Episode 036 : 11/11/2021
Bobby Marhamat, Raydiant
Bobby Marhamat is the CEO of Raydiant, an innovative platform that delivers a personalized and unique in-store experience for retail customers. He is a Forbes Development Contributor writer on topics around sales strategy and management, operations management, and sales and marketing. Bobby discusses Raydiant’s new State of Consumer Behavior Report 2021 with Spark Plug.
Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Bobby Marhamat
Listen to every episode
Topics discussed in this episode
- The evolution of the in person retail experience with the integration of technology
- The importance of customer experience to drive brand growth and loyalty
- Strategies to improve customer experience, turning a negative to a positive
- Predictions for the future of retail based on personal experience and State of Consumer Behavior report 2021
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Ned Hayes [00:00:01] Welcome to SparkPlug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology. Brought to you by SnowShoe making mobile location smarter. SparkPlug is happy to welcome Bobby Marhamat to the podcast. Bobby is the CEO of Radiant, an innovative platform that delivers personalized and unique in-store experiences for customers. He’s also a Forbes development contributor on a number of topics from sales strategy to management to sales and marketing. And after spending 20 plus years learning from bright minds in the business, he has a passion for enabling team members to be the best they can be and supporting them along the way. So welcome to the podcast, Bobby.
Bobby Marhamat [00:00:52] Thank you. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Ashley Coates [00:00:55] Thanks so much for being here, Bobby. Can you start by telling our audience a little bit more about yourself and how you got to where you are today?
Bobby Marhamat [00:01:02] Absolutely, absolutely. I would love to, thanks Ashley. You know, high level I started my entrepreneurial career, if you will. When I was nine, I had a bunch of my sister’s friends come over to the house. They always would be looking for different chotskies and snacks and etc. So I built a little small. We call it store in my parent’s garage. And you know, honestly, I was kind of the start of the entrepreneurial side of my world that was able to make money over 45 days, 50 days and learn, you know, the concept of money, if you will. And then from there really started to, you know, everything I did was centered around the entrepreneurship or trying to grow myself and grow from there. And now I’ve been really fortunate to work with some of the brightest minds of business and now the CEO of Radiant, we are about 70-75 people in the company. Some of the brightest minds in the industry and really excited every day to work alongside them to further the industry.
Ned Hayes [00:01:52] Well, can you tell us a little bit more about Radiant? What does Radiant due to create those relationships with employees and customers?
Bobby Marhamat [00:01:59] Absolutely. So we have two sides to our platform what we call the customer experience side and the employee experience side. What we really are is, you know, a hub that goes on inside of a brick and mortar location and with that allows on the customer experience side any sort of technologies to be able to engage with the customer all the way, from interactive signage to kiosks where you can self-serve and purchase to what we call interactive virtual agents, where imagine going into like a Home Depot, going to the paint aisle and being able to connect on the screen with a paint expert that’s sitting in corporate or sitting nowadays at home can tell you all about paint, you can learn all about paint and then they can push back maybe a QR code on the screen, give you additional discount that you can take on that item that you want to purchase or take information back to your significant other at home. So that’s on the customer experience side. Everything that we enable is marketing, commerce and location, bringing all these best technologies that have existed online into the store location and the employee experience side is kind of a newer side for us. We had a lot of customers pull us into, you know, I want to engage my employees more. I want them to get the information in a more timely manner. I want them to use that information to be able to serve our customers better. I want to be able to gamified experience and make it fun at work. So the employee experience side of our platform is really technology is all the way from again engagement to we have a messaging component where you can message to different groups or the whole company, new items coming out, etcetera all the way to the gamification side, where, you know, directly plugs in to your point of sale system and allows for gamification to know who’s selling the most or, you know, whatever is important to your organization being able to pull that together. So the employees feel super engaged with that with the brand.
Ashley Coates [00:03:35] That’s fantastic, Bobby. Going back to the in-store experience for customers talking specifically about brick and mortar businesses, you mentioned that if a customer is coming to pick a paint sample, there could be some technology to help with that purchase. Can you talk a little bit more about how what Radiant offers translates to increased sales and just an increased experience for the customer overall for in-store purchases?
