Online retailers have historically had one major advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers: data. But it’s now becoming easier for brick-and-mortar retailers to access the personal information of onsite shoppers—often as soon as he or she enters the premises. This information is allowing stores to pull shoppers in and efficiently direct them to specific products based on personal preferences, previous purchases, and current shopping lists.
1.3.1 Mobile Technology Drives Foot Traffic
The gap between our online and offline lives is shrinking, as the two become increasingly linked through our omnipresent smartphones. When we leave the house, our online browsing history and preferences come with us, whether we intended to go shopping or not.
Google is leading the way in targeting the omnichannel shopper by introducing a Google Now card that alerts consumers when a product they’ve researched online is available at a nearby brick-and-mortar store and what the price is. For example, if a shopper has searched for a KitchenAid mixer online and is near a Williams-Sonoma store that sells it, she’ll see a Google Now card with the product and price.
A challenge with the Google Now card is there’s no guarantee the desired product will be in stock at a particular store. But a collaboration between Google and Macy’s is solving this issue. By incorporating local inventory into mobile search in a timely, relevant way, Macy’s might be able to provide some here-and-now convenience that even overnight shipping can’t compete with.
Platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are huge traffic drivers for e-commerce sites, but how does this social activity translate to brick-and-mortar traffic? Mammut’s experimental Beacon.Store Ecosystem uses beacons to bring shoppers’ digital preferences in-store, matching what they’ve liked online to the store’s layout. Shoppers download the Mammut app and link it to their social media accounts, so the app can capture each item they pin or share. When they walk into the store, beacons alert staff that they’ve arrived, and lights specially fitted into racks highlight their favorited products. The app links online social behavior to offline browsing to give shoppers a better in-store experience.
1.3.2 Getting In, Getting Out
One major downside of shopping in stores is all the distractions. Finding a specific product can be time consuming and frustrating, but new technology is making it easier for customers to get what they need and get out with fewer headaches.
Chances are, if you shop at your local Target or grocery store on a weekly basis, you have a general idea of where basic items are in the store. Clothing is on the right-hand side, produce on the left-hand side, etc. But while familiarity whittles down the number of aisles you have to walk looking for something, it doesn’t help you pinpoint a particular item—especially if it is something you don’t normally shop for. Downloading a retailer’s app and creating a shopping list can save valuable time, however. To help bargain hunters find deals and navigate the crowds on Black Friday, Target partnered with indoor-mapping company Points Inside to add in-store maps to its mobile app. Now shoppers can type in an item they’re looking for and see exactly where it is in the store.
Sometimes, navigating the crowds and browsing are part of what makes the shopping experience fun. At Galeries Lafayette, the goal is less about saving time and more about optimizing time spent wandering around the historic 10-story Paris department store. Customers can use the store’s app ahead of time to create an itinerary around their favorite brands. Once they’re inside the store, the app uses geolocation to guide them to their selections. The app can also help them find their friends within the maze-like store.
Sainsbury’s, a UK-based supermarket chain, is testing a timesaving app that offers a little bit of everything. The app lets customers create shopping lists and guides them to their chosen proucts. Once there, they can scan and pay for the items with the app, skipping the checkout line.
For people who don’t want to go to the store, there’s always delivery. Whole Foods Market recently partnered with Instacart, a digital service that sources on-demand grocery delivery. Whole Food shoppers in Boston and Austin can also order online and pick up items in store at a time of their choosing using a locker system similar to Amazon Locker.
1.3.3 A Shared Interface for Simplified CRM
While customer relationship management (CRM) systems have been around for ages, they no longer reside in databases on desktop computers. Today’s platforms are manifesting in the real world, bringing face-to-face customer relationships into the Connected Age.
Often, the information gathered through these platforms isn’t entered by some anonymous data broker or low-level clerk. In many cases, the information is input by the customer.
Tiffany is piloting a “clienteling” app at its famous Fifth Avenue flagship in New York City. The app lets customers make an appointment to view the rings they’ve saved in their queue. When customers arrive, they’re greeted by name at the entrance, escorted to the engagement section, and introduced to an associate who speaks their language and has already gathered the rings they want to see, in their size. They even get a glass of champagne.
For sales associates, the app is an easy way to keep track of customers, understand individual preferences, and prepare for the meeting so they can create an experience that lives up to each customer’s expectations. The app also allows sales associates to gain the information they need to follow up with customers after the visit. This app and an accompanying Ring Finder app are big steps toward creating a seamless transition from digital consideration to in-store purchase.