Shopping has gone online and mobile, but brick-and-mortar retailers can more than meet these new expectations by deploying complementary, data-rich sales floor technology.
Despite all the advances in consumer technology over the past decade, shoppers want what they’ve always wanted: Guidance, choices, courtesy, and efficiency. How can technology support these core needs—and even help improve on traditional approaches?
Shoppers may need help finding particular departments or items—“Where are children’s clothes?”—and a smartphone app with built-in “geofencing” can answer that question more quickly than searching for a customer service desk. In fact, a recent comScore poll found that 27% of shoppers cited navigation as the most important store-app feature. GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth beacons, RFID tags, and digital signage can all be part of interactive location solutions.
Not only are consumers better served, “data contrails” enable retailers to learn who’s looking when for which departments, time spent within an area, paths that shoppers take to get there, and related demographics and spending patterns. An even more sophisticated implementation takes an app user’s search history into account to pre-highlight specific locations and extend discount offers.
Advice is another type of guidance that technology can facilitate and enhance. For example, motion sensors detect the in-aisle presence of a shopper examining laser printers. With the right alert technology in place, the nearest associate can be automatically summoned to explain product features and even upsell accessories. Fitting rooms equipped with interactive call buttons let personal shoppers suggest and supply clothing to try on. In both situations, technology simultaneously improves personalized service and makes purchases and upsells more likely.
Shoppers want to remain in charge of the selection process. Even when a customer enters a store with a specific item in mind, he or she wants confirmation that the item is the best choice, in the right size or color, at the best price.
Retailers can meet this need by providing real-time inventory information in a mobile app or kiosk. And as with online shopping, a mobile app can suggest in-stock alternatives that other shoppers have purchased. No more “Let me check the stockroom for you.”
Going even further, luxury retailer Neiman-Marcus has installed experimental “MemoryMirrors” that capture the customer in different outfits, then enable side-by-side comparisons.
At the heart of every loyal customer relationship is the understanding that the merchant respects the shopper. With multiple channels available to them, retailers must find the line between too much and too little communication, which can vary from customer to customer.
Using analytics, for example, retailers can learn which customers welcome proximity-based smartphone alerts, and which find them annoying or even intrusive. The result? A closer customer relationship based on trust—and enhanced by technology.
While some customers certainly enjoy “recreational browsing,” today’s busy shoppers typically want a more streamlined experience, and they increasingly depend on technology for that.
On the sales floor, mobile cashiers and “queue-busting” apps bring faster checkouts. Omnichannel “click-and-collect” orders require retailers to synchronize their ecommerce websites, inventories, and staff activity to deliver an item curbside when a purchaser arrives. No small feat, but rapid order-fulfillment is a key way to compete with online sellers who need to ship.
Retailers who see technology as a way to serve customers better as well as improve profitability must ensure that the deployed networks, devices, sensors, and apps reinforce the basic bond between shoppers and brands. Otherwise, they’ll struggle with a hodge-podge of devices that just drive customers away.
This thoughtful interaction of consumer technology and sales floor infrastructure offer benefits all around. Moreover, the experience gained helps prepare retailers for the next wave of wearable tech and virtual reality. Doing this right requires creativity, experimentation, and an expert deployment partner who understands the many variables involved in successful retail implementations.
Written By: Gina Daniel-Lee, Vice President of Strategic Alliances