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Transforming the Retail Customer Experience with In-store Analytics

Transforming the Retail Customer Experience with In-store Analytics

While online retailers have the advantage of tracking cookies and web analytics tools to calibrate different aspects of an online shopping experience, brick and mortar retailers aren’t as lucky. They have had to depend on much erratic customer insights.
However,in today’s date, even physical retailers are required to hold up to some very high expectations in shopping experiences.

In fact, in order for physical stores to remain relevant, they have to focus on improving the quality of the experience they deliver. This has led to the creation of entire businesses in retail experience innovation.

One of the ways a brick and mortar retailer can provide a quality experience is through the employment of in-store analytics that provides insights into the behavior of the customers and uses that information to engage with their customers as they shop. The use of in-store analytics has revolutionized how retailers understand their customers and how they communicate with them.

How will in-store analytics build up communication between shoppers and retailers?

In order to answer that question it is important to know how In-store analytics works.
For example, when a furniture store to offers free Wi-Fi, it may seem a bit strange.
Actually when the Wi-Fi is enabled on one’s phone, the device sends out a connection request every few seconds on every Wi-Fi channel available. It updates the list of the available networks after listening for a fraction of a second for a response to come back,

Interestingly, when a device probes the Wi-Fi spectrum, it broadcasts its unique MAC address to any device that’s listening. So, as one walks around in that furniture store, every Wi-Fi probe then acts as a beacon for the location. With multiple Wi-Fi access points available inside a single store, it becomes possible to considerably precisely locate each address. As far as the owner of the device is concerned, this happens passively without having to actually join a Wi-Fi network.



Although nothing about a device’s owner is being shared, the retailer can build a picture of what individuals do as they walk around a store. Such as, the number of customers who went to the first floor, the time people tend to spend in a particular region, the waiting period of customers before they come back to the shop.

This aids in understanding the broader shopping habits and interceding with informed in-store customer communication. Instead of having communication with customer transpire at the convenience of the retailer, it can happen at the customer’s convenience. 

Sending an SMS to inform of a sale as an effective marketing tactic. Sending emails every month or even good old direct post may increase customer movement towards a local store. However, a more customer-centric communication of a timely WhatsApp message offering assistance when the furniture store operator gets to know that the customer has spent over 20 minutes in the dining table department.

MAC address tracking to deliver a more personalised Customer Experience


Anonymously tracking a MAC address results in a more personalized customer communication and in understanding individual behavior in the retail experience. As the data increases, the MAC addressing question ceases to just be a randomly generated number and instead represents the behaviors of a real person. At this stage, there’s nothing to identify the individual who owns the phone but it’s possible to build a picture of who they are.

Whether gathered in multiple locations or over a longer time period in just one location, as the data builds it becomes useful in crafting more personalized communication, which can help increase sales and enhance the customer experience.

Relying on anonymized data can deliver only so much, though. And that brings us back to why the furniture store offers free Wi-Fi. As soon as someone signs up for that Wi-Fi, the store can associate the MAC address with whatever data they capture in the sign-up process. At the very least, that’s likely to be a name, email address and cellphone number. Again, that person never has to use the Wi-Fi: as long as they keep the same device, their MAC address and identity are linked.

Other retailers might not rely just on free Wi-Fi. They might have a loyalty or coupon-based mobile app that requires users to provide some personal data. Depending on the phone’s operating system, that app might be able to access the MAC address itself and make the connection for the retailer. Either way, retailers can incentivize shoppers to make their MAC address personally identifiable. And when that happens, communication can truly become personalized.

Respecting the shopper’s personal data

Either through inertia or without realizing it, most people publicly surfing the web are constantly being tracked. Sure, there are some loud voices of complaint but the vast majority of people accept it or don’t care.

As the company behind smart recycling bin advertisements in London and Nordstrom in the US discovered, people are less keen to have their physical location tracked. Even if it’s only an anonymized MAC address, such tracking could feel intrusive.

A value exchange for a richer retail experience


The answer, perhaps, is to take a tip from the loyalty schemes of large retailers: provide a genuine benefit to customers in exchange for gathering valuable data on their habits. Just as loyalty schemes such as Air Miles and Tesco Clubcard offer coupons, cashback, and exclusive store events, retailers can build similar value into retail location tracking and analysis. Rather than silently track customers, they can volitionally opt in to a mobile-phone enabled rewards program when they enter the store-a loyalty scheme for the 21st century.

Location tracking has the potential to transform how retailers communicate with their customers. It will provide the insight to know precisely when to engage and when to leave someone alone. However, it will work only if customers can see a tangible benefit to giving up some of their privacy.

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Endless Aisles: An extension of the retail in-store shelf

Endless Aisles: An extension of the retail in-store shelf

Given that the retail space is extremely competitive, most retailers are racing first to offer their customers as much product selection as possible. For e-commerce, it’s easier to offer a variety of products, but with brick-and-mortar, it’s far more difficult to stock so many products as compared to its e-commerce counterpart. With a finite amount of shelf space, stores can only stock a limited number of products.

Here is when endless aisles can come into play: Endless aisles help merge the online offerings and the in-store location offerings to bring the best shopping experience for the shopper.

