neat Bar is also being noticed. “Every quarter, our buying team likes to present the upcoming buy for the next season. Usually that would entail the buyers having to go to the stores and present or fly down to Melbourne, and then fly up to Queensland. Now we can do it all together on the same day, at the same time, via video conferencing. So, that’s made things easier, especially because we’ve had no image or sound quality issues or dropouts. It’s been a reliable, cool tool and improved our culture in terms of maintaining and building relationships, collaboration on projects and making people feel involved in the bigger business. It’s improved connections between our interstate team members and head office, which was previously hard to do.”

So, what does the future hold for video technology in retail?

A recent Shopify Study found online businesses are growing daily with an estimated 12 to 24 million e-commerce sites globally. This means more brands fighting for customers and wallets. As a result, retailers are looking for ways to build long term connections with customers, offer seamless and meaningful online shopping experiences, and develop their brand beyond their location of origin. On top of this, it’s become even more important to have strong internal teams able to collaborate from anywhere and support their employers’ growth aspirations.

Video technology solutions such as Neat are proving the role they can play in growing and sustaining cultures and companies making the next chapter for retail an even more exciting and visual one.  

Simen Teigre is CEO and co-founder of video technology company Neat.