By Brecken Branstrator
New York--Capturing the consumer in the digital space is no longer just about making sure you have a web presence. These days, it’s increasingly important for retailers and brands to find a way to create one seamless experience among their brick-and-mortar stores, website and customers’ mobile devices.

Jewelry brand John Hardy is using a new technology that will virtually bring its e-commerce customers into the stores, so to speak.

The brand is working with Hero, an app that connects in-store retail associates with e-commerce customers through messaging, photos, videos and live video streaming.

Hero has been present in the European market for a few months now, where they’re seeing jewelry, apparel and homeware as the major categories employing the app, founder and CEO Adam Levene said.

Hero is new to the U.S. market and is launching here through this partnership with John Hardy.

The app connects e-commerce customers who might need assistance in real time to an associate in a boutique who has the product knowledge, is surrounded by the product and can take photos and videos, Levene said.

For store associates, Hero operates through an app on their smartphone.

When asked about how the app takes into account a store’s busy hours or associates’ unavailability, Levene compared it to Uber, in that it can be turned on and off from any associate based on whether or not they can help customers via Hero at the time.

From the consumer end, it’s as easy to use as accessing the store’s website. If an associate is available, Hero will be an option for them to connect while they’re on the site.

“We’re (also) doing some things behind the scenes as well where we’re able to detect busiest times on the website, and we can start to make smarter recommendations to the times during which associates should be available,” Levene said.

When asked how much it costs for retailers to use Hero, Levene said pricing depends on the number of stores, associates and volume of internet traffic but also metrics such as conversion rates of online sales.

John Hardy is launching Hero in all of its stores, starting with Houston and New York and extending to Los Angeles, as well as a possible international expansion for the brand to allow for access to associates no matter the time zone.

The brand said when it started using Hero, it saw quick results.

According to Audrey Yu, the company’s vice president of global digital, they saw a 10 percent increase in the number of sales online using Hero and a 44 percent increase in average order value.

“Hero has created something very special at a time when retailers, especially in the luxury space, are needing to champion innovative ways to bring the brand experience and high-touch service to where the clients are--online,” she said.

The results might not be surprising to anyone who’s been keeping up with the studies and stories of late emphasizing how important an omnichannel approach is for retail and how consumers tend to spend more when given more touch points with which to interact during the sales process.

Technology like Hero not only offers the opportunity to provide the same level of customer service online that a client would have in the store but also gives associates another chance to engage with clients.

Levene said they have found that the customer experience is best when the associates are not only very knowledgeable but also incentivized.

“We know that associates often see the dot-com site as a threat because they see the traffic of consumers is migrating from the brick-and-mortar store to online,” Levene said. “With Hero, the associates see the dot-com site as another opportunity.”

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