When it comes to miracle minds, Michael Kumm nears the top of our list. Our Chief Operations Officer is one of the masters who helped bring Amber Engine to life alongside CEO and Founder Jennifer Gilbert. His thoughts, ideas, and perspectives are always insightful, so we sat down with him for 10 quick questions about the home furnishings industry, technology and his advice for those struggling with the online portion of their business.
1. You were Jennifer Gilbert’s first hire, which means you’ve seen a lot of changes to Amber Engine. What excites you most about the company's future?
It has been great watching the industry raise their level of awareness around the challenges of supporting the digital needs of product data. From our perspective, there isn't a better skill the industry can adopt to satisfy customers than improving the accuracy and velocity of product data from suppliers to retailers to consumers. I think the home furnishings industry is just approaching a tipping point of improving the customer experience and Amber Engine is well equipped to help make it happen.
2. When it comes to setting up an online retail experience, what’s your number one piece of advice for people in the home furnishing industry?
A lot has been written on the importance of complete data, product search, accessibility, accurate information, etc. so I won't cover that here. The online retail experience is only one part of the complete customer journey. For the customer to be successful, your team needs to understand where the online experience blends with the offline experience and be diligent in capturing customer feedback when possible.
3. Which piece of emerging technology should home furnishing retailers invest in or explore?
Definitely explore the experiences people are having outside of the home furnishings space. This includes obvious technologies like "smart assistants," but more specifically consider how technology supports the benefits customers want, like "quick ship." Look for small incremental opportunities that you can adopt for your customers.
4. Beyond the web, how do you see technology changing brick-and-mortar for home furnishing retailers for the better?
Current technologies provide unprecedented opportunities for retailers to influence their customers today and in the future. How we capture, analyze, and make decisions around marketing and customer management all requires technology that has only been made available in the last few years. Technology opens up opportunities for partnerships with businesses that may have been considered a competitor just yesterday. For example, partnering with a successful online business that could benefit from physical locations for additional customer support.
5. For the technology-resistant, -hesitant or -frustrated retailer, what encouragement can you offer?
Technology changes our minds on what is possible, and with that we can expect some growing pains. You are not alone. I haven't met anyone yet who didn't have frustrations with technology, and a large budget alone doesn't change that. Expect some frustrations in learning new ways that produce formerly impossible results.
6. If a furniture retailer is just beginning to incorporate technology into their business, what’s going to get them the most bang for their buck?
Tough question. I have seen retailers that don't use email yet; so not sure where to start with this. As a general rule, listen to your customers and adapt technology that makes their lives easier or makes your ability to attract and support customers better.
7. What do furniture retailers need to know about working with Amber Engine?
The entire Amber Engine team is on your side. We are here to help you improve customer satisfaction with better user experience because of improved product data and accurate information to fuel buying decisions. We want to see you surpass your online sales goals and simultaneously help us re-imagine the home furnishings industry.
8. Generally speaking, what types of technologies are able to disrupt industries? What do they have to do/be for their users?
Technology enables innovations, usually by connecting existing solutions in new and interesting ways. Specific technologies can inspire new ideas. For example, once everyone ended up with a GPS device in their pockets, Uber was possible. As Augmented Reality becomes more accessible, what cultural change could that lead to?
9. Everyone is listening. All you have to do is mention wanting a purple bicycle around Alexa or Siri and it pops up on browser ads. Is this thrilling or terrifying? Why?
Both. Customer-listening technologies provide new conveniences at the cost of losing some privacy. Customers will eventually decide if losing that privacy is worth the benefits.
10. 20-years ago, the internet was new and in-home VR/AR was unthinkable. 20-years from now, where will we be?
Now, we want to hear from you! Do you have additional questions for Michael? Which of his answers proved most impactful to you? What do you think about customer-listening technologies and do you think the convenience is worth giving up a little privacy? Leave a comment below.