Gartner: 3 Ways Retailers Are Bridging Online and Offline Commerce Experiences
Over 30,000 people converged on NYC for NRF to learn the latest retail trends. One of biggest takeaways was that NRF now looks a lot like Shop.org. Digital technology is no longer a side dish, it’s the main entrée, with retailers lining up to hear about mobile marketing technology designed to identify, attract and engage customers before they even enter the store and digital commerce platforms that integrate with their ERP technology infrastructure and their digital marketing technology stack to support the full lifecycle of retail marketing across online and offline channels—store, Web, mobile and social networks.
The biggest takeaway from 2015 NRF was the share of mind (and Expo floor space) that retailers and technology service providers dedicated to digital technology that bridges the online and offline worlds. It appears retailers have learned that it’s no longer about funneling customer down a particular path, or even failed attempts to predict which path a consumer might follow. Today’s digital commerce experience—and even the in-store experience is becoming a digital commerce experience—is about enabling a customer-led commerce experience with meaningful connections between channels.
3 Ways Retailers are Bridging the Gap
Digitizing the in-store environment.
The Rebecca Minkoff store in SoHo and in the eBay booth at the NRF Expo features digital displays in its fitting rooms and RFID tags on all of its merchandise, allowing the display to sense what items shoppers have in the room, show how items pair together and enable shoppers to request additional colors, sizes and pieces and have them brought to the fitting room. No more awkwardly traipsing around the store in your socks or trying to flag a salesperson. In addition to improving the in-store (and in-fitting room) environment, the store also lets shoppers to save their fitting room session by choosing to send themselves an SMS and retrieve the session later on the retailer’s website.
Turning mobile associates into front-line marketers.
Integration of CRM and loyalty data and proliferation of clienteling tools on associates’ smartphones and tablets could bring this technique from luxury shoppers to the masses. Retailers can arm associates with customer data from CRM systems and loyalty programs, and info customers provide during their store visit, to tailor in-store interaction and maintain engagement after the visit. To avoid the creepy-factor, customers have to opt-in to this and brand marketing can control what info employees can see, as well as what content they can send. This allows front-line employees to become marketers and ambassadors. It may not work for all retailers due to the level of training and interaction involved, but you don’t have to shop the high-rent district to get a personal touch.
Connecting mobile consumers’ devices to drive traffic and conversion.
The bridge between online and offline can be figurative, as well as literal. Major mobile network providers are in a race to turn your car into a mobile device. But this isn’t just about helping you stay connected to friends and family, check your email or update your Facebook status. This is also about using mobile location data to make relevant recommendations—nearby restaurants, stores, and even gas stations based on your location (and the position of your fuel gauge). Seems sort of futuristic, but imagine the ability to drive literal traffic to your store or restaurant by informing nearby customers about your promotions or gas prices.
*This article was originally published on the Gartner Blog by Jennifer Polk
Loyalty is your number one focus. You just want to keep your customers happy, so you offer a deal based on the frequency of each loyal customer’s visits. That is a great offering to your customers, but what is really in it for you? The incentive of a “free” this or “complimentary” that is not enough to create loyalty. Today’s consumer expects to be treated as unique, and he wants to feel important. How are you creating that for your customers?
Making it Personalized
Make each interaction feel as personal as possible – through all channels of communication with the customer. If you have a store-front, it will take staff training to support their memory of the “regular” loyal customers. For your digital communications, it will require dynamic personalization in your emails, text messages, and in-app messages. The difference between “Good Morning! Welcome to our store” and “Good morning, Joe! Welcome back” is loyalty. You have the ability to create that loyalty by making each customer feel special and recognized. (Yes, there will be the 1% who do not want to be remembered. But you need to know who they are too)
Gathering Customer Data
How are you expected to learn the customer’s name, birthday, and favorite product? It is a simple ask. If you are offering value to that customer by gaining new information, then he or she will be happy to offer up information to improve the experience. The pieces to really plan out and take consideration around are the: How, When, How Much, and Why
- How are you asking the customer for the information? What communication channel are you using and how is the question being phrased?
- When are you asking for the information? How are you spreading our your asks? If you want to identify 5 key pieces of information about the customer (first name, last name, birthday, favorite product, frequency of purchase), then you’ll need to think about the time in between.
- How much are you asking for? Frankly, asking for a customer’s life story in a long string of texts or an online survey can be off-putting to even the most loyal customers.
- Why are you asking for this information? You have internal reasons for it, so can you be completely transparent about those reasons or do you need to plan for a more polite way of explaining?
This pizzeria spreads out their customer data inquiries over 6 months. As soon as you join the mobile loyalty program, we want to know what your zip code is. Why? So you only receive offers that are valid at the location nearest to you. It’s logical to the customer and useful to the company.
During a text campaign 1 month later, they may ask about a favorite order and ask for feedback on their menu items.
This structure avoids overwhelming or scaring the customer, but also fulfills your need to gather information – to drive loyalty.
TVs use Mobile Marketing To Increase Purchase
I remember the days when gas cost about a dollar and pumps first began taking credit cards outside. It wasn’t a place of entertainment or special customer perks – just a place to get gas and move on from. Clearly, a lot has changed in the past 15 years. Technology has advanced, which has changed shopping habits and the way that we are marketed to.
Now when I approach the gas pump I am welcomed by a touch screen asking how I want to pay today. While I pump my gas commercials and ads for the convenience store run, tempting me to spend more money than I initially planned. The concept of this TV screen built into the pump has been driven by Gas Station TV (GSTV) and a few others through partnerships with the major gas companies.
Mobile Interactions Drive Loyalty
The aim is to drive loyalty and additional revenue, however I think the experience can be further enhanced. Right now this is a purely pushed out message with the hope that a customer watches the screen and takes action. The gas station or convenience store knows very little else about the customer. This just seems like a missed opportunity to me. Why not ask the customer to take an action that is easily tracked and create a loyalty program tailored to him or her?
If the screen at the gas pump told me that I could text GAS to 70626 and immediately receive something for free or heavily discounted inside the convenience store, then I would take action. I would text in to get my mobile coupon and then the convenience store would have my mobile phone number in their text marketing database. Text marketing can be incorporated into most any marketing channel, which is why so many big brands like using it. It appears that very few, if any, gas stations/convenience stores have taken advantage of text marketing to create loyalty.