Bobby Marhamat [00:04:02] Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, it starts with, you know, all the components that I really talked about in the sense of there, there are some store locations, I’ll give you an example. You know, we have we’re working with one major kind of jean brand, if you will, and they use our technology in the sense of as you walk into the store location, they have some lifestyle videos that give you the real effect of all the new items that are in the location, you know, to give you a picture of how the outfits come together, et cetera. And as you go into the back of the store, you see in the middle of the jean wall, there’s a Radiant kiosk and that Radiant kiosks allows you to go search through different cuts of jeans to be able to see the different sizes, maybe they don’t have your size in-store, you can automatically purchase on that screen and have it shipped to your house. So all the way from, you know, really the marketing and being able to communicate with customers coming in-store to the commerce and being able to purchase in-store, you don’t have to talk to a sales associate if you don’t want to. Do you want to just interact and learn the same way that you kind of do online, right? A lot of purchases nowadays start online. But if you can bring that online technology into a store location and give people the education they need, it really accelerates things. On average, our retailers put Radiant into their locations are increasing revenue by about an 11% after 60 days of our system being in-store. Now the restaurant side, it’s more dramatic. It’s about 18-19%. So by communicating with the customers, allowing them different purchase paths, you bring that online education in store, it really makes a big difference.
Ned Hayes [00:05:23] Well, the stats are really, really interesting. I assume over time your system has gotten better and you’ve been able to tune it in order to deliver better results. So can you tell us some about that tuning process and what it took to achieve those results?
Bobby Marhamat [00:05:36] So it’s a couple of different ways. One of the major differentiators of our platform is that we’re plugged into the point of sales, so we know again, based on actual shoppers coming in location, how much is that influencing revenue? What’s the ticket size look like? Based on that, how can we show better content on our screens to be able to influence better purchases and not even just influencing purchases, but influencing that brand loyalty by customer loyalty if brand knows what you’re all about. If they know that you’re sustainable or that you’re x y z or what you believe in, it really helps them really feel more connected to the brands. So our system over time, your point, allows us to use that POS data to put better information on screens and to take that information on screens and change it based on the demographic in store. And now a new addition to our platform we’re about to announce here, in a few weeks, we just acquired another company and that company really does analytics and dwell times and locations. So we’ll know if someone’s in front of a screen and what the dwell time was in front of that screen and how that actually influenced the purchase or how that influenced them to come back the second time or third time or more time and be able to connect this experience in a way where it makes sense for the retailer or restaurant to a brick and mortar operator. And it really gives more value to the consumer.
Ashley Coates [00:06:47] We were fascinated to read the state of Consumer Behavior report on your blog. I think it was the 2021 report that conducted December of 2020. Yeah, and I was curious if you can talk about some of the key findings that were particularly interesting to you.
Bobby Marhamat [00:07:04] I think one of the things that most people don’t know is although we talk a lot about online, many consumers still prefer shopping in person. About 46% of the respondents initially responded to our survey. Prefer shopping in-store. The big stat is what most people don’t know is 86% of purchases still happen in-store. So although we talk a lot about online, 14% only, it really happens online, 86% happens in stores. So that means there’s a lot of influence that brands can have on that consumer behavior and consumer purchasing behavior, if you will, in location. The other kind of interesting thing is the 33% of respondents really prefer shopping at physical stores because they can see and feel products, but really, even without that, about 26% said they enjoy overall the overall shopping experience of doing that in person in a location, being able to interact, be able to see the stuff, see the actual brand, how the experience is created in location and how they can connect with that brand better was a major driver. And I think one of the things I’ll say is on brand loyalty because I think that’s one of the biggest areas that really brands are really focused on. Nowadays, brand loyalty is really lacking, especially as we wanted to covered a large portion of purchase habits were really done on kind of commodity type products and like, let me just purchase, do I have enough toilet paper, et cetera in the house? And brand loyalty to a certain extent start to lack because these consumers do not see these brands actually in action. Remind me what you’re all about. Let me go into the store location and meet with that favorite salesperson that I typically talk to. So with brand loyalty lacking, you know, 48% of respondents said they replaced products, so typically they would purchase physical stores with online alternatives. That means it’s super important for these brands to really go back to making sure that they’re pulling, you know, they’re kind of consumers back and location, providing them with a great experience and having that voice in that consumers mind, if you will.
