Imagine today’s typical trip to the store ― that big, complex place where we go to get all the things we need to run our homes and take care of ourselves and our families. The store. Seems so impersonal, doesn’t it? What if instead of THE store, it was MY store? Or, in the following example, Emily’s store?
On the way home from work, Emily decides to stop at the store to pick up a few things. She is welcomed immediately by the loyalty application on her smartphone via the retailer’s WLAN guest access. The application allows the retailer to build a profile for Emily; integrate her online purchasing activity and shopping lists (created at home) into her store visit; and deliver a personalized shopping experience. Assistance is offered immediately. A customized map appears on her device to alert her to special promotions and sales on her frequently purchased items and their locations. All associates in the store are connected virtually and empowered to anticipate Emily’s needs. They are equipped with advanced knowledge of her questions, merchandise searches, past purchases and store loyalty before they ever greet her face-to-face. Video analytics track inventory availability, customer count, line length and traffic patterns, and trigger the appearance of an associate to expedite her checkout and payment via a mobile computing device. A follow-up survey is pushed to her device to gain insight on her purchase satisfaction and the overall shopping experience. Emily’s loyalty is strengthened.
In the very near future, this digitally-driven shopping experience could define a new retail reality and earn retailers more consumer loyalty, stronger relationships and ultimately more sales. The industry is not there yet, but advanced wireless technology has the potential to transform retail operations and build valuable one-on-one relationships with Emily and every other customer.
A Brief History Lesson
Hundreds of years ago, building strong, one-on-one relationships was the key goal, but achievable only on a small scale by sole proprietors ― the local shop owner who knew your name.
In the industrial age, as we enthusiastically fled cities for the suburbs, retail chains developed. Applying the concept of scale, regional chains differentiated on product assortment and formats.
Improved information technology, access to capital and more sophisticated distribution capabilities led to the Super Scale phase of retailing. Technology ultimately opened the door to true scale. Shoppers gained access to more goods and buying power, but at the expense of meaningful customer relationships that engendered loyalty.
Reconnecting As A Brand
The good news is that retailers have started on the path of reconnecting with customers. Knowing who their shoppers are, what they stand for, and how to connect the dots pays off in truly value-added points of difference and creates a competitive advantage.
We believe there are five clear opportunities within the shopper’s decision making process where brands and their retailers can connect with a customer and deliver value:
- Identify – Do the brands deserve consideration?
- Navigate – Do they help you find what you need?
- Discriminate – Do they help you choose?
- Validate – Do they make you feel good about yourself?
- Transact – Do they provide you with value beyond closing the sale?
Food for thought, certainly, but also a great framework to begin implementing the right connectivity solutions to drive meaningful change in your customer experience.
A Look Ahead: Retailers As Branded Agents
So, what’s next? Consider the current experiences we have with retailers like Amazon and iTunes. These merchants use data to drive tailored shopping experiences on computers. They provide a community of interest and reviews, edit our potentially overwhelming choices, coach us and lead us to what’s next.
Shoppers’ relationships with most retailers today likely are based on a “what have you done for me lately?” mentality: the quality of the last deal received or real estate driven convenience. To succeed, retailers need to embrace the challenge of relationships by leveraging technology as a means to establish and maintain a personal connection with shoppers.
The future ultimately will belong to the retailer who can employ the best technology tools to create value-based, one-on-one relationships with shoppers like Emily. Don’t give customers better technology and call it a better experience: Use technology to give them a better experience.
Eduardo Conrado is SVP and CMO for Motorola Solutions, Inc. He is the force behind the company’s move to a customer-centric, solutions-driven marketing approach and the thought leader behind its evolution to a purpose-driven company. Throughout his 20-year career at Motorola, Conrado has moved through a variety of key marketing leadership roles in the company’s broadband mobility, government, networks, enterprise mobility and services businesses. He has had multiple international business and marketing assignments in a range of consumer and commercial segments across Motorola. In 2011, Conrado was named BtoB Magazine’s Marketer of the Year.
Bill Chidley, SVP of Shopper Sciences for the Interbrand Design Forum, is responsible for developing Interbrand’s in-store solutions, based on shopper insights, and is a noted authority on branding and design. He leads Interbrand’s Shopper Sciences team, which uses the latest research and analytics tools create informative and intelligent retail programs. Chidley has worked with leading global brands for more than 25 years. At Interbrand his clients include world-class brands such as AT&T, Clorox, The Home Depot, Hormel, Intel, John Deere, Kroger, McDonald’s, Motorola, P&G, PepsiCo and others.