Make convenience the focus. Now, more shopping happens through mobile than in-person or through a desktop. Making your mobile app as seamless as possible is essential for retailers right now. Find, deliver and buy online-pickup in store (BOPIS) should be offered on any retailer’s app.
Accelerate delivery processes. Make sure shipping and receiving rooms don’t get crowded so that packages are accessible and can be found easily to ensure the fastest delivery possible.
Prioritize how customers are greeted as they enter a store. It’s critical to ensure that there is clear signage for hot items, wayfinding technology for ease, cleanliness in the stores and hand sanitizing stations for public safety.
As a part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Audwin Cash, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Solutions, Atrius, at Acuity Brands.
Audwin Cash works in partnership with executive teams and large companies to transform their retail facilities with smart lighting to Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. In his role at Acuity Brands, he leads the enterprise solutions teams. From electronics to lighting, Cash has spent over 15+ years in the building market, transforming spaces to further the success of his clients, people and solutions.
Audwin received a Bachelors in Computer Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master of Business in Finance and Marketing from Lehigh University.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been involved in the building controls and lighting space for many years. Throughout my career, and accelerating in recent years; the industry has increasingly become digital, more technical. Through engagements with retailers, I am encouraged to see that digital building technologies, when properly applied, deliver real return on investment. My career path brings me to a point where my team and I are honing the amorphous concepts of “IoT” into something practical and financially viable to customers. My career to this point has been making advanced controls applicable because of increased energy and maintenance savings, connecting that to retail operations is the next evolution.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the more interesting experiences I had recently in my career involved a client quarterly business review where I intended to close with an innovation update. Since the meeting was progressing well and I felt we had good momentum, I pushed into describing our indoor location services; it was like all the air got sucked out of the room. “Why do you guys want to get into that? You are a lighting company”. This was a shock; but reminded me that no matter how smart you think you are, you need to bring clients along with you in the journey, or you will not be able to use your credibility as a leverage point. Eventually, we draw the arc between “just a lighting company” and location-based services.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
When you are innovating, you can exaggerate how helpful and valuable your services are. One of the funnier experiences; when we first started demoing Atrius Indoor Location Services we had two associates find one another in a store to showcase the technology is real time and accurate. But, what we occasionally heard was; so, if I’m using this and I just want to “get lost” from my spouse and use this as “me time, he/she can find me right away?”. We learned that maybe the right way to demo this service is to re-cast it as a shopper finding an associate use case vs other scenarios.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We are working on a host of exciting projects. With respect to ongoing-pandemic retailing, we are continuing to evolve our services to drive retail associate efficiency. With delivery to car, delivery to home, pickup at store and a host of new services, retailers seek services that reduce in-store labor. We believe our new Atrius Local Operating System Platform retailers to more efficiently operate their building systems (like HVAC and Lighting) because they can remotely monitor and manage these systems while also automating maintenance tasks like emergency lighting testing and monitoring refrigeration temperatures. Through this connected platform retailers can focus on what matters, efficiently serving customers not monitoring the buildings.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”.
To me, the challenge of this pandemic environment for work-from-home associates is finding a new work-life balance. Some people don’t have a hard and fast start or stop to their day that a commute provides. Clearer lines of home and work disappear at the “home office”. I think it’s essential to have discipline in how you handle your work day, schedule breaks for meals, walks, etc. and measure your performance to starting and stopping work based on what is right for you, your family and clients.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
One person that I’ve recently started working with that I’m grateful for is our new CEO, Neil Ashe. There are a lot of people that were involved in our smart lighting and connected buildings initiatives, but he came in at the beginning of the year cemented the strategy and has helped fund the structure to get the work moved along faster. We have been on an intelligent building path; yet his vision of how this will help transform the industry and our company has ignited our momentum.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our technology not only helps retailers create optimized operations, but it also enhances customer experiences. During the height of the pandemic, we saw it was critical for shoppers to know exactly where their products were so they could get in and out as quickly as possible avoiding unnecessary congestion indoors. We saw that our technology was really bringing people some level of comfort when out in the world. We cannot wait to see more of that.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
1.) Make convenience the focus
- Now, more shopping happens through mobile than in-person or through a desktop. Making your mobile app as seamless as possible is essential for retailers right now. Find, deliver and buy online-pickup in store (BOPIS) should be offered on any retailer’s app.
2.) Accelerate delivery processes
- Make sure shipping and receiving rooms don’t get crowded so that packages are accessible and can be found easily to ensure the fastest delivery possible.
3.) Branch out into more areas, like health and wellness
- We’ve seen a resurgence of clinics, and smaller medical establishments (like Doc-In-A-Box), in places like big box stores and medium \-sized pharmaceutical retailers as a result of the pandemic.
4.) Prioritize how customers are greeted as they enter a store
- It’s critical to ensure that there is clear signage for hot items, wayfinding technology for ease, cleanliness in the stores and hand sanitizing stations for public safety.
5.) Switch up the floor plan
- Put your best selling items, like cleaning supplies, up front to get customers what they need quickly and keep those front-of-store locations for the hottest items.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
The real question is, how do you repurpose your physical real estate to fit the customer’s needs now? During the pandemic, even delivery in one day isn’t fast enough for some essential items. People want to be able to buy items as soon as possible and know that retailers have it in stock, rather than waiting for updates.
Physical stores won’t go away, but if retailers don’t have a strong online presence, they’ll disappear in a crowded market. While the retail space is going through some hard times now, humans crave real-world interaction and once we return to normal, I can see in-store retail coming back strong.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
Strong brands that really know their customers are the ones that really succeed. The big brands like Walmart, Target and Home Depot have not increased their number of stores, but have better equipped the existing stores and improved their online/mobile ordering to become more profitable during this online era.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Consumers desire convenience and don’t like going through multiple retailers to get the things they want. Amazon and their third-party retailer hub have gotten to a point where they really understand their consumers’ buying habits and can tailor the shopping experience to each consumer. In the same vein, going through a company like Amazon to buy from a direct-to-consumer company is still going to be a top preference because shoppers trust them.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Going to the store is still an essential task for some shoppers, whether picking something up while heading home from work, or going to the grocery store with your kids for your weekly shopping. Streamlining this with mobile ordering or concierge services are very appealing. I’d like to be able to have my shopping path plotted out with the most efficient route and avoid standing in line; my hand is raised if anyone wants to partner with Atrius to make it happen.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!