Consider the last time you bought something either online or at a store. Industry studies show that if you felt good about the experience, you are more likely to buy from that retailer again. For retailers to increase sales, they need to leverage available technology to create stronger and more meaningful connections with shoppers to achieve a larger share of their wallets. Why? Because today, everyone has more choices and loyalty is vanishing quickly. As consumers, we decide how, when and where to interact and the retailers who win are ready when we are.
The better you know your shoppers, the easier it is to build a relationship with them. Intelligence is one of the many benefits digital channels provide. And with intelligence comes the ability to personalize based on purchase history, preferences and behaviors. Every channel you offer creates a portal to tell your brand story — and if done right, a unique and recurring opportunity to connect with and add value to your customers.
Bridging The Digital Divide
Omni-channel retailing is the new normal. It involves giving shoppers a seamless, consistent experience no matter where they engage – in-store, online or through a mobile device. To deliver value through each channel, you need to understand who your shoppers are, where they get information, how and where they make purchases, where they pick up products and what post-sales support they require. Rapidly evolving technology only makes the purchasing process more complex, with most consumers weaving in and out of channels before parting with their money. So no matter what mix of channels you choose, communicating product descriptions, pricing and your brand differentiators in a consistent way — and the way your shoppers want it — is vital to building their trust and loyalty.
It’s important to remember that the physical retail environment still remains the ultimate “channel” — the essential component of shoppers’ relationships with a brand. More often than not, the buck stops there. So retailers need to leverage technology that gives shoppers access to the same quality of information and experience they get online, but with the immediacy and responsiveness of an in-person visit. Almost three-quarters of the retailers we surveyed believe that maintaining an engaging customer experience is going to be business-critical over the next five years.
Here are five ways you can use technology to make interactions more personal:
1. Recognize And Welcome Shoppers As They Enter The Store
Retail solutions now exist to help retailers identify shoppers when they walk through the door and empower them to use their smartphones to communicate and transact. Through WLAN guest access, they can opt-in to a loyalty app, welcome messages, personalized store maps, product information and customized offers. They can also check out and pay for purchases. That same network can also track and remember buying behaviors – what coupons they downloaded, products they browsed, prices they compared, shopping lists they saved, etc., allowing you to get to know them better.
This network connection allows associates to identify shoppers as well, providing information on preferences and past purchases to help make interactions more productive and meaningful. For example, highlighting special promotions on the products they buy regularly or providing instant coupons.
2. Connect With Consumers Digitally To Merge Online And In-Store Experiences
Consumers are researching, creating shopping lists and purchasing items before stepping foot into the store. By better understanding the shopper’s path to purchase, proactive information can be provided to both the shopper and store associate to personalize and expedite the shopping experience. This may include access to an extended assortment and choices about how to buy and whether the item is picked up at the store or delivered to the home. According to our recent Retail Vision Survey, 73 percent of retailers are investing in technology to identify where shoppers are in the store and to better inform them using digital displays, electronic shelf labels and handheld personal shopping assistants.
3. Provide Real-Time Information Throughout The Shopping Process
What if your sales associates could know as much about the shoppers they’re helping as the online retailer does, engaging them with the exact information they need, when they need it? It would very likely lead to more sales. Our annual Holiday Shopping Survey showed that 61 percent of shoppers believe they are better informed than store associates and 67 percent cited a better experience in-store when associates and managers use the latest mobile technologies
Getting the right information about a product becomes more important as the decision risks – cost or social implications of a poor selection — increase. If the retail store is going to address the perceived deficiencies they have versus online retailers, better inventory visibility is a good place to start.
4. Empower Shelves To Inform Associates When Items Need Replenishment
Imagine if your associates could anticipate what might make shoppers walk away unsatisfied and intervene to save the sale — or at least reinforce your brand value to preserve future sales opportunities? A mix of technologies (video, proximity awareness, point-of-sale) can capture information with analytical output sent to a manager or associates’ mobile device to close the sale or take other appropriate action.
Out-of-stock items are the leading cause of shopper dissatisfaction. Predictive analytics, RFID and video analytic technology can identify a stock issue and immediately alert the appropriate store associate’s mobile device that corrective action is required. If a desired item is out of stock, a shopper or store associate can use a handheld device or kiosk to save the sale by finding another location that has the item in stock or ordering the item immediately and having it delivered directly to the shopper’s home.
5. Identify and Anticipate Your Shopper’s Needs
The future belongs to the retailers that implement and harness the best tools to create value-based, personalized relationships with shoppers. That means building an environment where:
- Shoppers, associates and systems are all connected
- The collection, analysis and distribution of relevant data helps predict shoppers’ needs and exceed expectations
- Only the most relevant information is presented to consumers
- Store systems recognize location, identity, activity and time related to products and individuals to generate intelligent events
- Shoppers receive consistent experiences across all channels
Build A More Personal Path To Purchase
The optimal shopping experience is when browsing becomes buying, shoppers become brand advocates and retailers influence the purchase path. At every step, there is a compelling opportunity to improve the experience for the shopper by using technology to help close the sale.
While the retail landscape continues to shift, some general rules still apply: listen to your customers; get the channel mix right; and use technology to provide a personalized experience with your brand at every opportunity. Efficiency still matters, but responsiveness and the quality of the relationships you build matter more.
Scott Moreland has more than 20 years of retail solutions experience helping retailers identify, define and implement mobility solutions that enhance the customer experience, improve associate effectiveness and streamline supply chain operations.