What are endless aisles?

iQmetrix defines it as, “the concept of using in-store kiosks to allow customers to order products that are out of stock or not sold in-store and have them shipped to their homes.”

Alternatively, retailers can choose to ship products that are out of stock directly to the customer’s doorstep. This can be done by partnering with third-party suppliers to fulfill the customer’s order. This leads to a continuous customer experience while not having to deal with suppliers, and also giving the retailers access to endless inventory without the need to warehouse it, benefitting the retailers.

The Endless aisles service acts as a bridge, carrying the products available online into the actual store. This is fundamentally another version of the in-store pick-up (click and collect) option. Leveraging digital portals, retailers can offer these services.

The Benefits of Endless Aisles

Retailers that have their businesses that are both online and in-store, offering endless aisles is a great way to capitalize on the complete product selection without the need to have inventory for each product across different store locations. The extra stock can be stored in warehouses or with third-party supplies that would directly ship to the customers’ doorsteps.

Another benefit is that by offering customers a variety of selection at the brick-and-mortar locations, retailers are decreasing the likelihood of customers going to a competitor store to make a purchase.

Furthermore, Endless aisles help to capitalize on the buyer intent that brought them to the store in the first place, without losing sales due to out of stock items. These customers can subsequently be enticed to move towards shopping online as well.

Retailers can do so by educating the customers about the online offerings, even providing a smooth and memorable user experience right from order to delivery. This way, these customers are more likely to become online shoppers in the future.

Endless aisles also enable retailers to partner with third-party suppliers, in turn, increasing the quantity and variety of products that they can offer, which can impress the customers.

Some of the challenges 

There are a few challenges retailers must keep in mind while implementing endless aisles for their businesses -

Inventory management is imperative when it comes to endless aisles, as there should be a perfect sync between the orders displayed online and the inventory.

Keeping track of multiple orders happening across different sales channels requires a centralized system of orders. Orders placed on the various sales channels cannot be managed on the respective platforms as it is inefficient.

Moreover, tracking order status and inventory levels across the various channels also pose a problem when fulfilling in-store orders with drop shippers or via online channels. Hence having a centralized system is important. There are some tools available in the market to enable the centralization such as Zapier to add new orders from the several sales channels and Order desk to streamline all the workflow.

Conclusion

With online retail undergoing a massive revolution, many customers still opt to shop from brick and mortar stores. Endless Aisles represents a literal blend of virtual technology into the physical store to deliver an enhanced and seamless customer experience for the newer generation demographics. Implementing the endless aisle strategy enables retailers in reducing the physical inventory and floor space while, in tandem, enhancing the product assortment and customer experience.

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delivery man on bicycle

How is Delivery driving the Retail Customer Experience

The role of Delivery in driving the Retail Customer Experience

Delivery services are an integral element in the e-commerce industry. From Amazon to Walmart to Kroger to the mid-size and smaller retailers, are enhancing their purchase delivery options.

Some of the enhancements today include two-day, same day, two-hour, and kiosk pickup in and outside the store, and these are slowly becoming the norm. Amazon even offers a package drop service inside the home or even inside car trunks!

Some other announcements included two-day free delivery for its Whole Foods grocery customers in 3 different cities across the USA. Earlier this year, Target debuted Target Restock – announcing next-day delivery service where customers could order living essentials as late as 7 pm for the next-day delivery. This was done with the aim of reducing shopping inconvenience and making life easier for customers.

What is driving the delivery evolution

These enhancements are being driven by the quest to provide the best customer experience and meet the consumer expectation. Delivery is no longer just “e-commerce to home”, it is now a complex piece of the omnichannel ecosystem. There are new technologies and platforms to enable shipments from stores, lowering costs for retailers and greatly expediting delivery for customers.

Many retailers are even strategically partnering with distributors for overnight drop shipments. Leveraging this, they can carry less inventory and still be able to offer the customers with more choice. Enhanced delivery channels drive a satisfied customer experience and boost sales.

A customer experience differentiator

Waiting for a week for the purchases is becoming a thing of the past and customers are increasingly opting for faster delivery options over higher discounts.

Given all the delivery developments happening across the retail sector, it’s clear that the delivery is as critical as pricing and a viable strategy making the retail experience a simple and seamless process. With instant gratification becoming the norm, consumers are increasingly expecting the same out of material goods and services at any time of day as well.

While “free” has always been an important factor, the new customer expectation is shifting towards custom tailor delivery and the ability to change the delivery location. Customers also are increasingly expecting detailed tracking and also expect to tailor the delivery location and hours once the package leaves the distribution center.

Looking ahead

Delivery is an important factor in the space of consumer experience and is expected to only become a greater force in the retail customer experience.

With the newer delivery options coming in, delivery and pick up package options outside normal store hours will become the front-runners. This gives the choice to the customer to pick up or drop off packages at a time that is comfortable and convenient to them, instead of them having to rush to make it to the location before it closes.

There are positive predictions towards significant growth in delivery strategies in the near future as consumers, and retailers, strive to provide the ultimate streamlined pick-up experience.

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