The rate at which digital technology is infiltrating our lives over the past decade has brought us to a place where NOT having it is inconceivable. While the majority of technology is still surrounding the internet, accessible via an app, mobile or computer desktop, it is now beginning to alter the physical landscape of retail too, Deloitte reported that the influence of digital devices on instore purchases behaviour grew by 175% over a 2 year period (2012-2014). There is no ‘offline/online’ boundaries when it comes to a retail customer, they are all digital customers and they don’t WANT a technology enriched experience; they EXPECT it.
From an operations perspective, the use of technology within stores would only drive operations to become tailored and streamlined. The data and analytics would enable business owners to use the data and analytics in real time to better understand customer behaviours, providing a seamless and personalised shopping experiences. This opportunity for a deeper understanding means that retailers have the ability to give themselves the competitive edge through leveraging the data and building personal relationships with their customers.
Beacons (or Geofencing)
Smartphones have now taken over laptop as the most popular device for getting online says Ofcom. 60% of the population own a smartphone and use it for approximately 2 hours each day for social media, browsing, online banking and shopping.
When broken down further; the data shows that 90% of 16-24 year olds owns a smart phone, and 50% of 55-64 year olds, having doubled from a mere 19% in 2012.
It is for this reason thatproximity marketing, using Bluetooth capabilities have moved from gimmick territory into serious sales technology. Beacons work by communicating with smartphone apps using a Bluetooth signal to reach out to customers as they enter the area the beacon can reach; within a certain distance of the physical store for instance.
Retailers are taking beacons more seriously. There’s more experimentation about how to treat users in their stores with mobile phones.” Says Scott Bauer from PwC, “The question is how to use them, so it doesn’t seem creepy or annoy customers”.
Beacons are able to attract customers in a store, but they should be underpinned with a solid strategy that aims to build a personal relationship with returning customers; expressing gratitude and appreciation. Macys, Walmart. Starbucks, Uber and VoucherCloud are all using beacons to reach out to customers and encourage repeat business.
VoucherCloud even reported a 45% click through rate proving that the strategy has high levels of engagement, and it is reported that 78% of shoppers use a digital device during their most recent shopping trip.
Social networking platforms have evolved over the past year. Once merely a great tool for pushing content, reaching influencers and customers, we have now see the giants of social introducing ‘buy’ buttons.
Along with Facebook, twitter and Instagram; to develop its relevancy in the mobile first world of retail, Pinterest launched its “buy it” button in October 2015. Many of the sites pins previously only linked out to blog posts rather than products, but since the launch of the button the number of pins that link to items for sale has reached 60 million and are said to be doubling the rate that shoppers are converting to buyers compared to regular pins – with 100 million active monthly users, this is not an avenue for retailers to dismiss lightly.
In Store Digital
Digital technology within retail stores can influence a number of categories and consumer demands: for instance, digital technology influenced 51% customers shopping for home furnishing/furniture, 34% of shoppers who were looking for electrical items and 26% of those shopping for clothes and accessories. This isn’t mobile or smart phone technology – this is technology integrated into the ‘offline’ shopping experience.
41% of modern customers WANT to use digital devices on the path to their purchase.
With the rise of immersive technology, it’s becoming more possible to include digital technology in the functional space of a retail store. ‘Offline’ retail is on the cusp of becoming completely transformed as stores experiment with various technology offerings.
The world renowned Bloomingdales have installed wall mounted iPads into their fitting rooms. The iPads are integrated into their stock management system so consumers can browse the colour and sizes of the items that are in stock, they are also able to access reviews of the item.
Taking it one step further, businesses such as Ugg and Uniqlo are using interactive mirrors in their stores; these immersive mirrors allows shoppers to share the clothes on social media, or scroll through the stores stock for different colours and sizes. It also remembers previous outfit choices, allowing shopper to compare outfits as well as selecting accessories. Some stores even go as far as to enable their customers to order drinks to the fitting room and instruct staff to bring other items to try on.
Mirrors are also being using to inspire customers as soon as they enter the store. ‘Connected walls’ are mirrored screen that display videos and showcase collections.
“We have worked with a number of retailers who are looking to disrupt their market and introduce digital technology within their stores” explains Roz Fairbank at Superior Surfaces, “The material we work with allows for this and we have created bespoke fixtures and furniture for retail stores that also offer customers a better experience, such as wireless charging and digital screens to deliver personalised content to their shoppers.”
The development of instore biometrics mean that businesses will have the ability to make the visit even more personalised. Upon analysing the data set that businesses are left with, means that there is an opportunity for a comprehensive understanding of customer behaviour – just as online retailers can obtain through cookie tracking. Along with the security element of biometrics, it also has the potential to support marketing and operations, with the introduction of interactive mirrors and digital screens, other technology can be embraced in conjunction.
Tesco launched the use of audience measurement technology in its petrol stations back in 2013. The system, OptimEyes uses facial recognition technology to determine gender and age, along with other demographics; and has allowed them to tailor their content to shoppers in real time, based on these demographics to guarantee the relevant content gets maximum exposure in front of the relevance audience. While in store, this type of technology can also pick up on the demographics of customers that are entering, yet not purchasing; guiding retailers when it comes to store design and layout, staffing resources and product placement.
Over the coming months and years, there is no doubt that biometric technology is going to help retailers to understand, analyse and engage with their customers.
PwC – http://www.pwc.co.uk/
Superior Surfaces – http://superiorsurfaces.co.uk/