Though the e-commerce boom forced a ton of traditional retailers to reinvent themselves, to stay relevant and cost-effective, there are a vast majority of shoppers who still prefer physical stores and the idea of touching the product, instead of relying on online transactions. To cater to such customers, a lot of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer retail brands are moving to an omnichannel content strategy, which integrates a lot of the offline shopping experience with the online and the traditional brick-and-mortar models.
However, such a transition is easier said than done. The traditional retailers need to stay ahead on their customer offering by constantly refreshing their physical spaces and delivering a unique in store experience to stay relevant with e-commerce and the rapid expansion of brands. Harbr, a Nova Scotia, Canada-based software company, is helping retailers and their stakeholders make rollouts more successful, through its retail artificial intelligence (AI) solution.
In this chat with CIO Applications, Ashley Kielbratowski, Co-Founder & Head of Product, Harbr, details the organization's focus on the retail sector, how it empowers retail owners to build and scale anywhere while retaining total brand control, and a lot more.
Our Main Value Addition
I would say our main value to customers is our ability to make their lives easier. We are connecting all stakeholders on every level, allowing them to collaborate and to stay in the know at all times. A typical retail expansion touches hundreds of individual contractors, vendors and suppliers. Harbr Work Management AI helps make this coordination simple.
How We Started
Our focus has always been the construction and renovation space. Due to my previous construction industry experience I contributed to both big and small projects, and realized that there are so many inefficiencies. Yet, it was always difficult to understand the problems and find valuable solutions.
How our Solution Came About
Once we identified the problems plaguing the construction space, we decided to dig into the grassroots. After talking with field workers and those in the office, we got a full perspective of the situation and figured out how to make everyone’s life easier.
Why we Took the Retail Route
We understand retail expansion is unique - it’s high volume and multi-location. The retail market is changing rapidly and stores are refreshing at faster intervals. With new stores being built and refresh rates growing exponentially, we knew the retail construction industry would be dealing with a lot of inefficiencies and problems, including millions of construction workers to coordinate. Through our solution, we help them connect everyone on one simple platform—from the vendor to the contractor, to the owner. By switching to our platform, project managers no longer need to chase other people around, to get answers. It’s obviously very time-consuming to go through that process for every job site. By deploying our solution, we ensure everyone is up-to-date and coordinated at all times.
Everything at Harbr starts with the customer. Our platform/ solution is very flexible and can serve as both a basic-to-do or even be more structured like a project schedule. When things like a note, picture, progress update, task completion or issue is created all owners and dependents involved in that piece of work get notified. This is what we mean when we say Work Management AI is like your project assistant. Everyone is kept in the loop because we know that people are relying on that information. By automating, we ensure everyone is coordinated therefore project managers can stay focused on optimizing and creating long-term value. Our platform allows the environment to be self-sustainable. We understand that coordinating numerous contractors, vendors and suppliers can be hectic, time consuming and difficult. We've built a platform that helps retailers focus and manage by exception.
Why we Believe in Simple Tech
One of the things we pride ourselves on is simplicity. We don't want our users to get bogged down by complicated and new technology. That's why we've designed the platform in a way that everyone can use it. To ensure their project is successful and optimized. We do all the heavy-lifting and groundwork, for everyone on the backend to stay notified, via automation. Our platform has both a website version and a mobile app. The contractors on the field prefer using the app since they can update it easily, and keep everyone notified. Once a customer downloads the app, they can get set up very quickly by watching our video tutorials and even become Harbr Certified, meaning field crews are committed to excellence in collaboration, cooperation and execution.
We don't want our users to get bogged down by complicated and new technology. That's why we've designed the platform in a way that everyone can use it.
A Case Study
To our credit, most of our customers feel our solution helps them keep their pulse on the job site; however, they weren't always this informed, prior to using our solution. For example, our priority tracker on the app ensured that this one particular owner was notified of an issue at the construction site. Typically, this information wouldn’t have reached the owner for at least a few weeks. But since he became aware of it, he could call someone at a higher level to act and get the issue resolved quickly. In the words of the owner, “The issue tracker has become a great tool to not only force the project team to come up with timely solutions, but it allows our leadership team to jump in and provide support as needed, thus minimizing schedule delays and cost overruns. Our site personnel are really buying into this tool and as a leadership team, we love that we can have a real-time pulse on our projects and make sure that our clients expectations are being met”. This instant and real-time connection really helps bridge the communication gap and keeps everyone connected to the workflow on the job site.
What the Future Holds
With more retailers moving to the traditional brick-and-mortar growth strategy, there is a lot of scaling consistency in the real estate business, and that means more opportunities for us. We’re going to continue targeting retail brands and landlords, in both Canada and the U.S. With e-commerce constantly changing the retail sector, we feel we can continue to support and optimize those high-volume tasks and multi-location spaces.
We are devoted to our mission which is to make it as simple as possible for retailers to build anywhere at scale while maintaining complete control of their brand. We believe that construction can be predicted. However, there is another aspect or philosophy, that we are devoted to, and that is gender diversity. Our leadership team has a ratio of 60:40, women to men, and our overall staff has an equal number of women and men. We want to remain at this ratio because we are certain the more diverse we are, the better our work will be.