The “store of the future” abounds in headlines as the solution for struggling retailers to turn around their fortunes and keep up with changing customer expectations. However, a “store of the future” only made up of a few TVs with TVCs running isn’t going to cut the mustard.
What will is the intelligent use of technology to solve business problems. E-commerce is succeeding where traditional retailers have failed, delivering what the customer always wanted: service. Nailing in-store customer service through the use of technology is the key to delivering a successful shopping experience–and it’s not as hard as you may think.
Imagine a store where you enter and are welcomed by name, your personal preferences are known, and–once you’ve completed a purchase–the store will arrange for it to be delivered to your home at a convenient time. Sound like a high-street retailer of old, or perhaps a modern online store? Both would be true, but it’s rare to get this level of personalized service in a modern-day, in-store shopping experience.
It is not all doom and gloom for in-store retail. For a multitude of reasons, brick-and-mortar retail won’t die out entirely because of the onslaught of online retailers. A recent Accenture report highlighted that 65 percent of U.S. customers planned to research online, but would go into a physical store to make their purchase over the 2013 holiday season. To capitalize on this customer decision journey, we need to look to the technology driving e-commerce and deliver this level of personalized service within physical stores.
E-commerce has evolved our concept of best practices for a retail shopping experience. Personalization has emerged, including customer greetings (e.g., Hi, Dean) and individualized product recommendations based on products being browsed together with data from a customer’s CRM profile. You can harness the same CRM information that drives your online store to deliver in-store personalization.
The changes you should make start at the point your customer is researching on your e-commerce site. You can simplify your customer’s decision journey by providing the ability to check the in-store stock level for a desired product on the product detail page, thus ensuring a clear pathway to the store. Also, keep in mind that 78 percent of customers have researched a product on their smartphones, which means customer product research isn’t limited to desktop browsing. They may well be giving you the information you need to better service them in multiple ways. This could be while they’re browsing your site, on their way to your store, actually in your store, or, better yet, in one of your competitor’s stores.
Now that you have them in the right store, you can ensure your staff is empowered to better service the customer by putting profile information into the palm of your shop assistant’s hand. A simple mobile site on touch devices can allow your staff to tap into the wealth of information that the customer has already provided. This allows sales assistants to guide the customer to the products they desire, and use the same intelligence powering product recommendations online to recommend cross- and up-sell options.
Reviewing the customers’ online wish lists, last abandoned cart, and previous purchases are now options in order to deliver an exceptional tailored service. Adding to this, the emergence of Bluetooth Low Energy-enabled smartphones and beacons can provide your staff with the ability to identify who customers are when they enter your stores, greet them by name, and cut down on unnecessary explanations.
Once you have achieved the above, you can start to feed intelligence from the in-store interaction with your customers. Particular likes and dislikes due to personal customer circumstances could be a focus (e.g., brand or fit preference) to further tailor their CRM and benefit the long-term relationship with that customer, allowing you to deliver increasingly personalized recommendations in the future.
This is just the beginning of the store of the future–delivering the service of the past through the power of your online store. The potential is very exciting and–if harnessed intelligently–the future of in-store retail is bright.
Note: This article is from volume 1 of "The SoDA Report 2014," presented by SoDA, the Global Society for Digital Marketing Innovators.
Next week: Interview with anthropologist Grant McCracken on the value of ethnography in marketing.