Ned Hayes [00:08:54] Well, that 46% stat was really fascinating that people prefer to shop in person rather than online. That really caught our attention to that says something about the future of brick and mortar. I mean, it’s it’s here to stay.
Bobby Marhamat [00:09:07] We actually talked to, you know, it’s interesting you want to think this, but going into COVID, we’ve talked to so many brands that we’re online only or direct to consumer, and they’ve actually started to look at putting together and a bunch of them, actually, we’ve consulted and helped, have put together a brick and mortar environments more because they want, you know, they can still sell online, but more because they want that experience. I think what we’re going to see over the next few years is that even, you know, malls can evolve, that shopping experience evolves or going to see smaller footprint stores that really create that experience for consumers. And you can feel that experience again. You can hear it, you can touch it, et cetera, going into a store environment. I think we’re going to see more and more of that because to your point, a lot of respondents still want to, you know, shop in-person, if you will.
Ned Hayes [00:09:49] Well, the 48% of respondents said that they replaced products they typically purchase at physical stores with just an online alternative. So the brand loyalty isn’t really there for some things. But what’s fascinating is that some particular items in some particular companies have found a way to build brand loyalty. I’m thinking especially of Harry’s razors or other things that are commodity products, but they’ve been able to build brand loyalty around something that feels unique. What have those brands done differently? What stands out there?
Bobby Marhamat [00:10:20] What stands out there as they listen to their consumers, what stands out is communicating with their consumers is that they’re telling their consumers about new products, they’re telling the consumers about changes in the business. We again, we work with several kind of brands that during this timeframe, am I going to say they they, you know, during the COVID days if you will, you know, really figured out better ways to communicate with their consumers, figuring out better ways to be able to allow them to transact with them. Figuring out better ways to be able to allow the consumer to kind of be in charge and in control of learning more about that brand and wanting to engage with that brand. And so although it’s not brain surgery, it’s one of those things that does take effort and you really got to get to know your customer and put together the right path for them to interact with your brand. And I think the brands that are really kind of thriving, if you will nowadays are the ones that really have listened to the consumer, to their consumer, to their particular consumer. And have really, you know, again put forth different things to be able to allow them to interact back with the brands.
Ashley Coates [00:11:13] And now that we’re coming to the end of 2021 and you look back at the findings from last year, is there anything over the past year that has been out of line with the findings from that report that really surprised you? And conversely, is there anything that has been really in line with what you expected for 2021?
Bobby Marhamat [00:11:33] In my own head, you know, although we talk a lot about it in location experiences, one of the things that you always have to scratch your head on is, are people really going to want to go back back to store locations once they’re accustomed to the different habits and shopping online? And I think one of the things that we’ve heard and you’ll see kind of in our report coming up next year and seeing and really have started to record is there’s actually been more percentages of people over the last six months that we’ve talked to that want to go back again in location. Store brands are actually more intrigued by building better experiences because they actually see it working and they see people coming back. I think people felt like this is going to drag on for a while and people are going to still want to shop online. And yet everyone is all going to store location. But people really are in a place where we’re starting to see based on shopping behaviors. And again, we’re going to be part of that kind of early next year. But shopping behaviors, more people even than what we reported initially in this report are starting to go back in locations, want that in-store location experience and want to interact with those brands in different ways. I think we’ll also see again, like we talked a little bit, you know, the direct to the consumer side, we’re going to see a lot more of that, I think happen over the next few years where these direct to consumer brands. Again, you may learn about them online, but you’re actually going to go to your nearby, you know, strip center or shopping mall and actually see that experience kind of in-person. That’s going to be another thing that I think is going to increase as far as the amount of exposure and people going into locations. And I think that, you know, the last thing I’ll say here is positive offline experiences make a big impact. We know that and I think one of the things that was really interesting to me is, you know, as we kind of talked to different consumers and gathered the data, 90% of consumers say that they’re more likely to return again when you have a positive offline experience, and 61% say that they’re more likely to spend more at a location. One of the things that again I’ve seen over the last few months is we’re seeing more and more of these brands as they build better offline experiences say that they’re influencing directly online commerce and also in-store commerce to go even higher. So I think that’s one stat that we’re going to see even go higher going into next year.
