Monday, December 8, 2014

3 retail solutions to employ in 2015

A successful retail operation is all about people: employees, customers, and the interactions between them. For seamless and efficient interactions to occur, countless solutions have been devised. New technology solutions are converging and transforming the way we shop and purchase. The list of retail solutions listed below might not all be new. However, there remain retailers who are very conservative towards the adoption of new technologies. As 2015 draws closer, retailers need to be receptive towards technology and view it as a tool to aid them in achieving customer profiles, changing buying habits, innovation, operational efficiency and customer service.

1. Omnichannel
Omnichannel is relatively new and revolutionary. Often compared with other forms of marketing like cross channel and multi-channel, omnichannel is cross channel with finesse. With the user in mind, omnichannel is about true continuity of the shopping experience. It extends beyond the brand’s spectrum of consistent mobile design with its responsive web designs as well as in-store design. Omni supports all channels with fully integrated support to deliver a continuous and consistent customer experience. Customer data from a channel is captured and stored, so there is no need for the customer to repeat information.  Omnichannel optimizes shoppers’ experience with an enhanced cross channel experience.
Everyone carries around a lot of data on their cell phones, from the locations they visited to what they like best, as expressed with social media. With the increasing trend of showrooming and usage of personal devices in store, brands need to be armed with numerous ways to reach consumers in real-time using the data from shoppers. In fact, according to MIT’s report (Beyond the Checkout Cart), 80% of store shoppers check prices online, with one-third accessing the information on their mobile device while inside the brick and mortar store. Though social media provides engagement and interaction with customers, omnichannel realizes social marketing with research and analysis to effectively create a continuous customer experience. As mentioned many times in previous posts, understanding your customers is the key to retail success. Brands that interpret omnichannel data will succeed as there will be a new dimension of customer decision that is waiting to be understood. The ease to shop with continuous experience across formats and across devices that is completely bespoke is omnichannel.

2. Personalized shopping experiences
As mentioned earlier, shoppers carry a lot of untapped data on their cell phones as they roam. Data about preferences, buying habits and profile are valuable in directing targeted advertising or relevant marketing messages to individual customers. Such data can be gathered from their web browsing, social media and in store behavior, thus tailoring information for individuals according to current wants, needs, interests and preferences. Not only does this make shopping efficient, marketing messages reach targeted audiences and this lowers the chance of shoppers missing out advertisements and promotions.
Besides new mobile solutions to track shoppers as they shop, in store behavior can be tracked with new solutions such as video analytics. Video analytics uses computer algorithms to translate video footages from surveillance cameras into data. One example would be the usage of audience profiling analytics to know the demographics of in store shoppers without requiring them to fill up forms with their particulars.
Notably, 64% of shoppers preferred a personalized shopping experience based on past consumer behavior while 73% preferred to purchase from retailers who taps on their personal profile, preferences, interests and other information to create a shopping experience that is relevant and efficient. However, 88% of shoppers think that brands should allow them to control how their personal data is used to personalize their shopping experience.
Search engines, social media and many other online tools have been using personalized content for a long while. While bringing personalization to retailing might not be the easiest implementation, the benefits of personal shopping done well is better revenue and customer satisfaction.

3. Technology integrated with brick and mortar
Some of the challenges many big box retailers face are logistics and products not receiving enough exposure. With the wide range of products, retailers are unable to display every single product out while shoppers are often overwhelmed by the vast amount of choices. In collaboration with personalized shopping solutions, interactive visual displays bring targeted products to life or marketing messages in front of the shopper.
Interactive displays also helps encourage showroomers to purchase. Some of the motivator for in-store internet research is checking the range of colours, sizes or types a product is available in, reviews by other buyers or bloggers as well as price. Interactive display offers a connection that helps shoppers envision using the product and integrating it into their lifestyle. Coupled with product displays that encourage shoppers to feel the product, interactive display creates a bridge that short-circuits the endless showrooming search and can empower a shopper to buy.
With the launch of new retail solutions to help retailers continually retain and attract new audiences, it is also important to track the sales improvements made with interactive displays. Using crowd density video analytics would allow brands to know if shoppers are engaging with interactive displays. This creates a mean to know the effectiveness of such displays.
The importance of technology to expedite operational efficiency would increase in 2015 too. Retailers will be tapping on business intelligence to efficiently manage the entire operations from sourcing, manufacturing, shipping to after sales returns and refunds. Management of operations will succeed with real-time data information delivered through new forms of technology.

As brands embark on their digital journey in some shape or form, from omnichannel retailing and interactive display visual to new forms of technology, retailers are learning that their survival depends on how well they adapt to this customer-centric reality. With the internet, transparency to pricing, reviews, product comparisons as well as social media was introduced. This resulted in well-informed shoppers with wider shopping options. To remain competitive, retailers need to be open in adopting new technologies to boost the customer experience that helps retain customer loyalty and attract new customers.