Imagine Shelby as the epitome of the average American shopper. While she prefers – all things being equal – to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, she takes advantage of the convenience of online shopping and regularly orders household items from Amazon using her iPad or phone.
A 35-year-old graphic designer, Shelby enjoys the physical shopping experience not only because she likes to see and touch an item before purchase, but also to have the opportunity to take her coveted item home on the same day.
In short, Shelby is a retailer’s dream customer … for now. According to a study published by Pew Research Center, 79 percent of Americans reported some level of online shopping, up from 22 percent in 2000. 1 While consumers like Shelby prefer brick-and-mortar stores, a growing number of people report an increase in regular online shopping. 43 percent do so weekly or a few times per month, the report states.
Clearly, traditional retailers face both a threat and an opportunity. The threat is becoming irrelevant in the face of emerging online trends, such as drone delivery and one-touch reordering options (including Amazon Dash). The opportunity is to leverage innovative consumer-trigger technologies and data analytics to transform the shopping experience for shoppers like Shelby into an immersive new world of customized content and seamless product conversion.
RFID tags, facial recognition systems and Bluetooth beacons (“triggers”) work hand-in-glove with in-store, interactive screens and the consumer’s smart device to deliver a holistic shopping experience. For example, a typical trigger might activate a screen as a shopper approaches. The shopper is greeted, offered a personalized discount based on set gender and age parameters and given suggestions about new products. This process continues throughout the store as she interacts with products. By integrating RFID solutions, the brand can elevate the shopping experience by displaying more information, matching accessories and even easing the acquisition process.
With the use of trigger devices, stores are able to better understand and track customer engagements and interactions to see exactly how much time customers spend browsing a certain area or product line. Trigger devices can even determine the age and gender of a shopper. All of this data will offer better insight for more effective in-store marketing. Using powerful data analytics, retailers can easily understand the “big picture” when it comes to when and how often any given demographic may visit the store and what products interest each group the most, thus maximizing ROI on every marketing stream across the sales floor.
All About Experience
Today’s shoppers have little interest in being passive players when it comes to shopping. Long gone are the days when eager clerks retrieved item after item from the back of the store for the customer’s review. Today, shoppers want to see all their choices in front of them, and they want full access to product information including tech specs and customer reviews.
According to Pew Research, “nearly six-in-ten Americans (59 percent) say that they have used their cellphones to call or text someone while inside a store to discuss purchases they are thinking of making.” In addition, “62 percent (of 18 to 49-year-old shoppers) have used their phones to look up online reviews of something they were thinking of purchasing or to see if they could find a better price online. ”
Successful retailers are embracing Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide an immersive experience for the data-driven customer and to help customers avoid long checkout lines. How many valued customers drop their purchase on a shelf and walk out when frustrated by delays at the point of sale? As smart devices and NFC pay options continue to evolve, retailers must innovate ways to navigate consumers through the potential bottleneck of checkout.
By deploying IoT devices throughout the store, the retailer can communicate to shoppers’ mobile devices and use real-time metrics to provide shoppers estimated wait times for each checkout line. Some retail stores have taken the technology a step further, enabling customers to scan and make purchases with their own phones. These innovations not only increase the speed of transactions, but also provide retailers with real-time metrics to understand consumers and strengthen the overall experience.
If smartphone applications are not feasible, retailers can use kiosks and interactive signage solutions to further enhance the overall consumer experience.
What About Shelby?
As online commerce providers continue to launch campaigns that keep consumers at home and out of stores (voice digital assistants, drone delivery, on-demand 3D printing), brick-and-mortar retailers will have to ramp up efforts to keep people like Shelby coming back week after week. It is not enough to simply hire the friendliest associates or ensure the widest variety and quantity of goods on the floor. Those are a given. To keep Shelby and her friends coming back, retailers must make every trip a dazzling, immersive experience.
Equipping stores with a diverse array of IoT devices, RFID tech and deep-diving data analytics is the only way to achieve Customer Loyalty 2.0. The good news? Although it definitely requires making an investment, creating a “smart” store provides immediate and measureable ROI and, for stores willing to commit time and human resources to the effort, builds a solid relationship that can never be replaced by clicks and swipes.