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3 ways technology is driving personalized in-store shopping

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With the technology and data available, it’s no surprise to see the online shopping experience make a dramatic shift toward personalization. Retailers use various identifiers, ranging from user accounts to browser cookies to customize a shopping experience based around their customers’ individual needs and desires. With so much data acquired through digital channels, retailers are able to map out customer journeys, make relevant product recommendations and offer highly specific promotional content.

However, it has been much more difficult to offer a similar level of personalization at the retail store level. Most retail companies use software automation to gather data for online shoppers, but struggle to replicate this process in-store. Retailers have lacked the tools needed to tailor the shopping experience to their in-person customers, outside of simply getting to know their loyal, regular shoppers over time.

Retail consumers in the U.S. have noted this lack of personalization in the shopping experience. For example, the recent Accenture Personalization survey found that customers are very willing to trade personal information for a more tailored
in-store experience. Shoppers are looking for retailers to give them in-store perks, such as automatic discounts at the point of purchase or real-time notifications of relevant promotions.

While it may have been difficult in years past, new technologies have emerged to enable a more seamless path to serve customers the way they want to be serviced. Below are just three ways retailers are using technology to empower their
in-store associates to deliver a more efficient and personalized shopping experience.

Mobile devices empower customer service

Retailers can use cross-channel identifiers such as email addresses and customer names to create a unified shopper profile across all shopping avenues. With mobile devices, in-store associates can engage customers as they browse around and easily access customers’ history with the retailer by simply asking for one of those identifiers.

For example, store associates could use previous purchase history to help the customer solve a problem, recommend the correct product add-ons, suggest related items and generally just get a better feel for the customer’s interests. With mobile devices, stores associates are no longer shooting in the dark as they try to serve shoppers. Most consumers already use their own mobile devices to research purchases in-store. This gives store associates the opportunity to step in and provide that desired extra information.

Moreover, mobile devices can aid in other critical operations, such as checking inventory levels at other stores or processing payments through mobile points-of-sale systems. The potential value mobile devices bring to the table is tremendous.

Beacons

Numerous retailers are already leveraging beacon technology as a means to greater personalization and interaction within the store. By now, I’m sure you’ve experienced this firsthand when you received that email or text message about the latest sale the minute you entered your favorite store. This hardware can be installed throughout shops to transmit these types of messages directly to customers’ smartphones or tablet devices.

There is really no limit when it comes to dreaming up ways of using beacon messages. One common application is delivering notifications about sales or promotions to customers as they walk past the item on the shelf, possibly further targeting customers based on purchase history to ensure relevance.

There are several other ways to leverage beacon technology. For example, retailers could locate beacons toward the front of the store to target people walking buy with a lucrative incentive. Or they could use beacon technology to promote new products before they hit shelves to drive awareness or anticipation, driving future store visits. The key is discovering what information and content will be pertinent or entertaining to customers.

Interactive dressing rooms

Shopping for clothes online can be a pain, simply because people cannot always guarantee fit before making the purchase. I for one, just can’t get myself to buy shoes online, never mind clothes. However, that does not mean that elements of shopping for clothes online should be ignored when creating an in-store experience.

Interactive dressing rooms at brick-and-mortar stores (like the one’s at Rebecca Minkoff) combine the best of both worlds, letting people read reviews, request store associates to bring different sizes or colors to the changing room or recommend similar items. And if a particular size or color is not available in the store, all the inventory data of the desired item is readily available to the in-store associate so inventory can be sourced and shipped from another store or fulfillment center right to the customer’s home.

Interactive technology can improve other areas as well. For instance, stores can set up in-store kiosks that show people product demos, let them check product availability, reserve items in advance and take other similar actions that make the cross-channel sale much smoother.

The shopping experience has changed dramatically and people have higher expectations now than they’ve held in the past. Retailers hoping to serve shoppers effectively need to tailor their offerings to the needs of their customers, regardless of whether they choose to shop in-store or online. Using the latest technology offerings, ranging from beacons to interactive tools, can help sellers better cater the experience to each customer.

David Anderson
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May 1, 2015
David Anderson

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