You’ve read and heard it repeated throughout the media: The retail apocalypse is looming. Physical stores are shutting down and ecommerce is taking over.
These facts seem to be justified (#ripsears). Ecommerce sales had a 17% year-over-year growth in 2017 and accounted for 13% of total retail sales in the United States. At least 94 million square feet of retail space was shuttered as of May 2018, and in the first quarter of 2018, mall vacancies reached a six-year high.
Despite the disappointing news, retailers shouldn’t fret. They do have a future, just not how they’d expect. Along with selling great products and creating better customer experiences, they can also leverage customer intelligence and innovative technology to stay in the game.
Around 47% of IT leaders say that brick and mortar retailers have three years to use next-generation digital technologies in order to stay competitive. Put bluntly, they need to set themselves up for success by providing excellent experiences and being as seamless as ecommerce shopping.
Here’s how to use customer intelligence to be a retail superhero in this ecommerce-heavy market.
Send push notifications while in-store
Adobe Labs has developed a technology that allows retailers to send customers offers while they’re shopping. For example, a customer may be walking down the fruit aisle of a grocery store and suddenly receive a message on her phone that watermelons are on sale. She is likely to buy the watermelons because, according to her stored data, she bought watermelons two weeks ago. (A well-chosen a pop culture reference could also help seal the deal.)
The technology creates customer profiles that include information about marital status, shopping habits, amount of money spent in the store, and previous purchases. The offers are delivered via an app for the store or on screens around the stores. Retailers can see these profiles and send out the appropriate offers, thus increasing their likelihood of making a sale and creating a more convenient customer experience.
Offer customers augmented reality
According to a study from Retail Perceptions, 61% of shoppers prefer to shop at retailers that provide augmented reality (AR) experiences over ones that don’t. AR mimics the real world, but allows customers to visualize themselves using retailer’s products. This is perfect for the busy mom of three just trying to find a new lipstick, or the rushed businessman hoping to buy a suit on his short lunch break. Cosmetics retailer Charlotte Tilbury lets customers look at themselves wearing the store’s makeup through an app, for example, while Topshop shows shoppers what they’ll look like in the store’s clothes. These technologies make the experience more convenient and fun and can boost bottom lines.
Collect emails through in-store WiFi
Customers want to get on WiFi when they are in-store. Retailers want to collect customers’ data so they can market their products. The perfect solution is to give free WiFi to in-store shoppers in exchange for their email addresses. Retailers can then send them exclusive content and offers and have the opportunity to interact with their customers one-on-one through email. According to DMA Insight, 99% of consumers look at their personal emails daily and check their personal, work, and mobile inboxes an average of 20 times per day. Tying email marketing to in-store shopping behavior is a great way to increase sales.
Provide interactive screens in-store
Interactive screens can be used to collect customer data and give people improved experiences. While shopping, they can answer a quiz (who doesn’t love a quiz about themselves?) and receive an in-store offer, view a demonstration of how to use a product, see how retailers’ products can fit into their lives, and input their email addresses for more information about upcoming sales and promotions. They can also order products from the screen that are only available online if they are not in stock in-store. Screens have the ability to augment customer satisfaction as well as sales.
Retail isn’t dying – it’s evolving. Retailers have just gotta keep up.