Evolution Retail: 3 Technology Trends that Keep the Customer Coming Back

By Elliott Atkins in Mobile Loyalty, Mobile Payment, Retail

Consumers have much higher expectations these days. These days the connected ‘always-on’ customer is more informed and has the ability research and validate their choice of purchase, moments before they buy.

Never before have we had access to apps to do price comparison like Red Laser or Price Grabber with a single snap of a barcode that could search all possible locations to render a quick result. Never before have we had the convenience of Yelp, or Reseller Ratings to inform us in real time whether it’s worth making a trip to that location. Now we do.

Armed with our trusted smart phone, we are no longer relegated to referencing limited sources to make a purchase decision. I can send #selfies of myself to my friends before I decide that jacket makes me look shorter than usual. But when I walk into a store, as much research that I’ve done from the website, I expect the retail staff to know much more about what I need based on my affinities/preferences to make my shopping experience more seamless.

1. Omnichannel: Responding to the always-on customer

This new buzz word has surfaced recently but by all indications this notion of Omnichannel is making retailers rethink the way they connect with customers and maintain that precious relationship.

The Concept of the Omnichannel is defined as follows:

Omni comes from the word Omnis which can mean all or universal. This is in comparison to other categories out there, like “multichannel”, crosschannel, The way that many are explaining omnichannel today is: ‘cross channel being done well’.

How is this differentiated? It’s all about the customer experience. This means providing the ‘continuous experience’ cross brands, devices and format: mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog etc.

At the crux of this is understanding the customer data points – preferred channels for service and purchase, purchase frequency, product preferences – and being able to deliver a consistent and exceptional customer experience irrespective of channel.

Imagine being able to research items at a a website, bookmark a few items of interest, purchase it on your phone, and then have the option to return it to the local store easily and seamlessly. This is omnichannel in a nutshell.

This has inherent implications in the way inventory is managed. Solutions like Oracle Retail enable this “customer anywhere” solution. It synthesizes supply channels that allows consumers today an optimal experience that “allows them to shop and receive their purchases where they want, when they want and how they want.”

2. Data makes retail more “personal”

In order to meet the growing customer expectations and further enrich their experiences, data becomes the focal point. Understanding past purchases, channel preferences, and purchase patterns becomes critical. Now, overlay that information with social channels and the use of big data to enable even richer information at the customer level to be able to build a truly customer centric experience.

Never before has the retailer been able to have access to detailed customer transactions, let alone identify its best customers at the store level. HQ had the benefit of this information but have been unable, til now, capitalize and build a customer experience that’s relevant and drives repeat visits. Now mobile payments technology, integrated with POS and CRM data capabilities allows retailers to truly build a one-to-one relationship. Integrated with real-time social platforms, a retailer now has potential access to customer social check-ins and “relevant” social posts to predict behaviour and create experiences that surprise and delight.

At Virtual Next, we arm the retailer with the customer information. Our solution allows retailers to know their customers: how often they shop, their recent visits, and more importantly, what they’ve purchased. We know that the increasingly mobile customer will expect more. The experience in store is vital, but increasingly the relevant communications to the customer becomes just as important.

Now, I, as a customer, can pay with my mobile phone for those hair products, snacks and diapers for my newborn. Now, when I go back to the store, I receive an alert from the retailer notifying me of those same diapers and shampoo that have been discounted just for me. The great thing is those were the items that were on my shopping list.

Predicting shopping needs is a strong measure of customer retention. We understand this and we believe that retailers need this information to not only increase repeat customers, but also to improve the experience overall. It will help optimize inventory planning and ensure a seamless channel delivery.

3. Bluetooth: Engaging the hyper-local customer

Apple’s iBeacon BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) provides the ability to send tailored messages to people depending where they are in the store. By detecting specific apps on your phone, retailers can send you alerts, advertisements or targeted offers as long as you’ve opted-in.

One time soon, iBeacon BLE coupled with mobile payment and loyalty applications allow the ability for retailers to truly provide relevant offers to customers at the right place, within the right channel, at the right moment they are ready to buy. In fact, the integration of iBeacon BLE and Passbook will soon be here. As this post indicates:

Once Passbook is combined with iBeacons marketers would be able to customize promotions to certain locations in their stores and send them right to a users iPhone via Pass for Passbook. So rather than just getting blasted with coupons when you walk in to a store you would only receive coupons when approaching areas of a store where you would have interest.

Imagine one day being able to be sent alerts via BLE (if you’re in proximity of the store) of the items on your shopping list that is available at a discount especially for “you”. Now, that’s truly one-to-one at it’s finest.

And while this all seems a little big-brotherish, it’s clear that the awesome customer experience is a value-exchange between retailer and customer. It’s the ability to give up some of my data, as a customer (letting you know my preferences) to you, the retailer. In exchange, I expect far more enriching experiences that will make my life easier.

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

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