Retail brands must not lose sight of sales skills as they show off their trendy tech

Rose Lewis is a partner at Pembridge Partners Ltd, which invests and advises businesses in the marketing, media and technology sector. Rose is excited about how technology is changing marketing and how technology is changing the way companies interact with their customers/employees/suppliers – in other words every single touchpoint a company has is going to be digital and what a fantastic opportunity that gives innovative companies.

Last weekend I went into the new Burberry store. From the moment I walked in I was surrounded by the brand's values. It was classic (all wood architecture) yet trendy (big screens playing new music). The assistants were dressed impeccably were using iPads to place orders. I thought to myself fantastic! This British icon is translating digital into retail.

Burberry's new flagship London store

It was all going so well - until I went to try on something on. There was no customer service! The assistants were all walking around trying to look cool. Instead of bringing me into the brand by helping me find something in my size that would look great on me, the shop staff spent their time acting as live mannequins. Quickly Iosing interest in the £500 trench coat I had tried on, I headed out the door.

Walking across the road into UNIQLO I ended up buying a coat for £17. So what happened? I had the money for “THE” trench coat (well almost) and ended up buying a coat that gave me change from my Score.

I began to wonder, can tech drive innovation on the High Street or does it still come down to the basic rules of Retail – show the price offer in a range of sizes, and provide assistants to make sure you get the size you need.

In the end, simple retailing managed to part me from my money. I was rather disappointed with Burberry - lots of tech but it wasn’t really being used it in a way that was either innovative or would make me buy more of the product and it certainly didn’t live up to its digital image.

On Facebook, Burberry is one of the biggies that have gotten it right. When I last checked, the Burberry page on FB had over 14 million “Likes” and just shy of 250,000 “Talking about this.” Burberry doesn’t push product on FB – it not only provides beautiful shots from their current ad campaign which are inspiring in themselves but also other beautiful shots from of London or places they have been – which people comment on and share. People who visit the Burberry FB page feel a part of the brand because they can interact with it – no matter where they are – even if the closest physical store is in a different city. They seem to have recognised the power of social in driving reputation.

However, tech needs to be useful and relevant, not just jumping on the cool and trendy bandwagon. Brands need to enhance the customer experience. Nike continues to use smart tech to deliver this, first with the Nike+ app and now with their new Fuel Band – both provide incredible usefulness to the consumer. Nike set out, first and foremost, to be useful and that is why it works. I also like the way Adidas has enhanced the shopping experience with their interactive tool in the shop window for their new NEO brand. You can flick through different colours and ranges showing them on a model and the use your phone to drag into a shopping basket and buy.

Brands have to find a way of leveraging tech to deliver marginal gains. Clever use of tech that sets brands apart can add to customer satisfaction and ultimately increase profits. I am sure we will continue to see brands leverage technology in clever ways, and I hope that the UK continues to drive innovation in this way.

Rose Lewis is a partner at Pembridge Partnership Ltd, which invests and advises businesses in the marketing, media and technology sector. Rose champions and advises early stage companies on fund raising and mentors founders through their early company development. Rose is looking for those with exciting technology innovations to get in touch at

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