Effective Customer Engagement: The Next Evolution for Reaching Ever-Connected Consumers

February 12, 2013

Data-driven, customized, dynamic experiences mark the next evolution for communicating with today's empowered, ever-connected consumers.

By Marcy Patzer
Senior director of retail strategy, Scala, Inc.

As technology advances, customer engagement is becoming more and more critical for brick-and-mortar stores. With the increase of social media-savvy customers, combined with emerging technologies such as NFC, QR codes and anonymous video analytics, there has become an expectation for highly customized, one-on-one messaging between retailer and consumer.

Retailers already have a wealth of data stored from loyalty programs, point of purchase, traditional and digital marketing, which can be leveraged to exponentially increase the effectiveness of their omni-channel marketing efforts. This data, combined with dynamic digital displays, kiosks/touchscreens, mobile and social integration can transform the in-store experience. It can produce dynamic and targeted messaging that can adapt and change instantaneously to reflect the optimum products, or offer a viral hook based on the customer's individual preferences or even based on third-party data such as weather, gas prices or social trends.

Customer-centric strategy is the key to customer acquisition, reducing churn rate and creating brand loyalty. Retailers are increasingly taking advantage of every opportunity to optimize their promotions based on their knowledge of the consumers' personal preferences to influence their purchasing habits. Data-driven, customized, dynamic experiences mark the next evolution for communicating with today's empowered, ever-connected consumers.

Digital displays are also becoming increasingly more effective with the adoption of new methodologies that mesh the instantaneous content management capabilities of digital signage with adaptive learning algorithms. This enables retailers to automate the testing, measurement and execution of their campaigns to capitalize on the perfect time, tone and offers to display to the right customer at the point of decision. Optimization can be based on sales trends from historical data, point of sale data, customer loyalty card information, customer in-store dwell times, de-identified gender and age-group detection, or even such external information as weather or gas prices.

In our ever-evolving, technology rich, customer-centric and highly connected society, the key to increasing customer engagement is for retailers to commit to a more agile, data-driven marketing strategy that is able to adapt, leveraging an iterative learning cycle. An analytics-driven digital signage solution that incorporates touch, social and mobile can create a truly interactive and dynamic customer shopping experience and yield very high conversions, but retailers must choose technology partners wisely. There are few providers that are able to implement, support and provide these cutting-edge services with the rock-solid stability that can make a retailer's sales increase exponentially, instead of creating a resource-draining experiment that can potentially compromise a hard-built brand.

To be able to identify a powerful digital display partner, look for a company that is solely committed to digital signage as a medium. They should have been in the industry long enough to have fully developed expertise in creating custom, complex installations and be able to provide examples of large scale installations with top retail brands. They should have experience in integrating multiple data sources and have an advanced analytics offering that leverages adaptive learning algorithms.

Even more critical, if you don't have an in-house team with a strong knowledge of business intelligence and analytics, your partner must have experts on hand to help guide the process and refine the testing methodology in its early stages. After all, data is only as good as its interpretation and sometimes automating interpretation without human oversight can lead to costly mistakes.

It's an exciting and challenging time for even the most agile of retail marketers, but focusing on the customer and capitalizing on the data available by creating a personalized, dynamic in-store experience, can deliver big returns.

Marcy Patzer is senior director of retail strategy at Scala. Before joining Scala, Patzer was vice president of marketing and sales for Pro-Motion Technology Group, based in Wixom, Mich.; and prior to working at Pro-Motion, she was vice president of sales at Blue Water Technology Group. A board member of Digital Signage Association (DSA), Patzer has deep integration, hardware and installation experience working with many of the nation's leading retailers and is recognized as a leading retail industry expert and thought leader.

Patzer will also be presenting "The Changing Landscape of Retail" from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Digital Signage Expo 2013.

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