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Nigel Ashman of ONVU Retail: “My dream is to make education more accessible for everyone, regardless of age or demographic”

I think that today’s successful retailers are the ones that are realizing that the physical store is a crucial place to establish a brand and build trust. Physical retail locations are places where the customer can physically handle the product, and that experience cannot be replicated online. Even online retailers are moving forward with plans […]

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I think that today’s successful retailers are the ones that are realizing that the physical store is a crucial place to establish a brand and build trust. Physical retail locations are places where the customer can physically handle the product, and that experience cannot be replicated online. Even online retailers are moving forward with plans to secure physical retail space because they recognize aspects of the online experience that are not the same as going to a physical store.

The fact is that it is more than the physical experience; it’s about adapting to what retail has evolved into. Some of the most successful retailers we are working with are repurposing their stores. The stores are becoming a destination and becoming the center of an overall experience. The retail experience has evolved to a point where customers get the product they needed and have a coffee or pick up a book.

For example, our biggest customer in the UK has an almost entirely split business between online and physical. Customers can have an online parcel delivered to a store, and delivery is complimentary. It’s an intelligent approach because once they are in the store, they will browse and pick up something that wasn’t necessarily the focus of their trip. This approach merges online into the physical space and vice versa.


As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nigel Ashman. Nigel is the President for ONVU Retail and has executive responsibility for the strategy and delivery of cutting-edge technology solutions to the global retail sector. Nigel has more than 30 years’ experience in retail having worked as a senior buyer for Next Plc, and then as a retail sourcing agent for a range of retailers including Boden, Boots and Jigsaw. Since 2011, he has been working with global retail brands to grow their business by using IP video technologies and implementing bespoke loss prevention solutions.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Nigel: ONVU Retail, a subsidiary of ONVU Technologies, has produced a collaborative solution that brings together 360-degree cameras, business intelligence, footfall, POS integration, and customer analytics to improve retailers’ business. Our solution is a holistic platform that provides unique benefits to loss prevention and other departments such as retail operations, marketing, visual merchandising, legal, and store design. We like to say that our product does for customer journeys what Google Analytics does for online intelligence.

As for me, my work experience and my passion are retail. I have more than 30 years of retail experience, having worked as a senior buyer for Next Plc, and then as a retail sourcing agent for a range of retailers, including Boden, Boots, and Jigsaw. In 2011, I found that I could help global brands find new ways to grow their business with video and started building bespoke loss prevention solutions. When ONVU Retail launched in 2019, I joined to drive the company into global retail markets by demonstrating how video could be used to gain a deeper understanding of consumer behavior within brick-and-mortar retail locations.

When I’m not focusing on helping retailers enhance their bottom line and reach new customer satisfaction levels, I spend time with my family and obsess over motor racing and space exploration.

Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from the launch of your brand?

Nigel: It’s challenging building a new brand built on a new idea, but ONVU Retail was able to push through typical boundaries through our team’s expertise. We were already trusted providers of video technologies, and we were able to leverage that expertise with my retail experience to drive trust with potential customers and partners. Therefore, my biggest takeaway is the importance of building a strong and collaborative team that shares the same values, mission, and enthusiasm. That is what made us stand out in the first year of business.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

Nigel: Our business is unique in that all we do is focus on the value of the 360 camera. The 360 view in retail is compelling because it reveals what is going on throughout the whole store. That’s what made me get into this space; I saw the value of 360-degree video when combined with video and customer behavior analytics. It is a potent retail tool. Our unique approach to helping retailers solve problems and enhance customer experience makes us stand out. Also, we are retailers ourselves, and we are very good at working in collaboration and understanding the current challenges and requirements.

The challenges facing the retail environment have been going on for about a decade. The pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Nigel: I think that today’s successful retailers are the ones that are realizing that the physical store is a crucial place to establish a brand and build trust. Physical retail locations are places where the customer can physically handle the product, and that experience cannot be replicated online. Even online retailers are moving forward with plans to secure physical retail space because they recognize aspects of the online experience that are not the same as going to a physical store.

The fact is that it is more than the physical experience; it’s about adapting to what retail has evolved into. Some of the most successful retailers we are working with are repurposing their stores. The stores are becoming a destination and becoming the center of an overall experience. The retail experience has evolved to a point where customers get the product they needed and have a coffee or pick up a book.

For example, our biggest customer in the UK has an almost entirely split business between online and physical. Customers can have an online parcel delivered to a store, and delivery is complimentary. It’s an intelligent approach because once they are in the store, they will browse and pick up something that wasn’t necessarily the focus of their trip. This approach merges online into the physical space and vice versa.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs and founders make when they try to build a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Nigel: Retailers must keep sight of who their customer is, what their customer is looking for and what they need to keep doing to meet these needs. When a retailer loses sight of what the customer requires or gets stuck waiting for businesses to return to what it was, they will fail. All the retailers that have closed in the last year were already in trouble before COVID. They were unable to react and evolve to changing demands. The retailers that are ahead today were ahead of the curve and made a point to be agile.

In your words, can you share a few reasons why excellent customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and retail in particular?

Nigel: There is a tremendous opportunity for physical retailers to get ahead of their online counterparts. The fact remains that retail shopping is an emotional experience. I use the term retail therapy, and that signifies what the retail experience is about for many consumers. But even with that foundation, you need to have the right products and the right environment to provide the customer service element that you don’t get online.

It comes down to the fact that retail delivers a human element. Smart retailers realize that providing a human experience is part of their massive strength.

We have all had times either in a store or online when we’ve had a bad experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is intuitive and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Nigel: The retailer who is trying to be all things to their customer is often the ones that don’t do something very well. It all goes back to having an identity, understanding who you are, understanding who your customers are, and knowing how to provide the product and accompanying service.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer that experienced a positive experience and why?

Nigel: We have done a lot of work helping retailers understand how well they and their customers deal with COVID. We’re helping them gather data on how well their policies are being implemented in the store and when they are not. This focus is crucial. It’s the ultimate customer service experience at the moment — balancing security and safety.

Bonus question: Imagine that you are a person of significant 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. 🙂

Nigel: My dream is to make education more accessible for everyone, regardless of age or demographic. People evolve, and their interests and expertise change. Imagine a world in which we could support these changes with an open educational system that rewards and supports new ideas and transformations.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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