Craig Witsoe & Servaas Kamerling On The Future Of Touchscreen In Retail
We recently attended the Luxury Interactive conference in London, where we caught up with Craig Witsoe, CEO and Servaas Kamerling, President EMEA at Elo Touch Solutions. Craig and Servaas spoke to us about the touchscreen takeover and the future of touchscreen for retail marketing.
Elo Touch Solutions is a leading retail provider of touchscreen solutions and were actually the inventors of the touchscreen back in 1971. Their digital displays help their customers increase marketing effectiveness and push their marketing messages right in front of consumers at the crucial point of possible purchase. Check out what Craig and Servaas are doing with Elo at the moment in this fabulous, informative interview all about the exciting growth of touch in retail!
Craig Witsoe, CEO, Elo Touchscreen Solutions
Take us back to the beginnings of your career. Where did you start out?
I had the dream job of any college graduate which was designing refrigerators! I started with GE out of college in technology and design and was in appliances, lighting and plastics - always technologies. I’ve always been a products and technology type. Once it’s in your DNA it never goes away. At some point I found myself going over to the dark side of marketing, because I just love talking about the solutions with people and customers and what we could do with them. I didn’t know it was called marketing at the time but it was!
How and why did you move on from GE to ELO?
I was with GE for about 15 years and at one point just decided I wanted do something different, and go to one of these mid-sized private companies, of which Elo is a perfect example. We’re about, 400 million USD in turnover (rough numbers). We are large enough to be the global leader in what we do, which is interactive for retail, but we’re small enough to be fast and responsive which, for our customers, makes us a great partner to work with and for our employees, it makes us (at least we think) a little more fun to work for because it’s a little faster paced. We’ve really been making a huge investment into the company over the last 3 to 4 years.
What are ELO doing with touchscreen at the moment?
You could see what was happening with mobile devices, iPhones and iPads years ago and you could see the opportunity. If you take this whole experience and bring it to the physical stores, the physical hotels, we're essentially bringing people the creativity of having this giant iPad to work on, and it’s really getting exciting right now because this convergence of technology ties into where all of these retailers and brands have been working on responsive website designs and mobile sites. Mobile technology in the last 10 years has been what’s moved a lot of the world forward.
The missing link was how do you take all that great content, which is just touchscreen/mobile experiences and how do you bring it to tens, hundreds, thousands of stores and thousands of brand locations – it was actually quite hard to do! What we’ve now just launched over the last year, is essentially like the iTunes of delivering mobile computing to physical locations. You go in through our portal, and you’re able to take anything you’ve created for web, anything you’ve created for apps, really any computing that has been generated for mobile, and now you can put it anywhere in the world. It’s such a cool capability that our job is to get all of the brands and retailers creativity going and they’re coming up with things left and right that even we never dreamed of! We are the leader in taking something that’s already very known. Touchscreen is in our history. We were the first inventors of touchscreen, the very first, and now we’re taking it and we’re kind of pushing the envelope to the next thing, which is everything you love about being heads down in your phone. How do we turn that into being heads up and looking around when you’re in a retailer or in a hotel? We’re lucky because Steve Jobs taught everybody how to use our product and how to love it and now we’re able to bring that to public spaces.
What is the future of touchscreen from ELO’s perspective?
We just see it moving more towards physical spaces that are public. It’s just like your mobile device but it translates to public use of this technology instead of just personal use. In some cases personal use is perfect. For instance, if I was a store associate, I wouldn’t want to carry anything around with me that was much bigger than a phone. It’s just too bulky and heavy. However, I can’t walk into a store and very well ask the associate for their phone or ask them to show me things on my phone. Sometimes we want an associate helping us a lot and other times we don’t. So what we encourage is creating something that is touchscreen, which is any size you want, that can encourage side by side working with that store associate. A screen that is big enough so that socially you can work with someone and it’s not weird because it’s too small!
How does this all work?
