John Lewis invests £4m in in-store mobile technology

John Lewis is turning to mobile to improve its in-store shopping experience with a £4m initiative that will see store staff equipped with smartphones to help customers.

The British retailer has developed an app to keep staff connected to key systems and data, so they can quickly help customers with information about products, check stock availability, and place orders.

Following a training programme this summer, 8,000 salespeople in 20 John Lewis stores across the UK will receive an iPhone loaded with the app.

The development is expected to put an end to customers waiting for staff to go to stock rooms to see whether a product is in stock, or check information at tills as they will be able to help on the spot.

“As online and physical worlds increasingly come together, this initiative, which forms the foundation of our digital strategy for shops, will support our partners in offering great customer service in a digital world,” commented John Lewis customer director Craig Inglis.

The app was designed and built by John Lewis's in-house online team using feedback from staff in its Cambridge shop where the project was tested with customers for five months. According to Inglis, customer feedback was “overwhelmingly positive”.

“[The technology] consistently speeded up response times to customer queries as partners didn't need to leave the customer to find answers, or complete a purchase. This is just the beginning. We will keep adding to the partner app in the future with new, innovative ways to help our customers,” he added.

The app gives visibility of stock availability in all shops and at John Lewis's warehouse in Milton Keynes, where online orders are fulfilled, as well as product information, customer reviews, the ability to email customers product information and to place orders.

During the busiest week in the trial, half of all online purchases made in the shop assisted by a salesperson were made using the app.

The digital initiative follows the launch of a self check-in option at collection points in John Lewis shops to speed up the shopping process.

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