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Voice of the Customer

In today’s hyperconnected world, the customer experience is about how, where, when and why engagement happens. While providing reliable products and services is a major piece of the puzzle, customer loyalty is being increasingly driven by experiences. Businesses that want to improve the customer experience can start with a more unified and customized in-store approach — one that matches the experience customers have come to expect from online shopping.

New technologies, the rise of e-commerce with the “Amazon Effect,” and the Covid-19 pandemic have only heightened shoppers’ expectations. It is no surprise that recent research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that greater personalization boosts customers’ spending, and retailers are increasingly identifying new ways to engage their customers with purposeful in-store experiences. According to BCG, “when the shopping experience was highly personalized, customers indicated that they were 110% more likely to add additional items to their baskets and 40% more likely to spend more than they had planned.”

Today’s technology can help retailers translate these insights into actions. Below are three core pillars upon which retailers can build more meaningful, personalized experiences for their customers.

Better Understand Customers To Influence Them Before The Point Of Decision

Tools like surveillance cameras and people-counting software have provided basic insights for many years, and while these insights are useful on their own, combining them under a single source of truth can be powerful. Today’s businesses must be able to harness data from across the enterprise, not just specific areas.

Smart sensors and advanced IoT infrastructure have made this type of data collection possible, and departments — including marketing, operations, merchandising and asset protection — can now effectively combine their insights via integrated data streams. The ability to combine data streams to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and identify returning customers can help businesses understand customers and their motivations in a deeper and more meaningful way, allowing them to anticipate their purchasing decisions effectively.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has also made sensors smarter, allowing them to collect and categorize more customer data than ever before. They can be programmed to generate automated alerts when a customer appears in need of assistance or notify employees that a frequent customer is in the store. They can also improve the customer’s experience by helping to ensure appropriate staffing levels during peak shopping times and can even help retailers better understand the demographics of their customers, how long they spend in the store, which direction they enter from and other insights previously impossible to collect. When retailers can harness their data with AI, they can have a measurable impact on customers as they approach the point of decision.

Deliver Offers And Promotions Based On Who Customers Are And What They Have Purchased Before

Effective marketing and promotional campaigns are key for any business, and today’s retailers can directly track the impact of marketing through both in-store and online performance. Sensors can now track increases and decreases in store occupancy, understand whether sale areas and products have received increased traffic, compare point-of-sale (POS) data for coupon codes and more. They can even alert employees to the presence of a returning customer and even generate offers or promotions based on that customer’s shopping history, adding an extra degree of personalization to the in-store experience. Quantitative insight on the impact of promotions and marketing campaigns can improve future campaigns by helping stores better understand the needs of their customers.

In addition to individualized customer analysis, retailers today can compare their performance against broader benchmarks using market research and intelligence solutions, tracking stores and shoppers in different countries. Having this level of market research at their fingertips could help them gain insight into consumer preferences and purchasing patterns across the retail landscape and specific departments and categories, helping to gauge overall performance and effectiveness against peers and competitors.

Make The In-Store Transaction Process The Same As Online

Consumers are increasingly shopping online because of its simplicity and convenience. It is easy to find what they are looking for, there are no lines to wait in and the checkout process is seamless. Today, people counting, surveillance cameras, heat-mapping and other modern tools can provide brick-and-mortar stores a more complete understanding of the way customers move through their spaces, allowing them to improve the customer experience. Sensors can be used to detect things like traffic patterns, choke points, areas where customers frequently congregate and dead zones. This can facilitate seamless movement through stores while helping customers find what they are looking for quickly and easily and avoid traffic congestion and other annoyances that detract from the in-store experience.

Modern sensors can also be used to identify empty shelves and send restocking notifications to maximize on-floor product availability and minimize out-of-stock problems. Ultimately, this can boost cross-channel selling and help build brand loyalty. This technology could even be used to notify an employee that a returning customer was considering a certain item during a previous visit that is now in stock or on sale, bringing the concept of digital retargeting into the physical world while adding a personal touch to customer service.

Retailers looking to bring the journey toward building upon these pillars should lay the backbone of systems in the stores that link to other channels or fulfillment related to sensor technology. Enabling sensor capabilities across the enterprise requires a near-real-time execution model for products, consumers and associates. However, it does not require an all-or-nothing model. For example, nonessential retailers could get started by incorporating sensor-enabled cycle counting and replenishment.

Personalization Drives Better Business

Today’s customers expect a greater level of personalization, and those retailers that want to compete with online shopping must take notice. Modern sensors and analytics can collect and analyze more data than ever, but understanding how to use that data is critical. By integrating multiple data streams and using the power of AI to engage in prescriptive and predictive analytics, stores can now generate the actionable insights needed to improve the customers’ experience and their overall operations.

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