In-store Customer Engagement Gets a Technology Facelift
Consider this: Linda is en route to meet a friend when a beep from her smartphone informs her that a favorite apparel chain – which happens to have a store just a few doors away– is featuring a new collection of trendy skirts and shoes in her favorite colors. She decides on impulse to make a small detour and visit the store. Linda is likely to buy something and may even send recommendations to her friends via social media. The retailer has combined real-time, smart technology with detailed customer data to generate an impulse store walk-in and potential sale with zero human interaction. Possible? Yes. Futuristic? No.
The main factor drawing consumers into stores is the potential for personal interaction. Even in a retail environment increasingly dominated by online and mobile shopping, visual and tactile experiences continue to pull customers into physical locations. A recent study reveals that, while online is often the most lucrative distribution channel, 65 percent of European retailers believe physical stores are gaining in prominence. Retail brands that equip their store associates with detailed customer data, empower those sales personnel to leverage each customer interaction into larger, more profitable sales and greater long-term loyalty to the brand.
With the advent of Cloud and Big Data technologies, access to customer intelligence becomes simpler, faster and 24/7. Retailers can easily tap into customer profiles, preferences, shopping histories and convert the information into personalized assistance, cross, and upselling opportunities whenever customers happen to be in stores. By adding a single layer of information gathering, stores can acquire customer data such as e-mail addresses and social profiles that can be used to push out promotional offers and details of new arrivals, discounts and much more.
TECHNOLOGY + ANALYTICS = REAL-TIME ENGAGEMENT
As consumers become increasingly enabled with smartphones and shop-from-where-you-are options, retailers must capitalize on personalization and engagement to make store visits super enjoyable. Retail marketers must integrate online and mobile channel strategies to achieve strong in-store funnels and greater customer loyalty. For instance, customers who shop on a retailer’s website or search for product updates on Facebook might be offered discount vouchers that require physical store visits for redemption. When the customers arrive in stores, sales associates, armed with current, granular customer data can make highly relevant product suggestions. In-store shopping is a complete package – attractive display, plentiful stock, and good advice, and personal feel, convenient and friendly checkout and, most important make shopping a source of entertainment for brand loyalists.
Retailers realize many benefits from integration among mobile, digital and offline channels and are investing heavily in key enabling technologies. Retailers are investing heavily in apps that push store promotions, campaigns and event info directly to customers. They are also taking storefront marketing strategies one virtual step ahead, tapping into the new-age customer mindset of browsing and researching products online or via mobile before walking into stores to purchase. A classic example is Walmart’s Site-to-Store concept where customers have an option of placing orders online and picking up their merchandise in stores. Businesses need to remember that online stores are an extension of physical and vice versa. Increasing numbers of e-commerce providers are realizing the benefits of having physical stores. By having the right mix of technology and traditional in-store retailing techniques, savvy brands are bound to deliver exceptional shopping experiences to their customers.