WOW! Mobile Boutique has made a mark on the industry with its customer-centric service that emphasizes fair, honest advice. The cell phone and tablet provider’s kiosks have become a fixture in malls throughout Canada, and the brand’s popularity continues to grow. After featuring WOW! Mobile Boutique in March 2020, Business in Focus caught back up with the retailer to learn the latest news.
COVID has affected the company but, as an essential service, WOW! Mobile Boutique kiosks were allowed to stay open through the shutdown. The team made adjustments to ensure customer and employee safety while keeping the public supplied with cell phones and plans. They started curbside pickup so customers did not need to come into malls, put Plexiglas around their kiosks, and removed all demonstration phones to lessen customer contact.
In addition, the company introduced a new system that made it possible for customers to book appointments online. “That way they would potentially avoid a line,” says Marketing Manager Matthew Kowalyk. “They are guaranteed to speak to our reps right off the bat. That’s really helped out [and made customers feel] much more comfortable to come in.”
With the shutdown over, but some COVID restrictions still in place, the company is working to navigate the new situation. “Malls are open a hundred percent now in all of our provinces, so we’re just getting back into the swing of things,” Kowalyk says. After months of limited sales opportunities, “Our reps are hungry and ready to go. They’re excited. We’ve been fully open for a couple of months now, and we’re starting to see a lot more traffic. I think people are ready to buy and spend without having to book things online.”
The Plexiglas is still up and customers still are not allowed to handle demonstration phones, but “We’re getting there,” he says. And until the threat passes completely the team will continue to do “anything that we can do to keep our customers safe.”
One issue that hurt business during the pandemic was the loss of marketing opportunities. Pre-pandemic, WOW! Mobile Boutique placed ads throughout malls that relied on foot traffic. With malls closed or operating at a greatly reduced capacity, people simply didn’t see the company’s ads anymore. “We lost a lot of opportunities there [with] the in-mall digital signage,” Kowalyk says. “We basically just couldn’t use it because there was no foot traffic.” In response, the company pivoted to social media. “We really relied on our web presence and social media to get promos out.”
With fewer consumers out shopping, sales dropped during the pandemic, but they have recovered nicely. As soon as malls reopened to full capacity, “Our sales were really good,” he says. Back-to-school shopping throughout August and September drove sales even higher. “I think people were ready to go [shopping again] and the promos definitely helped out.”
The outlook is positive for sales to remain strong. The Christmas rush has come close on the heels of Black Friday sales and will be followed by Boxing week promotions. “Hopefully we’re going to be nuts until the end of a quarter,” Kowalyk says.
From its inception, WOW! Mobile Boutique has focused on its people. The brand has carefully built a reputation for providing impartial, honest advice about cell phones, tablets, and cell phone plans from friendly, knowledgeable, well-trained representatives. Unlike the typical approach, the company’s commission structure does not motivate representatives to push more expensive products or plans, so customers can trust they are getting the best match for their specific needs and budget.
“We’ve got great people out there,” he says. Customers “know when you come up to a WOW! Mobile Boutique kiosk, you’re going to be dealing with great people. They’re really looking out for your best interest and are unbiased. We’re really just looking for the plans, the phones, and the best promos that you can walk away with. You’ll know that we didn’t try to upsell you on something because that’s just not our people. We’re good people.”
Kowalyk points out how WOW! Mobile Boutique employees maintained the company’s high standards throughout the difficulties of the pandemic. “They’ve been resilient. They’ve been positive. They’ve been strong and they’ve come out of this pandemic with a really positive attitude.”
The company values diversity and recognizes how important it is to offer customers representatives with whom they can relate. “We are embracing our multiculturalism,” he says. “We’ve got a wide range of ethnicities and talents.” Many representatives speak a second language, and the company is highlighting this ability in order to improve the customer experience. For instance, “one rep may speak Italian fluently, and we may be in a market where somebody’s more comfortable speaking Italian, so they can go to that person,” he says. “So that’s another way we can build on our people.”
As the team moves forward, they plan to increase their focus on social media even more. “We learned a lot from the pandemic, so we really want to grow our social media presence and our online presence a lot more,” Kowalyk says. “We always know that word of mouth is the best marketing and through social media, the ability to gain word of mouth marketing is much easier. So we’re really going to try to utilize that.”
And, the team will not stop there. “We’re only eight years old as a brand, so we’re going to be growing a lot, and there are going to be changes coming down the pipeline,” he says. “I’m looking at revamping our website. We are exploring a lot of opportunities to stay fresh and stay relevant and feel exciting. We’re really trying to just raise the excitement level of our brand so, through the course of the year, there’s going to be a lot of developments.”
The team will be sitting down and brainstorming over the next several months to iron out the details. Kowalyk came on board just six months ago and is eager to take WOW! Mobile Boutique in a fresh direction while maintaining the company’s solid foundation. “We’re going to build on what we’re already strong with,” he says.
His colleagues are on the same page. “There’re a lot of new faces in our team that are excited to push the brand forward.” They are all eager to begin meeting face to face again, roll up their sleeves, and get down to business. “That’s when we are going to hit the ground running.”
One thing that will stay the same as Kowalyk and the team strategize for the future is the company’s belief in its representatives in the field. People hold the key to the company’s success, Kowalyk says, and he wants to be sure they receive the support they need to do their best. “We really just want to give our people in the field the tools [they need] to succeed.”
The team is especially eager to put these tools to use in a post-pandemic environment where customers and representatives can fully interact once more. “[We are] excited to see our customers come in freely as opposed to having to book the time,” he says.
“We’ve missed our customers, we’ve missed our regulars, and we’ve missed meeting new people.” As 2021 comes to a close and the new year begins, WOW! Mobile Boutique is more than ready to welcome old and new customers to the friendly, fair shopping experience for which the brand is known.