Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 18, 2016

Cabela's, Theatro Team Up for New Field Communication Options

While it may seem like next hunting season is a lifetime away, there's still room to plan it out. Cabela's and Theatro are getting together to make the shopping experience easier for all those early birds with a new kind of communication tool that replaces the two-way radio in stores.

With Theatro, Cabela's employees get access to wearable devices that come with voice controls. That's an interesting idea, but skepticism here would be easy; is just changing the device enough to produce a better customer experience? Skepticism might be warranted if it just replaced radios, but it actually goes on from there. The Theatro / Cabela's union also produces a slate of tools for employee indoor location, for inventory review, and even for measuring customer service and boosting employee performance, things that weren't available previously.

As Theatro's CEO Chris Todd puts it, store employees need to be “heads-up and hands-free” when handling customer issues. Giving employees access to the kind of tools that could be most useful to a customer that's increasingly turning to a mobile device for information while shopping in a brick-and-mortar outlet is also helpful. Cabela's, meanwhile, expects the devices to help provided “...critical, in-the-moment information from store management, product experts, headquarter teams and store systems to quickly answer customer questions,” as expressed by executive vice president and chief operating officer Michael Copland. Copland also noted that the service would allow Cabela's to “fine tune our operational processes and maximize labor savings.”

Cabela's must operate under the same kind of retail environment as many other firms these days; facing severe competition from Amazon and a host of other online retailers, it's clear the company needs to do something special in order to ramp up its customer experience and keep people coming back. This may well prove to be that thing; customers generally come to a brick-and-mortar store to get hands-on with a product, and being able to ask questions while in the room makes sense. Though the “maximize labor savings” bit might just be a code for “give us reasons to do a lot of firing,” there's still an advantage here particularly if some stores really are short-staffed. Access to a lot of information could be a help, if the information is all truly relevant to questions customers ask. However, some may wonder if Cabela's is just shooting itself in the foot by not making that information available to customers outright to improve self-service operations.

Thanks to the growth of online and mobile shopping, brick-and-mortar stores need to go the extra mile to get and keep customers coming through the door. Cabela's and Theatro may have just the combination, but even this may not prove enough against lower prices and much greater convenience.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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