This year is shaping up to be the year of the shopper experience, and that experience is, in large part, being driven by what is happening in stores. Retailers have realized omnichannel is about more than inventory efficiency and availability (although the importance of sound inventory strategies cannot be minimized), and the shopper experience is key to growth strategy.
Discover, Destination, Distribution and Disruption
The role of retail stores is changing, and there is no one-size-fits-all model. Retailers look at their stores as places of discovery, destination or points of distribution, and more and more, we see new retail concepts created as disruptors. Within each of these models there lie endless opportunities to differentiate and to create a real connection with shoppers that guides their experiences. One key to success, irrespective of your format, is your ability to connect with your shoppers to ensure you are fulfilling their varying needs as they engage with your concept or brand.
In creating this engagement, one area of opportunity that has not been fully optimized by most retailers is how shoppers in the store are engaged in a similar manner to those online. Of course, it is infinitely easier to engage with shoppers digitally and thus a lot of the innovation around shopper engagement has gone after the low-hanging fruit available online. It’s pretty easy as a marketer to deploy a product that helps you get more clicks on Facebook or digitally retarget a customer in a way that drives engagement and, hopefully, sales. But with all of this innovation, the ability to connect that digital journey to the physical experience has remained elusive. Thankfully, retailers, technologists, and even shoppers are understanding the importance of connections, and the model is changing.
We’ve seen more retailers break down silos internally and combine digital and physical store functions. Inventory, operations and yes, even marketing, are starting to meld into teams focused on the shopper experience. Part of that, of course, is making sure that coveted Size 6 sweater is available in the store where the interested customer is shopping. Companies like Celect, a Boston-based predictive analytics company, are taking online shopper behavior and driving assortment in-store with tremendous results. Similarly, San Francisco-based Brickwork is taking friction out of the shopping journey with its ability to drive online customers into stores through a platform that allows a digital to physical store locator, and local-activation solutions around store services, appointments, events, and promotions. These types of companies are fantastic, but the question remains: How do I know a) who is in my store, b) what their preferences are, and c) what offers or promotions will convert browsers to buyers?
Over the past few years, many technologies have come to market with the promise of giving retailers tools to drive personal messaging and engagement in-store. Guest wi-fi helps you know who is in your store and how they are engaging both digitally and physically but gives you limited ability to communicate personally to those consumers. While it’s helpful for retailers, there’s little reward for the shopper (apart from the data plan). Similarly, beacons came to market as a tool to push specific messages about products or offers within stores. As a retailer, how do you make it personal, and how do you manage the replacement of all of those beacon batteries?
In mobile apps, the investment has been staggering—but if you aren’t Starbucks, you are probably questioning the return on investment. Add to this the consumer engagement with Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and you are probably also struggling to aggregate and best use the data to drive a unified communication strategy.
So where do you go from here? You want to communicate personal messages, but are burnt out on trials and pilots, and you’ve probably destroyed any goodwill you had with IT with all of those dead end pilots.
What if you could find a concept that helps you amplify what is working for you digitally and continues that experience in-store with offers and promotions tailored to the shopper based on their preferences and behaviors, all with little or no IT involvement? Sound too good to be true? It doesn’t have to be. The technology exists to leverage all of that rich data in-store. The blindfolds are off!
A Personalized, Data Driven Approach to In-Store Marketing
The ability to drive shopper experiences with personalized recommendations is the holy grail of retail marketing. Imagine if you could take everything you know about a shopper (demographics, previous purchase patterns, category preferences, etc.) and marry that information with what is happening in-store (new products, promotions, merchandising, etc.) to trigger content delivery to specific shoppers based on this information when they visit the store. Pretty cool, huh? Take that one step further and imagine being able to integrate real-time location information like weather, inventory availability, etc., into the same algorithms. Beyond cool!
To stand out in today’s crowded landscape, your messaging must be personalized, relevant and it must look and feel like your company.
Through the use of machine-learning algorithms, RetailNext’s Mobil Engage platform delivers personalized offers in an app-like experience, based on everything the retailer knows about its shoppers, all in the context of what is happening in-store and all in real time.
So What Does This Accomplish? Four Things:
- Personalized experience for the shopper. How many times have you walked out of a store with a handful of coupons that you a) received at the end of your shopping experience and b) have zero relevance to you personally? It happens to me all of the time and it drives me crazy. I realize the retailer is trying to drive me back into the store, but really, I would probably spend more time in the store—and spend more money—if those offers reached me at the start of my journey. I am not the shopper that is going to keep those coupons and return with them a few days later, but I am a shopper that can be influenced on the spot.
- ROI, ROI, ROI. It’s what we are all looking for, right? Retailers who use machine learning to personalize offers to their consumers realize up to 400 percent higher engagement and over 1,100 percent increase in redemption rates when compared to hard coded landing pages.
- Drive local performance without compromising enterprise margin. Imagine that you have a subset of stores that are particularly challenged to meet monthly targets. Maybe it’s a new assortment that doesn’t resonate with the local customer, unseasonable heat or cold weather patterns, or something else. Wouldn’t you love to drive a local promotion without the need to activate it across the entire enterprise? And, wouldn’t it be better if you could turn the promo off when its targets were achieved? stores that are particularly challenged to meet monthly targets. Maybe it’s a new assortment that doesn’t resonate with the local customer, unseasonable heat or cold weather patterns, or something else. Wouldn’t you love to drive a local promotion without the need to activate it across the entire enterprise? And, wouldn’t it be better if you could turn the promo off when its targets were achieved?
- Agility. In today’s crowded market the ability to react quickly is a critical ingredient for success. With the Mobile Engage platform, retailers provide an on-brand, app-like experience without heavy IT involvement, or the need to investment in building out an app.
Where Is This Headed?
Today’s shopper journey is immersed within the digital ecosystem, even when shoppers are in-mall or in-store. In a manner of speaking, mobile has become the new front door of the store. Shoppers are increasingly beginning their missions online, on their phones. An effective mobile engagement strategy is the glue that holds retail’s digital and physical channels together. Engagement with your brand is literally in the hands of today’s shoppers.
As such, the importance of mobile continues to rise in importance for retailers. As the wealth of available data sources soar, the need for integration and application will continue to be critical priorities. Mobile engagement with shoppers is essential for extending customized, personalized shopping experiences. While mobile messaging has been around for years, what’s been missing from promotions and offers is relevance. There is no question that marketers will need to find ways to integrate those digital and physical touchpoints in a way that feels value-added, personal and authentic, while respecting the boundaries of shoppers, one by one.