Q&A with Samuel McVay, owner of Charley’s Appliance, an independent retailer in Kansas, USA.
Lots of the work we do here at Zappar is in helping big global businesses unlock value with augmented reality. However just as important is how AR can be used for small businesses on a modest budget at a local level.
With this in mind, I sat down with Samuel McVay, ZapWorks user and owner of Charley’s Appliance, an independent retailer in Kansas, USA. We talked about the challenges of being a first generation owner of an appliance store in rural America, and how AR has proved to be the perfect solution to a common sales problem.
(Samuel McVay, owner of Charley's Appliance)
CH: Hey Samuel! Could you please start by giving our readers an overview of how you ended up as manager of Charley’s Appliance, what the business is, and how your situation is unique to the sector?
I was looking for an opportunity to diversify after starting a cleaning and restoration company. At around the same time, a small appliance store named Young's Appliance Plus was looking to sell out.
The local Sears was also closing so I knew that meant there would be more market share in the appliance business. We partnered with Charley Green, a local appliance repairman, and bought out Young's Appliance Plus - naming the new entity "Charley's Appliance" after Charley.
Being 27 and a first generation owner of an appliance store comes with its challenges. We are part of a buying group called BrandSource, and they give us many resources such as better pricing on product, financing services, training, and a chance to network with other appliance store owners around the country.
BrandSource has helped fast-track my knowledge of this industry. Now, being a millennial and a first generation appliance store owner also has its benefits – I can bring a fresh outside perspective to the industry.
Charley's Appliance storefront
CH: What drove you to first look into using augmented reality in the store, and how did you end up with ZapWorks?
I raised the idea of VR for our store with my head of marketing, Tyler Brickley. He liked the idea but said that AR would be a better opportunity. Tyler did some research on what AR tools best fit our needs, and chose Zappar.
On why we chose Zappar, Tyler says:
"We wanted to do the AR ourselves instead of paying thousands of dollars to have it done, so the self-serve ZapWorks tools and its three user-interfaces were very appealing. We’re mainly using Designer right now but hope to do more with Studio later on. ZapWorks allows normal people on normal budgets to create expensive looking, powerful AR."
Tyler did some 2D designs, and I quickly saw how this could solve a problem for our salespeople.
CH: Describe the experience that you have created and the problem that it solved. How is this problem being solved by other retailers?
Paper price tags, and even digital price tags are limited in the amount of information they can hold and display. We created a 2D AR price tag system that pulls all the information my salespeople need. It's a quicker and more efficient way to communicate product information, competitive pricing, and product reviews.
Zapcode with call-to-action alongside additional product information in-store.
CH: How does the AR work in practice, do the customers download the Zappar app, or does your sales team show them how it is done?
The customers are invited to download the app, but the majority of the time it’s used on the salespeople’s tablets to display the necessary information.
CH: Talk to me about the creation of the experience. What ZapWorks tool did you use? Were there any challenges you faced during the process?
We created our zapcodes in Designer. Once we designed our template, it was straightforward to replicate the process.
Once scanned the label reveals additional info.
CH: How have your sales team responded to this? Has the introduction of AR within the customer journey affected sales?
The best response was seeing them relieved about how this will make their job easier and more efficient. We are seeing a much higher closing rate because AR has enabled us to have competitors' pricing immediately available at our fingertips.
CH: What has customer feedback been like to the experience?
“Wow, you guys are techy!” Customers appreciate our open pricing model. They also understand how much information is out there and how difficult it can be to gather it all in one place. The more we can utilize AR to simplify the process of buying appliances the more people will buy from us.
Users can compare prices and explore customer reviews to make an informed purchase decision.
CH: What are the next iterations for you? Do you have different goals for the medium and long term that you could share with our readers?
Brick and mortar retail stores are always going to have limitations, but we also have our advantages — we can control our retail environment, enhancing both the customer experience and sales process with AR.
For example, with AR we can show more product on the floor that's not physically present and create a fun, interactive environment that makes people want to leave their homes. We are excited to continue to be innovative with our store experience, creating amazing AR with ZapWorks.
Using augmented reality as a sales enablement tool in retail is something we’ve worked on here at Zappar HQ with a number of our enterprise customers. A good example of this is the app that Nespresso sales staff use to demonstrate and visualise the full range of their coffee dispensers to consumers in-store.
We’ve got tons of other implementations of this nature in the works and will be sure to share them once they’re live.
Head of Product, Zappar