Like many industries, the retail landscape is rapidly changing to keep pace with ever-evolving technology. Industry analysts see that 9,000 retail stores closed in 2017 (notably Sears, Payless ShoeSource and RadioShack) and are quick to call it the retail apocalypse: the end of retail as we know it. The reality is that shoppers’ needs are changing and the retail experience needs to adapt.
Amazon’s emergence meant that consumers no longer needed to go to a store to browse aisles upon aisles of products because the e-commerce giant had more selection at better prices. Now, when someone walks into a store, they often know what they’re looking for, but want to confirm their gut feeling about a purchase and build a personal relationship with the brand. With this in mind, retailers are looking to create an omni-channel shopping experience, where the in-store and online experiences flow together seamlessly.
This is why the brick-and-mortar shopping experience isn’t going anywhere any time soon. In fact, online shopping only accounted for 11.7% of total retail sales in 2016. So what are the best retailers doing to stay ahead of the curve and keep their customers engaged? They’re using technology and data to their advantage by:
- Giving employees the resources they need to do their best work.
- Connecting each shopper’s online and in-store experiences.
- Enriching the in-store sales experience.
Enable your Employees
Retailers often operate with young, transient workforces, so creating a meaningful connection between workers and their brands can prove to be challenging. Managers may try to create this connection through posters in the staff room or store-wide emails, but nothing compares to communicating with employees on their terms.
“There is a huge opportunity for retailers to give some of the power back to their employees,” explains Mike Bogan, Solution Engineer at Traction. “Leveraging an online community, retailers can enable their customer-facing staff to provide exceptional customer service.”
A platform like Traction Retail arms employees with the information they need to be prepared for their next shift. This could include consistent training across all retail locations, a look book of new products or the most recent updates from head office. “Access to this information puts retail employees ahead of customers and helps them create the best, most informed in-store experience,” says Mike.
Execute on the Intelligence
With in-store and online experiences working together, retailers have access to plenty of data about a customer’s preferences and shopping habits. The key is to get all of this information working together so it can be distilled down into actionable insights.
Does this mean sales associates should pull up a customer’s preference dashboard as soon as they walk in? Probably not, but the information can be used at a higher level to encourage purchase and brand affiliation. For instance, if a fashion retailer is releasing a new jacket, they can send a targeted email to all individuals who have been browsing jackets recently.
Earlier this week at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show, Salesforce announced a new connector between Marketing Cloud and Commerce Cloud that makes it easy to leverage your e-commerce data for marketing purposes. With the connector in place, marketing teams can trigger personalized email journeys based on consumers’ online shopping behaviour. For instance, if someone adds a pair of shoes to their cart, but never checks out, Marketing Cloud can trigger an email with a coupon to incentivize the purchase.
Enrich the Experience
When a potential customer walks into a retail store, there is a 70 per cent chance that they’ve already done their research online, so they’re ready to make a purchase. “Shoppers have so much more information now than they did 10 years ago,” explains Steve Buzinski, Retail Business Development Manager. “If a shopper visits a retail location, they’re already well on their way to making a purchase decision. If they don’t buy, an in-store visit is a missed opportunity to leave a lasting brand impression.”
Apple stores have done a great job of integrating technology into this experience. When a shopper walks into an Apple store, they are greeted by a Genius and their iPhone. Within a few quick questions, they know which type of device you have and can help you:
- Set up a service appointment.
- Walk through the latest iOS update.
- Find the best laptop for your needs.
Since transactions can happen anywhere at any time, retail stores have to fill in the gaps left by online shopping. The Apple Genius is a great example of how retailers are embracing technology in the store to provide the best experience possible, aided by the abundance of information available at their fingertips. Steve suggests retailers “use this information to improve the sales process by surprising and delighting their customers.”
As retailers gain access to more technology and data, they’re going to find creative ways to incorporate them into the consumer’s path to purchase. If you’d like to talk about any of the other technology trends that were announced at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show this week, please get in touch.