Brick-and-mortar retail tech: Through the shopper’s lens
There are many hot new technologies in the world of retail, from beacons to mobile wallets, but which are likely to drive business for your store? Columnist Allan Haims explores.
In the world of brick-and-mortar retail technology, there is an ever-increasing array of innovations offering the latest bells and whistles and promising to help retailers attract and engage shoppers. Apps, beacons, smart fitting rooms, digital mall directories, in-store consumer path tracking… the list goes on.
What’s most important for mall owners and retailers isn’t the technology itself, but rather the real value the technology is delivering to consumers. Specifically, how are they using the solution to fulfill an immediate need?
Consider what the technology brings to the particular application, as well as experiential shopping differences. For instance, beacons will likely prove very helpful in driving consumer value by informing shoppers about relevant information in grocery and drug stores; however, beacons are less likely to prove effective for apparel retailers.
Why? Because the shopping experience is considerably different when buying toothpaste or juice boxes versus shopping for a dress. Shoppers who visit the market for the same types of staple products on a weekly basis are far more incentivized to download the app required for beacon engagement — as well as turn on Bluetooth to receive offers — than someone shopping for different items at different retailers each time they visit the mall.
As such, retail marketers must go the extra mile to ensure that the technologies they adopt align with their target shopper’s priorities, such as convenience, price comparisons, WiFi availability, real-time inventory awareness, offer personalization and payment options.
Convenience and targeted offers paramount
For consumers, convenience and relevance are top priorities for driving purchases. On the convenience side, the ability to order online or via mobile and pick up in store offers value to shopper — not necessarily with lower prices, but rather with time savings.
Starbucks has taken this concept to another level and fully integrated loyalty initiatives with payment and personalization, giving customers the ability to pay with their mobile app and earn “loyal stars” loyalty program points at once. Customers pick up their pre-ordered items without having to wait in line (especially helpful during busy commuting times), and the app remembers their most frequent purchases to make it easier the next time they place an order.
Successful marketing initiatives like Starbucks’ program are enabled by gathering helpful information on consumer demographics and preferences, which requires consumer opt-in. Mall owners and retailers must amp up the value to the consumer to be successful in this effort.
Brick-and-mortar retailers that offer benefits such as free WiFi access, early notification of sales or extra loyalty points will be far more likely to gain consumer buy-in to provide personal information (including email address, birthday and so on). However, retailers should still offer a baseline benefit even if the consumer decides not to provide their data. For instance, a store may offer free internet access but give shoppers the chance to win a monthly shopping spree or double loyalty points if they provide an email address and mobile phone number.
This approach provides a friction-free option from the brand but still incentivizes shoppers to provide more information. If shared, the data can be used in generating personalized email and mobile offers, as well as to recognize the shopper’s mobile device the next time they enter any of the brand’s stores — building a database to drive further marketing efforts.
Mobile payment platforms overload
Mobile wallets are valuable to shoppers, as nearly one in six US consumers are using mobile wallets, according to a study by market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey. However, the vast array of platforms currently offering mobile payment options is overwhelming, and the industry has become a fragmented land grab — ranging from Google Wallet and Apple Pay to Walmart Pay, Capital One Wallet and PayPal.
Consider your audience and how they prefer to make mobile payments. Older shoppers are less likely to utilize mobile wallets to pay for shoes at the mall, but many 20-somethings are avid users of Venmo’s mobile payment service. Furthermore, who wants to give their banking information to a dozen different digital wallet providers based on all the places they shop?
There will likely be consolidation in this space moving forward, hopefully yielding more streamlined mobile payment options that will likely appeal to greater masses of shoppers — especially millennials.
Another shopping element that is important to consumers is the one-to-one relationship. People want to know when prices drop or when specific items are available for purchase.
This “clienteling” concept has been around for decades, where sales associates call customers listed in their “client books” to notify them about new products and sales based on their shopping history and preferences. Now taking it a step further with next-generation, tech-enabled clienteling, brick-and-mortar retailers have an opportunity to deliver deeper personalized value to in-store consumers.
We’ve seen clienteling applied digitally on Amazon and in other industries such as airlines and hotels. Retailers that optimize their digital communication with customers can immediately notify customer of up-to-the-minute sales and new product inventory based on their specific needs.
This type of automated one-to-one consumer touch point goes beyond broad-stroke emails announcing a storewide sale to deliver a truly personalized experience. As an example, department store beauty product brands often email customers about new inventory based on their prior purchases or when certain offers align with their purchase profiles.
The key to deploying a sound retail technology strategy is keeping consumer impacts and motivations in mind — it is not “one size fits all.”