The retail space has seen a lot of innovation in the past few years. From interactive displays and cashless payments to beacons sending in-store offers--and much more--retail is undergoing a major overhaul and a welcome change from age-old strategies.
As retailers gear up for 2016, their focus will be on omnichannel integration, employee productivity, and inventory management. With the introduction of new technologies, such as iBeacon, visual search, wearable technology, and augmented reality, digital and physical retail channels are quickly converging to provide highly engaging and contextually rich shopping experiences. Here is what retailers can do in 2016 to march ahead of the competition:
Make Convenience And Speed Your Focus
According to a Forrester study, 73% of shoppers expect retailers to have click-and-collect capabilities. It is quite evident from this stat that customers today are looking for a combination of convenience and speed, and click-and-collect gives them that option. It gives them the flexibility to simply place an order from wherever they are and collect it as early as they like from the store. Over the years this trend has caught up, with U.K. retailer John Lewis claiming that such purchases increased from 27% in 2012 to 49% in 2014.
Here is a graph presented by Carrefour Italy at the eDelivery Expo 2015 that depicts how the ROI on click and collect is higher than pure e-commerce:
In order to stay ahead of the competition and meet the changing demands of customers, it is important for retailers to provide popular services like this.
Engage Customers With Contextual, Personalized Messages
Customers today are looking to be served at their moment of truth--defined as the time a decision has to be made. For customers, it is these moments of truth that define a brand and can go a long way in determining customer loyalty. Offering highly tailored and personalized experiences can entice shoppers like nothing else can. Here are some key ways in which retailers could send optimally personalized messages in 2016:
- Time-relevant messages, such as notifications on a limited period offer on the customer’s favourite brand.
- Preference-based notifications asking if a customer wishes to try on the dress she recently browsed online.
- Circumstantial notification on the shortest path in-store to find the items on her wishlist.
This way they can make customers feel truly valued and can help increase sales and hence, revenue.
According to Elastic Path, beacons lead to a 45% increase in interactions with products. Retailers can thus use beacons to their advantage. For example, if a customer is detected to be standing in the electrical appliances department, and from her browsing history on the store’s online portal the retailer knows that she was looking for coffee makers, she could be sent a relevant product video (using beacons) depicting how energy efficient and time-saving a particular coffee maker in-store is.
Make Your Most Valued Customers Feel Loved
According to a recent report from Bain (PDF), repeat customers spend 67% more money than first-time customers. Retailers can benefit from keeping track of their loyal customers--their favourite products, their shopping behavior online, in-app, and in-store. Although most businesses today have data about their customers, the winning strategy lies in using this data to provide a better experience for customers.
A simple way to do this is to give your loyal customers an overview of the number of loyalty points they have accumulated so far and suggest relevant deals and offers they could spend these points on. For example, if a product is on a customer’s online wish list, the retailer could offer a coupon for that product when the customer visits the physical store.
Retailers can also use beacons to reward their loyal customers for spending time at their store. Using beacons, they can locate customers and keep track of the amount of time they generally spend at the store. Using this information, customers can be ranked by the amount of time spent and rewarded with offers such as a first look at a limited edition accessory collection or a special discount on their favorite items.
Innovate With Interactive In-Store Retail Technology
1. Facilitate the endless aisle experience: 89% of consumers want to access store inventory while browsing online, and 25% of customers won’t even go into a store if they cannot view that offline inventory online. The reason is that customers today are pre-shopping and they want to have the confidence that when they go into the store, the product they’re looking for is there.
Endless aisle solutions make larger segments of a retailer’s total inventory visible and available to every shopper in every store. For example, stores can stock shoes in one color while electronically displaying five other options. All options can be made viewable to customers using shelf-mounted touchscreens, and customers can purchase items directly from there.
Marks and Spencer, for example, introduced a "virtual rail" consisting of 46-inch touchscreens, each showcasing 50 clothing samples, in one of their stores. Customers can browse all options, check prices and availability, watch a video of a model wearing the clothes, and even place an order right in the store.
2. Empower store associates to become brand ambassadors: A majority of shoppers believe that a digitally enabled associate equipped with a mobile device adds value to their experience in-store. In fact, 85% of customers buy more when helped by a knowledgable sales assistant. Retailers can use technology to empower sales associates with a full view of every customer. This encompasses purchase history, location, shopping preferences, and social profile, which gives access to relevant shopping information like birthdays and anniversaries.
Retailers, however, will need to ensure they are not intruding on customers’ sense of privacy. Careful training and ongoing analysis of how these real-world interactions actually progress will help smooth the path to brand ambassadorship.
Enable Cashless Checkouts And Mobile POS
Given that the brick-and-mortar store is where the vast majority of actual purchases take place, it is critical that retailers make transaction processes as streamlined as possible.
Today’s consumers seek unprecedented levels of flexibility in purchase, payment, and delivery options. A mobile POS deployment should easily be able to handle the completion of a buy online/pickup in store transaction, along with setting up buy in store/ship anywhere transactions. Product returns and exchanges should likewise be part of the mobile POS repertoire. Starbucks, for example, rolled out its mobile order-and-pay feature to thousands of United States stores to increase sales, shorten store lines, and drive customer satisfaction.
In a nutshell, in order to beat the competition, retailers will need to amplify and enhance what’s already offered. They will need to empower their staff to deliver premium service, transport the best of their digital interactions into the offline environment, and allow their products to take center stage.