The Store As A Digital Channel
by Bob Welch , Columnist, July 26, 2017
Customers who are visiting a physical store or an online store are on a mission; they are looking for something; they are fulfilling a need. To drive loyalty and increase sales, providing consumers with personalized convenience is critical for retailers. However, a retail store is a blunt instrument that can often be frustrating for consumers.
There are seemingly endless aisles with a fixed product assortment optimized to meet the needs of the average customer, which can make it difficult to locate the specific products that are important to an individual shopper. In an online store, a consumer can search for products quickly and see side-by-side comparisons on how they can fulfill their own needs. They can get reviews from other customers and can sometimes see the product in use from a video. Online stores are awesome, right?
Well, why can’t a physical store act like an online store? Advances in technology combined with data analytics can allow retailers to understand the shopping trip taking place, to deliver relevant content at the moment and to make the physical trip easier for the customer. Similar to a personalized online experience when logged in with a username, mobile and video technologies today present the opportunity to understand who is visiting the store, which aisles they visit, how long they dwell in a category, the path taken to a product, etc.
Combined with shopper data and interactive technologies on the shelf, a retailer can provide personalized experiences that help consumers find what they’re looking for, present a relevant discount offer, or even send an attendant to the customer’s location in the aisle for help. The store does not need to be stacked to the ceiling with products on shelves because integrating technology into the shelf can deliver a connection point for the customer to engage with the shelf.
Truly endless aisles can be created with technology and, more importantly, the experience can be customized to the individual customer, providing relevant inspiration, information, and offers based on consumer data and in-store location. For example, if a consumer is shopping for cheese, they can be presented with a discount offer on a suggested wine pairing they’ve enjoyed in the past, and they can receive additional insight into what other customers thought of the pairing.
In the near future, physical screens may not be a requirement at all as augmented reality can provide consumers with additional layers of information, as they continue their journey. By simply looking at a product, consumers will be able to see relevant information, such as gluten free, sugar count, etc.
Feedback to the retailer is just as important in the physical store as it is online, so closing the loop is critical. Location-based beacons can provide a more passive collection of feedback data by monitoring increased dwell times or a change in shopper patterns, for example. Real-time point-of-sale data can also provide passive consumer feedback. A sudden dip in strawberry yogurt sales, for example, can alert store personnel to a potential issue in stock or product appearance.
Online shopping offers convenient and personalized experiences that consumers are craving, but physical stores are far from irrelevant. Brick-and-mortar shopping provides unique opportunities such as shopper inspiration, new product browsing, and the ability to select products in-person, particularly fresh products. By leveraging data, retailers can create richer media experiences, allowing in-store shoppers to experience the benefits of a digital channel combined with the unique opportunities of physical stores.