Success in physical retail requires building connections with individual shoppers, according to Mark Williamson, VP, Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs at Ahold-Delhaize, speaking at the Using the Entire Retail Store as an AV Canvas for Content session at InfoComm 2019. The challenge, however, is reaching individual shoppers across hundreds of stores, especially when competing with the personalization capabilities available through e-Commerce.
Retailers’ complete control over their web pages lets them deliver content and curate selections based on past purchases and known preferences. While the same customer data can be applied to the in-store experience, the environment is less controlled and so a different approach is necessary.
Ahold-Delhaize has been shaping the in-store experience with media-rich environments that can deliver more dynamic, personalized content to shoppers without pulling them out of the brick-and-mortar experience.
"We've relied on data to help us make connections, and as digital media has really taken shape — as it has become better, faster and more precise — a lot of our efforts have revolved around how we use data to talk to our customers digitally,” said Williamson. “When we look at the store, it's very much how it always was: they walk in, they have a list, they walk around. We have to introduce digital where we can.”
For example, the retailer devotes significant resources to finding sustainably sourced, local and non-GMO products, but these stories can’t be reflected on a simple price tag. The solution was the integration of digital signage, which lets Ahold-Delhaize share additional product details with shoppers and helps the company compete on more than a price basis.
"It's more than the ‘cool’ factor,” said Williamson. “It's about what's the utility that we're adding to the shopping experience. Are we helping them discover things? Are we telling good stories?"
However, Ahold Delhaize had to contend with the fact that installing new technology often fails to provide an immediate return on investment — even if it positions the brand for greater success in the long term. To address this conflict, the retailer shifted its definition of success away from “winning the week,” and toward metrics that look at customer perception over time, such as whether they feel they’re getting good value for their money or if the store is their preferred place to shop.
"If you look at the investment required to get a piece of digital signage or install new sensors in the store, it's really hard to build a business case if you're trying to win the week,” said Williamson. “Developing a longer-term mentality of what success looks like, understanding what this kind of experience and engagement can mean for your brand long term, is of critical importance."
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