Most customers treat retailers as their personal stylist or advisor when it comes to purchasing goods. Now that has changed. The Internet has proved to change the methods in which customers employ when shopping.
Future success depends on how well retailers understand the mindsets of shoppers hence the best place to start is by putting emphasis on technology’s role in customer experience. First, associates need to know that shoppers prefer a personalized retail destination. When locating products, convenience should be a top priority by retailers and this can be done by putting in-store interactive signs and displays.
Success in the future would depend on how well a retailer understands the changing mindsets and behaviors of the shoppers, as well as the new expectations shoppers have for their in-store experience. The best place to start is by looking at technology’s role in the customer experience. This will enable retailers to reset the path to purchase. Besides that, associates need to equip themselves with immediate solutions should a stock runs out. Through smart inventory, retailers will be able to provide up-to-date information on products. The next step should provide shoppers with the option that validates the customer’s purchase decision. The last step is important as shoppers are closing the deal and retailers need to ensure that they have the tools to ease the shoppers to buy their goods with confidence.
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Retail used to be based on relationships – a store associate personally greeted customers as they entered and asked how they could help. The customer trusted the merchant to help them with what they needed and to educate them about new items on the shelf. Today the same brick-and-mortar retailers are facing several challenges that are significantly transforming their playing field.
The Internet is changing the way consumers shop. Online shopping provides customers with a gateway to the global marketplace. Shoppers today can shop from wherever and whenever they want to. Even when customers do walk into a store, they have different expectations on the retail experience they are looking for.
With the rapid growth of online shopping and an increasingly crowded retail landscape, retailers are having to rethink their current business models. Although the number of brick-and-mortar stores is not decreasing, shares of brick-and-mortar sales are expected to decline in the next 3-5 years, with shares of eCommerce significantly increasing. Conventional retailers have an urgent need to reconnect with customers and explore new formats and ways of engaging and retaining customers, including offering online avenues.
That brings us to the question: What does the future of retail hold for both retailers and customers, and what do retailers need to do to deliver the personalized experience cherished by online shoppers?
Technology is fast emerging as a compelling contender in the future retail landscape. At every step of a customer’s path to purchasing, retailers can leverage technology to engage the customer.
Phey Teck Moh, Corporate Vice President, APAC, Motorola Solutions, shares how technology will shape tomorrow’s retail experience, with a look at the changes in the industry and the solutions influencing the future of retail:
Success in the future would depend on how well a retailer understands the changing mindsets and behaviors of the shoppers, as well as the new expectations shoppers have for their in-store experience. The best place to start is by looking at technology’s role in the customer experience. This will enable retailers to reset the path to purchase.
Identify: Shopper selects a retail destination
Providing a personalized retail experience involves understanding customers’ needs and wants, as well as their motivations to purchase. Consumers today want to feel confident that the retailer has what they are looking for. They also want to feel welcomed and engaged when they enter the store.
Presence sensing technology over a WLAN network can digitally identify and greet shoppers through their smart devices the moment they enter the store. Intelligence can be built further into the system to recognize loyal shoppers and enable the delivery of special rewards such as mobile coupons.
Navigate: Shopper tries to locate products
Customers today want convenience. They want to find the products they need quickly and be alerted to other products that may enhance their purchases. In a recent Motorola Solutions’ Retail Visions Survey, 80 percent of shoppers indicated that most of their time was wasted on figuring out “where is it?” and “which one should I choose?.” Retailers of the future will be empowered to transform this 80 percent into positive shopping experiences.
In-store interactive signs and displays will enable retailers to navigate their customers to the parts of a store that are most relevant and preferred by them. Wi-Fi guest access, presence sensing and locationing-based tools, as well as Wi-Fi analytics will empower retailers to connect with shoppers and seed product information through to their mobile devices, informing them of products that may be of interest to them or to plan the layout of the store better. Real-time and location-based mobile coupons pushed through to the customers’ devices, intelligent task dispatch and workflow services, auto-dispatching of store associates with the most suited knowledge to guide customer in their purchase decisions are some of the benefits that technology would deliver.
Select: Shopper seeks to evaluate alternatives
One of the biggest strengths of online stores is their ability to empower consumers with detailed product information, user reviews, options and immediate stock availability status. A major reason for dissatisfaction of brick and mortar store shoppers is the inability to have instant stock status in-store during their purchase journey. Motorola Solutions’ Retail Visions Survey has also revealed that a significant proportion of the shoppers would have made their purchase if an associate could find another location that had the item in stock and guide the shopper to that location. Additionally, a large percentage of lost sales could have been recaptured if the sales associate could arrange for it to be ordered and delivered to shoppers directly.
Through smart inventory, extended aisle and in-store locationing solutions, retailers will be able to provide up-to-date information on product quantities and types immediately available for purchase. Retailers will be able to provide continuous, real-time inventory status that locates any item the shopper desires or alternative outlets they can purchase from or arrange to have the product picked-up or delivered by an associate. By empowering associates with mobility solutions that will enable them to look up stock location status and inventory levels, associates will be able to answer customer queries on product availability confidently and accurately the first time round.
Validate: Shopper looks to confirms a purchase
The last mile of the path to purchase should present information that validates the customer’s purchase decision. Consumers typically have doubts about their selection and wish to evaluate alternatives or consider price deals or offers that may be applicable to them.
Multimedia, interactive displays and signs can present rich information to shoppers about a retailer’s products and a consumer’s probable purchases, while real-time and in-aisle price comparisons with alternate retailers help shoppers commit to their purchases. In addition, custom offers through business analytics can be designed based on a shopper’s loyalty score, so as to further incentivize them to continue to shop and stay loyal with the retailer.
Transact: Shopper commit to the purchase
This last step of the purchase cycle is crucial. Customers are close to making the purchase and usually feel close to confident about their selection. Retailers need to ensure that they have the right tools to ease a customer into a positive purchasing decision.
Through smart video analytics, detailed intelligence on customer counts, line length, dwell times and traffic patterns, retailers can trigger the appropriate allocation of store associates. Mobile computing devices and payment terminals will allow customers to securely transact by scanning and purchasing items directly from their mobile device, with no further assistance needed.
Through these secure mobile payment options, shoppers can make their purchases from anywhere in the store once a choice has been made without being subjected to lengthy check-out queues, mimicking the immediacy of online check-out. This also reduces the risks of shoppers changing their minds at the last minute.
Gaining an edge through advanced technology
The shopping experience is a retailer’s biggest differentiator and the physical store will still be a dominant channel for shopping activity. Retailers are keen to capture every dollar possible from consumers by driving loyalty, orchestrating desired customer behaviors and maximizing associate productivity.
The future belongs to retailers that implement and harness the best tools and flexible ownership models to create value-based, one-on-one relationships with shoppers. With a clear understanding of the purchase path of the shopper, retailers can view how to improve it for tomorrow.
Retailers need to embrace the challenge by leveraging technology as a means to personalize the shopping experience. The future will ultimately belong to the retailer who can employ the best technology tools to create value-based, integrated experiences that are targeted and personalized for its shoppers.