A couple of days ago I found myself wondering what the store of the future would look like, and what kind of experience would consumers have in them. Undeniably retail stores are on the verge of taking a quantum leap forward in the ways they adopt technology, but what drives that leap and what will and should it do?
Many consumers now operate in an always connected world where they interact with everything around them via social media, web searches and QRC codes, and their brand loyalty is based on a combination of these interactions and their in store experiences. For these consumers it is difficult to determine when the sales process begins and ends as it is blurred by their use of online and offline resources.
With mobile devices being so commonplace, shoppers are now able to enjoy the best features of bricks and mortar as well as online right in the store. The challenge for retailers is to make each interaction opportunity count by having relevant information for the consumer when they want it, how they want it where they want it! Retailers must be cognizant of enhancing the customers in store experience, while allowing the customer to control the experience with their mobile devices.
Retailers can make the in store experience more significant than online shopping by engaging their customers seamlessly across all channels with relevant targeted information. Thereby redefining the traditional interaction between retailers and their customers — and creating much more of a one-on-one relationship.
In this new retail world, marketing information must be tailored to a consumers’ specific histories and patterns. Retailers must develop a strategy focused on personalized offers based on past transactions and online activity to cash in on the ever-growing daily deal audience. Offers not based on specific customer behavior can become noise pollution and ultimately spam.
Retailers can use store associates to create a high value customer experience in the store, setting it apart from online selling. It provides an opportunity for an in person interaction that can be highly impacted by giving associates real-time access to product information and relevant customer information.
Consumers typically walk into a retail store well-informed on what they want, some may only need help with checkout, while others come in with specific questions and will want an associate who is, at a minimum as knowledgeable as the consumer or has access to accurate information to answer those buying questions. Ultimately the adoption of technology to assist associates will be an inevitable step for retailers, if for no other reason than to give sales associates a knowledge tool.
The access to this data will allow store associates to bring their passion in meeting customer needs to the forefront. System generated cross selling and recommendations that also take into consideration stock levels and customer traditional price sensitivity will make relevant information available to the sales rep. This type of information at each consumer point of interaction serves to enhance the customers experience in the sales process. This more targeted information will far surpass the effectiveness of the daily deal.
The mobile device allows the consumer to also interact with the store at a whole new level, I cant help but think of mobile devices as the customer interface to the merchants retail system, allowing them to check availability, sizes, new product information etc right from the retail floor. For mobile to be successfully implemented retailers must use it as a customer facing device.
This insight into the retail operation will enrich the interaction with customers, retailers can also provide product information and reviews, product comparisons and visuals as well as product substitutions and recommendations. Again this will allow consumers to control their entire shopping experience, while store associates can concentrate on supporting the interactions based on the consumer requirements.
In an informal survey, my recently graduated (Notre Dame University) daughter was with some of her friends visiting and the conversation turned to shopping. In my unscientific poll, these recent college graduates all mentioned that unless they were looking for a specific product that they knew was cheaper online they were much more likely to shop in a brick and mortar store. Some of the reasons they offered were
• It was more fun to buy things in the store.
• The experience of shopping is pleasurable one or should be, and stores offered a more tactile experience.
• They liked to do their reviews and price comparison on-line, and then go see the items if time permitted.
For these 22 year olds, who are part of the always wired generation, in their ideal shopping experience the point of sale transaction was just one part of the sales process, their decisions were based on data gathered across the entire experience that included many points of interactions online and offline.
How are you preparing for this new world, are you still investing in your Point of Sale or are you investing in your Point of Interactions?