Despite the view that the online world has taken over, more people than ever say they prefer to go into a store to do much of their shopping. While the online world offers convenience and ease of finding a specific product, when it comes to browsing, window shopping and also regular shopping trips, more people than ever turn to the physical store. Added to this is the growing use of technology in store to offer a better customer experience – but what steps can stores take to use the latest tech in their shops?
Physical stores fight back
One annual survey conducted by PwC showed that 73% of the 19,000 consumers they spoke to around the world still preferred to shop in physical stores. People increasingly use the online world to conduct research and to find products that they want to buy but in many cases, when those products are available in store, they go to the shop to finish the process.
Because technology has become so integral to our lives, people are also expecting that physical stores use it to enhance their experience. They want a customer service experience that flawlessly blends the clever tech of the online world with the traditional, personal touch of the offline world.
One of the biggest retail trend areas in the last twelve months has been the increase in personalisation and this now includes offline stores as well as online ones. Key to this is the collection of data to allow personalisation and the use of retail analytics software to compile and understand this data.
Key to the personalisation of the customer service experience is the use of the smartphone. Some 90% of shoppers use smartphones while they are in store including to compare prices (54%), look up information about a product (48%) and to check online reviews for an item (42%).
However, this also means that retailers can gain insight into their customers through this behaviour. The use of beacons throughout stores allows an instant connection via the Bluetooth network with the customer’s device, if they have the Bluetooth setting enabled. This allows the personalisation of the shopping experience – send them a recipe for that new product as they look at it on the shelf or highlight the latest in a clothing range they have purchase before as they pass the section.
Another element of personalisation is the use of loyalty schemes. There’s nothing new about the idea of encouraging customers to return to your shop over your competitors by offering discounts, special promotions or exclusive events. But now, the developments in technology mean that loyalty schemes have evolved.
Most use the downloading of an app onto the customer’s smartphone as a base to send push notifications. When the customer is in a store, this connection can be used to let them know about promotions and new items, as mentioned. But it also returns information to the retailer to build a profile of that person – how often do they buy certain products? Could a ‘thank you’ promotion tempt them to buy an item they haven’t bought for the last few months but once bought regularly? Tailored offers and vouchers based on loyalty scheme information is now something that customers come to expect.