Ned Hayes [00:13:36] SnowShoe our sponsoring company for this podcast, does a lot of work with small retailers and especially around loyalty, and I’ve been fascinated to see small retailers really shift their focus to repeat customers and not just foot traffic, but getting people to come back and build kind of a habit of experience at a retail store. Can you speak at all to how loyalty programs are changing and how that that matters to get somebody to come back and build their ongoing loyalty to your store?
Bobby Marhamat [00:14:05] Absolutely. I think this is kind of a little bit twofold in the sense that, A) I think starting with the loyalty programs I’ve seen, this kind of happened across different industries that we serve and do, but creating loyalty programs that extend beyond just online, so they’re online and in locations, you can actually use them no matter how you shop with the brand, I think it’s super important. Also, there are there are different elements that we’ve seen that brands do wear based on you shopping with me twice in two months and they’re not, you know, I want to get you back in the location. So you actually see the new releases that came out or the new inventory, et cetera, being able to put a promotion there to get people to come back in location to see those new products, I think is definitely especially for the apparel world is the super important. And we’ve seen again, a lot of brands on the apparel side really use that strategy to bring more people in the location to be able to see again new stuff that they have, but also to touch and feel a wide spectrum of new do things that they’re bringing in location. So I think that’s another component. But I think the main story here is, I think the brands that really understand, I know omnichannel, it’s kind of a a cliche term to this point, but like being able to really go omnichannel and be able to provide loyalty that spans across both online purchases and in location, I think goes a long way in a lot of brands have started to think in that fashion and put together programs, but there’s still a lot of brands that need some work there.
Ned Hayes [00:15:22] Right? Well, using the word omnichannel kind of reminds me of the early days of being online when people had to say our business as a dot com or our business is on the web. And now everybody just assumes if your business is not online, it doesn’t exist. Same token, I think that retailers omnichannel is just table stakes for the game of retail now. Are there any other new emerging things that you think will become table stakes in the years to come?
Bobby Marhamat [00:15:52] You know, I think a lot of the you know what we’ve seen kind of buy online pickup in store. I think that’s going to grow. I think also the kind of the other way around. I think what we’re going to learn about here in the next few years is kind of the other direction where you kind of go in store, learn about the product, buy and store and get a ship at your house. I think we’re going to see the percentages of purchases in that direction go up, actually. And a large portion of that is we’ve seen some brands already put this together. I don’t know if you saw kind of the latest news on Wal-Mart. They’ve really made their stores into kind of what they call “airports”, if you will. But really, what they mean by that is really wayfinding and location, kiosks and location. So if you don’t have a product that’s in location and you’re learning about it, you can have it shipped again to your house if you want. So I think we’re going to see some trends go in the opposite direction where you’re going in-store and learning about things, and then maybe you’re having it shipped to your house or you’re working, et cetera, et cetera. I think that’s going to be one of the trends that we see increase over the next few years.
Ashley Coates [00:16:46] Do you feel like that trend is responding to the final checkout process or portion of the purchase process where there was any friction before or during that part of the process. You think this shift direct to home and other that you’ve been mentioning is addressing that kind of friction at that last part of the process?
Bobby Marhamat [00:17:08] I think so. I think for certain products, absolutely. And I think for certain brands, absolutely. I think like electronics as an example is one of the areas that that happens all the time. I think also, you know, home improvement, right? It was a big thing. We were setting a bunch of different things technology happening in the home improvement side where again, you go into a Home Depot having that learning happening in the store location and then you being able to again purchase and ship to your house to be able to complete projects and complete and buy products, if you will, I think is a large area that we’re going to see expanded. It has been a friction point for a number of years. So I think as people get back in location and they see these great experiences and they get back with these brands and they learn more about the brands again, they’re going to demand better ways to be able to interact. And I think this is going to be one of the ways, you know, I’ll tell you, I recently traveled overseas to Europe as I went, you know, I saw a product that I really liked. I didn’t want, I wanted to get into the States. I didn’t want to kind of haul back with me, if you will. And I think even during travel and learning new products and an, et cetera, I think it’s one of the ways to be able to interact with brands, learn about new brands and then be able to again have that customer be really loyal and shop with you, whether it’s online, in-store or a combination of both.
