As the role of technology in everyday life evolves, so do the expectations of consumers and how it should play out in the brick and mortar shopping experience. Trends point to the reality that many shoppers prefer self-serve vs. personalized attention they get from shopping offline, prompting retailers to marry both physical and virtual attributes into the retail environment. As a result brands are adding technologies to storefront locations that satisfy consumers’ need to control how and what they purchase while in the store. Below are three available technologies retailers can leverage to shape customers’ interactive in-store experience.
You need this yesterday to stay in front of an off screen-driven world, and to deliver an interactive brand experience. A Pew Internet study revealed how customers use their cell phone to make in-store purchases. As many as 38% said they called a friend for advice; 24% looked up reviews online; and 25% performed price comparisons. This is forcing retailers to not only keep their websites up to date and responsive, but also to keep their prices competitive and store associates focused on the customer experience.
On that front, retailers are able to make great strides. With payment technologies becoming more agile and advanced, businesses are no longer tethered to a traditional cash register for POS purchases. Credit card readers that attach to mobile devices such as Intuit’s GoPayment, or Square make anytime, anywhere mobile processing possible. Tablets and smartphones also now serve as mPOS tools enabling retailers to alter the experience customers have with their brand. By making customer profiles available to your store associates, they are empowered to provide a level of personalized service never before available.
Virtual Agents augment your live teams to provide personalized, self-service 24/7. Retailers can use virtual agents to provide shoppers with detailed product information, price comparisons, and customer reviews. For shoppers that are using their mobile devices to perform in-store research, virtual agents available on mobile devices or kiosks can provide fast, accurate answers to help with decisions and promote your value using buyer profiles. Like ecommerce sites, Shoedazzle builds customer profiles at registration to make personalized recommendations, a Virtual Agent can also be used as a gift finder, personal shopper or product selector.
Alternatively, virtual agents can support your store associate staff providing them with the necessary information to personally assist in-store customers in making purchase decisions. By giving them access to the same information, associates are given unique upsell and cross sell tools to drive more revenue. And virtual agent technology is becoming more and more popular. A recent Forrester report tracked Virtual Agent usage from 2009 to 2012 and saw a 28% surge in its usage, and that continues to trend upwards as companies figure out how to adapt the technology to their marketing and service models.
Real-Time Knowledge Sharing
The devil is in the data, but the data can be hard to maximize when it’s spread so widely throughout your organization. Employing a robust knowledge management tool can help retailers aggregate both internal and external data from search, social networks, forums and their own internal databases, inventory software and CRM. Knowledge management tools help eliminate departmental silos and make current, accurate and personalized customer information consistently available to your agents (live or virtual). This can serve as the crown jewel in your entire service strategy – aggregating and curating content into a central repository that can be delivered in real-time to your customer facing employees, or directly to your customers through their channel of choice. Customer service has become the new marketing, and new technologies are making it easier than ever before to marry the two in a way that will create unique opportunities for retailers to improve customer loyalty and drive more sales. A common theme here is to collect shopping preferences from cell phones and online shopping profiles to guide customers toward preferences, promotional items or even a customer service representative. Additional analytics can provide insights into customer interests based on questions they are asking. The key is to use the tools you have available to collate your data and make it available in a way that delivers the best customer experience possible.
Chris Ezekiel is Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, Ltd. Ezekiel has a technical, sales and marketing background. He has been working in the world of virtual assistants since 2000 and founded Creative Virtual in November 2003. Previously, Ezekiel worked for a U.S. software company in various roles (starting as a Software Engineer, then as R&D manager and then as Sales & Marketing Director).