Why The Retail Customer Experience Matters
Advances in digital technology have been fueling retail transformation in recent years. Among retail giants, technology innovators, and marketing experts, it’s the hot topic of conversation, but even more profound is the way customer experience is driving this change.
Mobile apps, smartphones, and 24/7 access allow consumers to access the sum total of information that’s out there on any given product or brand. Ratings, reviews, competitive pricing, daily deals – it’s all at your fingertips, ready to deploy when needed – effectively negating the value that in-store associates have represented in the past.
But, how is it possible to compete in this environment when location, price, promotion, and product have moved so successfully to the digital realm?
The answer, as many brands have already determined, is in providing a customer experience that will keep them coming back. This, much more so than any of the above variables, has become the new point of competition, a new normal that can either make or break a brand.
To better illustrate how the customer experience can influence a sales decision, let’s consider a few use cases that favor the retail agenda:
Omni-channel in retail is fast becoming the norm in fulfillment and customer service. With the world’s largest companies embracing the notion of a seamless experience between all points of contact, consumers have come to expect the same of their favorite boutiques. By overlooking the value, transparency, and convenience of omni-channel, retailers may be losing more customers than they gain.
A customer’s frustration can build quickly when they are unable to track their purchases from door-to-door. Being asked to repeat a query through several different call center contacts is off-putting. Confusion can mount when faced with vastly different experiences online and in person. Omni-channel addresses these issues nicely, but it has set a clear standard for customer service that some retailers maintain they can neither grasp or afford. Those who choose to ignore omni-channel do so at the risk of losing out to those who have embraced it.
Personalized offers and experiences have been proven to boost sales. In fact, the revenue increase that can be directly attributed to personalization is anywhere from 6 – 10% over retailers who don’t. Collecting data and responding to customer needs and behaviors powers brand loyalty – if it’s done right. Loyalty programs, automatic replenishment, and free delivery are all vehicles that drive the customer experience. With the ability to responding to behaviors they already have, personalization creates high-value customers that are actively engaged and who will continue to engage with the brand as long as they feel they are being heard.
Personalized offers are great, but ones that tie into the location are even more effective. Through the use of QR codes, proximity beacons or mobile opt-ins that are triggered by location, the customer experience can be further enhanced, if done right.
At its most basic level, location-based services can provide value to both consumer and retailer by answering three basic questions: Where am I? Where are they? And finally, where is it? From touch-screen robots that can direct the consumer to the product they are looking for to smart shelves in the store to alert employees that stock is low, IoT enhances the customer experience by providing smart, actionable data that delivers value and information for both the customer and the company.
Improving the Customer Experience with IoT
While personalization provides the retail customer with a sense of intimacy, showing knowledge of their preferences and behaviors, the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to make that connection much more meaningful. Using beacons to connect with smartphone users who have already downloaded the store app, two-way, real-time communication can be enabled between brand and customer, which could be the key to discouraging “showrooming” behavior (the act of browsing in-store and then purchasing online, sometimes from competing stores).
Since 2014, top department stores that include Lord & Taylor and The Hudson’s Bay Company have been leveraging Apple’s iBeacon technology with a mobile marketing platform in order to send personalized orders to their app users as they shop in-store. The data produced from these interactions can then be used to improve the in-store customer experience for all shoppers, influencing key merchandising decisions such as product placement and store layout.
In conclusion, it’s plain to see that customer experience is the next frontier in retail marketing strategy. In the digital age, this means so much more than simply great customer service. For those retailers who have completed their digital transformation, there are powerful tools at your disposal to mine the data you need to enable your customer experience. Much more than simply making your customers happy, it will allow you to go head-to-head with your biggest competitors.
If you would like to learn more about how IoT and RFID can enhance your customer experience, get in touch with Mojix today.