Ned Hayes [00:18:14] Well, it sounds like the effects of a really positive customer experience has really long tail. Can really help a company to thrive long term. So can you speak further to why it’s so important to have a positive interaction with your customers?
Bobby Marhamat [00:18:27] Yeah, I think this is one of the things that’s been very notable. Again, during the COVID days, positive experience and positive experience can be whatever that consumer really is expecting from the brand. All the way from did I answer your questions? Do I know what this brand is all about? Do you have my products in stock or can you get the products to me in a timely fashion? Can I interact or purchase from you however I’d like? Can I, you know, be able to engage with the brand and take that information back with me to be able to again show my significant other, et cetera. I think there’s components of this that that fall in the consumer and customer experience. And I think just depends on who that consumer is to that brand and how they want to interact back. I think at the very base of things, of course, it starts with great customer service in the sense of being able to interact with that customer, how they want to be interacted with, giving them good service and letting them know again about new products, letting them know about different components of brands that they may be interested in answering their questions. I think these are the areas that, again, a lot a lot of brands take for granted, especially during COVID. There is a large aim to like let me go, focus on my online experience and less of a aim of let me actually interact with that customer coming into the location and that customer experience and location. And I think as we are evolving kind of out of COVID, if you will, a lot of brands are understanding of the importance of being able to provide that. And that has long term effects, like you said, in creating that customer that wants to shop with you continuously. I think as we look at kind of notable brands, Nordstrom, of course, continues to do this even during COVID actually stepped up really on the customer experience and service side. We see that with brands like even Apple, these notable brands that really do a great job of listening to the customer and providing options to the customer and providing education with customer. I think other brands that really are nailing it and, you know, they get the perpetual effects of a loyal shopper,
Ashley Coates [00:20:14] Wonderful, well and so customers can be kind of hard sometimes, challenging, so can you discuss what strategies you’d recommend for improving customer experiences? How does a retailer turn a negative moment into a positive one?
Bobby Marhamat [00:20:31] Absolutely. I’m in San Francisco, of course, going and shopping here locally. One of the things that, of course, is very apparent is that there’s less salespeople, there’s less people to help. So if there’s less people to help, I think the one expectation from a consumer standpoint is give me a little bit more information in location like again, put up either whether it’s signage or, you know, different components where I can actually learn more about what’s happening in the location. New brands and the location, cetera and have that better experience from that standpoint. I think the other thing that is really kind of interesting about kind of in location experiences where you can actually collect the sentiment of a customer or kind of in-person where you can’t kind of do that all the time online is with different technologies like actually asking people about their shopping experience as they’re walking out. We recently put together a program for a retailer here in the San Francisco area, where, you know, if they’re walking into the store location, they can actually, you know, quickly kind of rate the store experience, if you will, based on that experience, either a manager gets involved and tries to make that experience better, or they’re asked to actually provide their feedback on a different review sites. I think that interactive and that real time type feedback goes a long way in being able to prove the customer experience side. And I think that not only is it just the feedback that you get back in that sense, it’s really how are the consumers that are shopping with you changing? And I think you learn that really quickly by being able to invoke different ways of interacting with these consumers and customers in the sense of putting up information and having them interact back with that information based on what you learned there, you can make it a better experience and location and also online as you serve customers. But I think the one advantage that you have in location is being able to pick out that sentiment, being able to pick up direct feedback in the moment, being able to solve that problem, if there’s a problem in the moment and being able to get feedback back to other customers if it’s a great experience and you want to share that feedback out.
Ned Hayes [00:22:19] Well, I think we can all agree that consumer expectations have really changed. So I’m curious if you could just give us kind of the top three things that retailers should keep in mind as they try to stay competitive in this changing market.