We make both the hardware, the software and the cloud connect on it. When you hear this phrase, 'the internet of things', for us this is really true. For everything you see here is being piped in through the cloud and it’s being controlled through ELOview.com. It’s similar to your iTunes portal and that’s what’s driving all these screens. When it gets to the retailer, all this will do is show the content they have selected and it’s all centrally controlled.
Everything the brands and retailers have already created for your mobile, iPad and the web at home, is what we're using to create these really rather amazing experiences in store. It’s really anything from clothing to cars! There are very few products where it doesn’t work. If it’s a product that’s worth putting on web or mobile and you have physical stores, it will work!
Servaas Kamerling – President EMEA
What’s so great about the using apps on large in-store touchscreens rather than on personal devices?
We’re not changing the software at all, all of this content is already there and it’s just a question of facilitating that in-store. Because you’re going into the store for a purpose, that’s where you need information the most. If I go shopping for example, I don’t want to be searching through 50 apps on my phone! Retailers are investing in these apps then wondering why they are not being downloaded. The thing is with apps, is that you’re only interested for that moment of time that you want to be interested. By putting it in a store, you’re making it instantly accessible.
Why large, static, touchscreens rather than handheld devices such as iPads?
There’s a lot of interest in putting consumer devices in-store. Your problem is you break it, you drop it. If you put it in some form of housing, it can’t get stolen but it looks ugly because now you have to protect it, rather than it being natively nice. Consumer devices are one to one. Imagine being in a one to many environment, and someone else having to use your phone? As soon as it’s something you’re sharing with multiple employees or with customers, that’s where you want to have a more neutral device, something you can’t change or alter, something that can be used by everyone. All this needs is power. It’s the infrastructure to be able to do all of this.
What’s the most exciting thing about touchscreen at the moment?
One of the exciting things for us is that we’re coming from this technology background and, as Craig mentioned, we invented touch in 1971. Touch was actually invented before the mouse would you believe! Steve Jobs made touch popular. Before iPhones, we were very much in the industrial market, in the medical sector controlling machines, replacing interfaces with old fashioned buttons. I know that when I grew up I was discouraged from touching things. Right now, everything’s touch, you’ve got little kids touching everything. Steve Jobs and Apple created that environment where it’s good to touch. If you think about it, there’s no limitation of where you can apply touchscreens. Any application, any environment where you want to offer information and offer an experience that doesn’t require interaction with a person.
Of course, that’s sometimes very nice, but not always. Craig mentioned this morning as an example that one day you might walk into a store all chatty, you’re in a good mood and it’s kind of fun to chat! The next day, you might have had a bad day at work, a long day and really you just want to go in and out. You just want to buy something quick and if someone comes up and starts chatting, you really don’t want to. From a customer experience perspective you want to offer choice. It can solely be the salesman, just a screen or both. It’s also a tool for the salesperson because there’s masses of stuff on there, you can’t possibly remember it all.
You guys are so passionate about your products- why retail and why now?
We’re enthusiastic, we love our products! One of the nice things about this is that we’re used to talking to technology experts and Elo is a really well-known brand for touch, but we’re finding ourselves more and more into a marketing discussion because it’s all about how are the customers interacting. What is their experience at home, online, on their phone but also in the store? At the end of the day 60% or 80% of purchases, whichever ever survey you would choose to believe from any market data, are made instore.
How do you think touchscreen marries the customer experience?
People will use the web to research things, but they still want to come into store to sniff it, to feel it and see it. If you can replicate the web experience in-store, or in conjunction with the store, it can be very compelling for a customer to buy there and then. That whole omni-channel thing is just driving the customer experience, and is very evident in retail, but it’s seen in hospitality as well. We’re also seeing it in gaming where you have online betting and betting shops. The omni-channel experience with the “internet of things” is becoming so widespread, that you have to be able to serve the customer the same experience whether it’s on the website, on the mobile phone or whether it’s in-store.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to Craig and Servaas for taking the time to chat with us about the future of touchscreen in retail. Retail marketers, do you feel inspired?