Reports of the end of the store are greatly exaggerated
Online may be the fast-growing retail channel, but the bulk of purchases are still made in-person. And even with digital transformation enabling new ways to serve customers, there’s a lot of life in the bricks-and-mortar store yet. Some pure-play online retailers are even branching out with their own take on the physical store.
Digital is creating new ways to innovate your in-store customer experience (CX). It’s helping retailers to meet customers’ needs better, while providing them with more engaging experiences, greater convenience and personalization.
Try before they buy (from you)
Shopping online has many benefits. Retailers have created many ways to make it an engaging experience: product configurators, online reviews, and 3D product views to name just a few. But sometimes, there’s just no substitute for seeing what you’re buying in real life. Whether it’s checking the picture quality of a TV, seeing if a pair of jeans fits, or trying out a new sofa, there are some things you can’t replicate online—not yet, anyway.
But you only have a limited amount of space, so how do you make the most of it? The answer is detailed analytics. You’re probably used to analyzing metrics like traffic sources, visitor counts and dwell times to improve your online shop. Did you know that you can now gather similar stats for your physical stores? This can help you determine which products people are interested in. You already change your displays for big events like Black Friday and Christmas—advanced analytics could help you find lots more opportunities to be more targeted. You can take your store planning to a much more granular level, break down trends to a micro-geographic level, even changing display stock depending on the time of day.
Of course, many customers are trying before buying elsewhere. 54% of consumers use smartphones while shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores to check or compare prices.
It’s not always possible to compete with the lower overheads of e-commerce or low-cost rivals. But technology can help you keep customers in-store and spending with you. For example, you can sway customers with digital signage to draw their attention to the latest offers or the added extras that justify your higher prices—such as longer warranties or generous return periods. You can target exclusive promotions to shoppers, via a smartphone app, that are only available in-store. You could also try gamifying the experience—keep customers moving around the aisles by using location beacons to unlock hidden points and rewards.
Identify customer behavior
Picking up on the telltale signs
47% of all millennial customers—and 19% of non-millennials—use social media during their shopping journey. This could be research about a product they’re interested in. It could be a post on Twitter or Instagram. Or it could be direct feedback about an in-store employee. To extract the most value
from feedback you need to be able to record it, model it and understand it. And that often means bringing together disparate datasets into a single, manageable system.
Not all feedback is as easy to harvest as an online review. Customer behavior and habits can be more difficult to collect and understand, but the results can be even more valuable. Journey mapping is no longer limited to in-store, online and mobile; it encompasses all three. Retailers need to collect customer data at every touchpoint and map the entire journey wherever it may travel, or end. The goal is to put together all the pieces of information at your disposal into profiles and personas that reveal what your customers prefer and expect.
That one-of-a-kind experience
Retail is not all about price and undercutting the opposition. Many shoppers want to receive unique in-store experiences, and to feel as though they’re receiving exclusive and personalized treatment. These things will often play an important role in the minds of customers.
The best retailers are experts at developing brands that people associate and engage with, setting them apart from one another. And digital innovations are providing new ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. The latest technology can help you deliver rich, personalized media in-store—and even replicate the best aspects of an online experience.
Customers shopping for luxury items expect a luxury experience that they can’t get elsewhere. Some high-end fashion retailers are already experimenting with RFID tag technology, so that when a customer picks up an item, an RFID tag triggers a nearby screen to play a video featuring that product.
It’s not just the high-end market where digital is providing differentiation. Many mass-market brands are using technology to differentiate and elevate their brand—for example, retailers like Topshop, Nike and Lego. At one major department store, you can select a food item and see a video of that product being used in a recipe.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are set to enhance the in-store customer experience even further, by letting customers experience products in new ways. Shoppers can combine clothes items in a virtual mirror to see a complete outfit, without having to set foot in a dressing room. And they can see what the sofa they’re interested in will look like, in their chosen color and fabric in a living-room setting—they don’t have to guess based on a small swatch of material.
Many retailers are extending the idea of “click and collect” and offering new streamlined experiences. These range from “zero checkout” to two-storey vending machines to pick up online orders from. There are lots of ways to integrate online and offline helping create better in-store experiences.
Serving the individual
According to Forrester, 62% of surveyed firms personalize their web and mobile experiences. But while in-store is by its very nature more personal, many customers remain anonymous unless they identify themselves. Now digital is providing new opportunities to identify individuals and deliver a personal service.
Digital identities can bring every customer action and interaction together into a single profile. This can give your in-store employees access to that information and can create new ways to personalize the service they offer. At some high-end department stores, employees carry iPads through which they can access customer purchase history and preferences. Armed with this information, they can make helpful recommendations: like coordinating items, or previously-wished-for products that are back in stock.
Employees with tools like this can also check stock in other local stores, look up the progress of an online order, and provide feedback on services. This helps transform in-store staff from checkout operators to genuine sales advisors, providing a level of service that customers will rave about.
Even better, give customers the tools to serve themselves. Customers can use mobile apps to check stock levels themselves, locate the products they’re after, receive reviews and recommendations, and even make payments. That leads to less frustration, or lost sales, because a member of staff isn’t available to help.
Achieving this sort of in-store customer experience depends on secure, reliable in-store connectivity. Without fast and reliable access to customer data, customers will go back to being anonymous.
What makes it go
See how technology is making great retail CX possible, in-store and online
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