Bobby Marhamat [00:22:32] The first ones are going to be brain surgery, but it’s the most important is really know your customer. I mean, I think one of the big learnings that came out of the, I guess, COVID days, if you will, is that as brands went, as they started to, if they didn’t have an online presence, they started to go online. They started to realize some of the SKUs that they needed to that they were selling faster. Some of the items that their customers were asking for more. So being able to know your customer and being able to, you know, give them what they need basically with your brand. I think it’s super important. That’s the first part to is using technology as your friend really and putting it in the right, not just to put technology to put technology, but putting in the right technologies. After you learn who your customer is of how they want to interact with your brand, whether it’s again, in-store commerce, whether it’s, you know, just kind of educational tracks, whether it’s, you know, whatever it may be important to your customer after you learn who your real customer is here, being able to put together the right technologies, I think goes a long way. And the third part is, I think, the biggest part again, not brain surgery, but, you know, being agile and continuously learning about your customer and the behavior changes, if you will. I think the brands that do this really well, like the Warby Parker parts of the world, et cetera, are the ones that are continuously learning who their customer is and how it’s evolving and being able to put in different ways for them to interact back with the brand. Going back to technology and how that helps ease the pain of actually interacting with the brand and then purchasing and or learning, etc. and bringing loyal customer. I think those are the three pieces of advice that I would give.
Ned Hayes [00:23:57] Fantastic. Well, I’ve been really impressed by the depth of data in the consumer behavior report. So I’m curious if you could look out five to 10 years and tell us what’s going to be in that report five years from now. You know, if you could just crystal ball it for us.
Bobby Marhamat [00:24:12] I think what we’re going see five to 10 years from now and of course, over 10 years, especially nowadays, things are accelerating so fast. This is such a long time. But I think if we look at five to 10 years, I think we’re going to see more experiential retail experiential not just in retail segments, but across different industries that that serve brick and mortar. I think that’s going to be a big portion of things. I think technology is going to evolve to the point where, again, we can interact very, very quickly with brands and either purchase, learn, et cetera, with the different brands that we’re looking at. And I think the third part is we’re going to see evolving ways to be able to shop like I talked about. I think we’re going to see a lot more smaller footprint store locations, really experiential, really kind of tying into the different solutions and the different needs of people. And, you know, having those brands really have a hub where you can actually interact back with the consumers, I think it’s going to be a big portion of what we’ll see here.
Ashley Coates [00:25:01] So, Bobby, we have one last question for you, which is your personal mission and what do you want to be remembered for?
Bobby Marhamat [00:25:09] My personal mission is, you know, I’ve in my career have had the pleasure of working with so many brick and mortar operators, and I keep going back to the same industry segment just because I feel. I’ll give you kind of a personal story. I live in, you know, the Walnut Creek area of the Bay Area, so it’s kind of the East Bay, if you will. And one of the things that we did during COVID is I wanted to, you know, walk down and get to know all of the merchants in Walnut Creek and get to know them, get to know where they’re all about, get to know how they want to interact with their customers because of a tough time for a lot of these restaurateurs, brick and mortar providers. And as you talk to these folks and you help them kind of build, you know, the right experiences to be able to interact with their customers. Now that I walk down, you know that same street, it’s such a feel good effect. People are thriving. People are using technology to be able to interact back. And you know, the one thing to answer your question that I want to be remembered by, especially during my time at Radiant, is being able to help a lot of these brick and mortar operators really now that they’ve gone through the survival path, if you will allow us to really, really thrive and really grow their businesses because of technology, but the right use of technology.
Ned Hayes [00:26:10] So great to hear your perspective on all these important topics. Really appreciate your time today.
Bobby Marhamat [00:26:15] Absolutely Ned, thank you much. Thank you Ashley, appreciate it.
Ashley Coates [00:26:18] Thanks Bobby.
Ned Hayes [00:26:19] Okay. Take care.
Ashley Coates [00:26:20] Bye.
Ned Hayes [00:26:24] Thanks for listening today to the SparkPlug podcast and brought to you by SnowShoes, Snow.sh For smarter mobile location, SparkPlug is a wholly owned property of SnowShoe. All content. Copyright 2021 SparkPlug Media.