Retailers worldwide are in the process of figuring out how to design integrated technology systems that support a range of physical, online and mobile sales channels.
Global research expert Forrester has speculated that the future consumer will want not just responsive interactions but adaptive ones, with content delivered in a way that best suits them as individuals, and their particular device. Successful omni-channel retail requires a collaboration of IT, marketing and sales functions to support customers shopping in stores and online from computers and mobile computers, such as smartphones and tablets. Let us look at some steps that can ease up the processes where multiple systems can work in harmony to provide a smooth and user-friendly experiences resulting in happy customers.
Use digital to facilitate in-store experiences
Technology is being used globally to make in-store interactions more detailed, offering personalized shopping recommendations. In-store stations can offer customers all product information like their features, manufacturing and expiry details as well as offer suggestions such as clothing sizes, alternate styles, price comparisons and buying history, allowing individual consumers to make informed decisions and get information as per their convenience.
Shoppers love and trust their smartphones, and if they’re in your store, they want to love and trust you too. Proactive retailers are refining opt-in systems that identify you when you walk in and alert you to sales and deals based on your expressed shopping habits. Retailers continue to explore new store formats — typically smaller and with more targeted merchandise — to add convenience and a sense of personalization. Target and Walmart are among the many retailers testing formats that are personalized to geography and neighborhood preferences, and examples like the Brooklyn Walgreens that offers beer tastings to drive sales of its packaged beer show how targeted a single store can be.
Macy’s stores offer virtual mannequins, digital ‘endless aisles’, and in-store cloud computing in an effort to keep customers engaged in a seamless approach to consumer experience through all available shopping channels.
Use past data to personalize each interaction
As shoppers continue to leverage digital tools and channels to research, browse and buy products, they also are beginning to demand more relevant products and offers. With these heightened expectations, personalization is becoming an integral component of retailers’ cross-channel marketing strategies.
Guests prefer having someone remember their buying preferences and being shown what they want rather than sitting through generic sales pitch all make shoppers more likely to buy. Some stores are rolling out apps that help their employees accomplish these things with each customer. Other apps deliver information about in-store sales and events to customers as they shop.
Interior decorating includes extensive browsing, researching and product comparison. As a result, Design Within Reach, a multichannel furniture retailer, is focused on providing cutting-edge tools and resources that will help guide shoppers seamlessly across the browsing and buying journey. Their website includes product suggestions based on past browsing and buying history. Employees have access to past purchase data, as well as current order information, so they can address all customer questions and inquiries. A 3D planner, which is available on the e-Commerce and tablet-optimized sites, helps users upload images of rooms and add/rearrange furniture. This offers a more complete view of room designs and empowers consumers’ product selection.
Think and act social to drive sales
Social media interactions are one of the quickest and most effective ways to tell your stories. Brands can carve their individual niche on social media and connect with users through their unique ideas, discussions and recommendations. Topshop recently launched a campaign where shoppers received a free styling and make-up session and were invited to create a digital ‘Wish you were at Topshop’ postcard using Instagram. Once the postcard photo had been taken, they were given a copy to take home and were also able to upload it to Facebook and the Topshop gallery. To date it has generated 640 blog posts, with a reach of 1.4 million, as well as 5.3m views on Facebook and 2,000 comments. That’s a year’s worth of its usual Facebook activity in just four days. And as a result, it has become the number one fashion retailer on Instagram.
Retailers can create interesting conversations around their brand. Social media can create an influential marketing channel, build brand goodwill and provide an insight into the ‘voice of the customer’. Social is definitely part of an omni-retail shopping experience as experiments in stores prove (for instance, displaying ‘likes’ on small screens near the actual products). Another reviews are powerful advertising tools are reviews and customer recommendations. People tend to trust the experiences of their peers more than any amount of advertising. Retailers are now sharing user reviews and customer feedback while the customers look through the merchandise to help them make purchasing decisions. Being able to read reviews and see detailed product information while shopping creates a comprehensive buying experience that can help drive sales.
Customize email marketing campaigns
According to National Pen case study, segmenting customers and executing email marketing campaigns in an automated and seamless way has helped in better conversions. Within three months of implementing the Responsys system, the brand executed three automated email campaigns that generated approximately $15,000 in additional revenue. Their emails carry dynamic content according to individual customers’ needs. National Pen has tripled open rates since launching an email welcome series. The program, designed for new consumers, is multi-stage and offers a variety of educational and promotional content. In addition to email and site personalization, the company will be testing more retargeting via display advertising, and are using data to make social media strategies more relevant for consumers.
More and more retailers are working to create more tailored and relevant customer experiences across channels. We need to connect all channels of sales and marketing to offer our customers seamless experiences where they start their journeys on one channel and complete it on another. Do you think personalization and seamlessly consistent customer interactions can significantly increase convenience and engagement and therefore impact bottom-line results? What do you think?