Taylor Romero's DIY Path to an Internet-Connected Store

With his barbershop and men's boutique Spruce, Taylor Romero forged his own path to smart retail.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

This discount, once the customer unveils it (by "scratching" his phone screen), is linked to his profile, which is stored in Shopify, the point-of-sale management system Spruce uses. When the customer pays for his next haircut—which requires that the cashier first pull up his profile in Shopify—the reward will appear and be deducted from his tab. In this way, the customer need not remember to mention the discount.

Engaging—and Debugging—With Customers
Spruce also uses a bevy of other customer-interaction tools, including a touchscreen inside the boutique that allows customers to view exactly how much stock is available for any given item (selected from a list based on that product's name), and in what sizes. The customer can then click on the size he wants, and a staff person automatically receives a text message asking for that item to be brought out.

The app displays notifications, such as an alert regarding a missed appointment.
Inside dressing rooms, Romero has installed Apple iPads that customers can use to change the lighting inside the room to match various settings (a beach, for isntance, or a club's dance floor) by setting the LED lighting to pre-set levels and colors.

When a customer initially fills out his profile, he can include notes about how much he likes or dislikes chatting with his barber, and if he has any special needs. Fifteen minutes before his appointment, his barber will receive an alert with a link to the customer's profile, so he can be best prepared to provide individualized attention.

When one new customer noted in his profile that he is deaf, Romero says, the barber who was to cut his hair greeted him at the door and introduced herself in sign language. "Thirty minutes later, when that customer left, I watched him take a selfie in front of the store sign," says Romero, who later noticed that the customer had also made that photo his Facebook profile picture.

Customer loyalty goes even deeper than that for some people, who actually offer to help Romero debug any problems with the various systems at the store, where he also hosts periodic meetings of an IoT enthusiasts club. "People love to be engaged in the process," he explains, "and they love when they give you an idea and then they see us implement it."

Romero says he has considered adding RFID tags to the items he sells at the boutique, so that he could do such things as track inventory or make it easier and faster for customers to return the products they buy (assuming they leave the RFID tags on those items). However, he says, when he researched the price of RFID readers, he decided against that tack. "Maybe we'll do that for store two or three," he says, "but for now, RFID is far too expensive."

In the meantime, Romero will probably keep tinkering and finding ways to make his business more efficient and engaging for customers.

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