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It is daunting trying to prioritise your approach as a retailer with today’s customer in their connected world. Especially with the randomness of how people navigate their way through shopping experiences and when they can buy anything and everything with a tap or an online swipe.

With the swipe of a screen we browse, pin, tweet, buy, compare products and provide star ratings.

There is fear in the traditional bricks and mortar space that technology, big data and online retailing are killing the traditional shopping space. But peel away the layers of what is happening and you’ll find a couple of key dynamics in play as technology infiltrates the shopper path to purchase. 

To survive in this new, complex, content-rich world and to convert shoppers into loyal ambassadors, it take more than traditional marketing strategy. This is a real opportunity and wonderful challenge for retail businesses to deliver “what good looks like”.

Over the coming few blogs I am going to explore through some real life examples retailers who are turning interactions into opportunities to engage, sell and gain insights into their shoppers for future engagement.

Evaluating and using shopper behaviour to predict future behaviour isn’t a new concept. However automatic, real time ways to track people, product or things can now be used in store to better engage, sell and interact with shoppers ensuring the right message gets into the minds of the right people and a time and place which is perfect for them.

If you don’t know much about beacon technology I suggest you clue up quickly as these little devices are changing the face of location based interactions. 

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Beacons are very small, low-cost pieces of hardware that transmit messages to smartphones within micro locations via low-energy Bluetooth signals using encrypted signals. This differs to geo-fencing which uses longitude and latitude to detect proximity of a device. It can track users’ movements and alert apps when a person approaches or leaves a location, as well as monitoring their movements within.

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For the beacon to actually interact with the shopper’s phone it must interact with an app on their phone that is specifically configured to look for that particular signal. So an app needs to be installed and then granted permission to access location services to identify signals and drive content to the phone.

Easily attached to walls, shelves or windows it’s a hero for communicating with shoppers, optimising communications in three key locations; Far “I can see the store” (30 mtrs), Near “I am in the store” (2.5mts) and Immediate “within hands reach” (.5mtrs).

Imagine entering a shopping mall close to an appliance retailer who tells you about a special offer today. As you enter the TV section the beacon sends a message to your phone asking if you need assistance, then as you get close to a specific product it sends you information about a specific brand, the customer ratings it has achieved and a highly targeted offer to convert you to purchase. 

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Macy’s Shopkick is an international retailer using beacons to provide shoppers with product information, flash sales or limited deals or simply speed up the checkout process with a contactless payment option.

The following video takes a quick look at how MACY’S have adopted this technology to assist their shoppers on their journey.

Beacon technology is in itself not expensive but it’s the connection to an app to integrate data points - location history, social media profile, past purchase behaviour, past browsing behaviour, preference data - that puts the cost of entry out of reach of many retailers currently.

Just for fun and to demonstrate just how far you can take your thinking, following is a video on Meat Pack, one of Guatemala’s coolest shoe stores. Whilst this example uses GPS tracking of their competitor stores, it does demonstrate a fun and engaging way location-based apps can really engage.

Synonymous with their irreverent style and cult following they wanted to launch a new promotion that would personify their brand, innovation and irreverent ways. They created an enhancement to their Meat Pack app, Hijack that recognised when their shoppers were in a competitor’s store and sent them a special promotion that gave them the chance to earn your discount. It started at 99% and decreased by the second. The countdown made people rush to their store with more than 600 shoppers hijacked and one lucky dude getting 89% discount. Each time a discount was redeemed the shoppers FB status was updated and the competitive stakes shared.

This technology can have quite an impact on the recency, frequency and value of a shopper’s engagement and many retail trials have proven to increase conversion.

However this comes with a warning as you start to navigate new opportunities; while some shoppers will be delighted and enthusiastic, others will find it all a bit creepy. So test, learn, refine and if nothing else please don’t spam your shoppers with nonsense that doesn’t add value to their lives.

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