Online-only retailers used to be at a disadvantage to bricks and mortar (B&M) stores, as actually trying on clothes has steadfastly remained the preferred shopping experience. But through convenience and familiarity of online shopping, the distinct advantage of physical stores is slowly fading.
Unconstrained by footfall at store locations, online-only retailers, such as ASOS or Thread, have innovated with regular curated deliveries, giving buyers the option to pay only for what they decide to keep. In doing so, online companies have turned their weaknesses into strengths - and as a result are producing more touch points for customer engagement.
This is a key learning for B&M, as they must now ask themselves how they can compete with Amazon, who are expanding their data-led approach into high street stores. How are B&M stores using near future technology to link up their in-store customers with their the online presence? Headstream research advises that great stories trigger purchase intent for 55% of shoppers, and so with that in mind, I’ll expand with a story.
Summer shopping haul
Pulling out a host of tired colours from her wardrobe , Lily realises she is an entirely different person as the first rays of summer brighten her bedroom. A Summer Shopping haul is her only cure. Lily shouts aloud to Alexa: “Alexa, I’m going to need some summer clothes”. What follows is some lively to and fro, as Alexa and Lily discuss shops and outfits based on some on-point observations Alexa has made about current trends, and through having compiled years of Lily’s volatile fashion preferences across all Apps, sites and channels.
A week later, Lily is in town and a Notification reminds her that not only has she got a free schedule for 3 hours right next to her favourite store, she has also been offered some outstanding vouchers which would make her trip very worthwhile indeed. If Lily is like the 54% of users behind Apadami’s 2017 survey, incentives are the main reason she has the app installed on her phone. There remains no better motivator than vouchers to get people into stores, with coupon usage raising an average of 5% every year.
Shopping staff greet Lily by the door to discuss her unique preferences and offer Lily a beaconised basket as she walks into ‘Omni-a-Porter’. Customisation features are expected by Lily, and are woven throughout the store via a comprehensive network of Aruba beacons, on shelves and baskets. These trigger key shopping moments, and for the benefit of the store staff, Lily’s continually improved profile is instantly updated and shared across Omni-a-Porter channels.
As she moves around the shop, the Omni-a-Porter shopping assistant remains in constant contact with Lily while she scans and discusses items in-store, through a multitude of Recommendation systems working upon her profile. The human assistant is only one touchpoint, with an AI assistant filling in the presence gaps. When she dwells by a particular rack for longer than usual, a human shopping assistant comes over and picks up where the algorithmic assistant left off. Lily and the assistant discuss the garment’s fair trade qualifications, as well as whether there are any other sizes in stock. She decides to leave the jeans for now, and keeps looking for the t-shirts for which she has coupons. Omni-a-Porter will be retargeting Lily with the jeans she left behind over the next few weeks, sharing some more tantalising info about them with her.
When Lily finally finds a t-shirt she likes, she scans a barcode, and checks the washing instructions, as she strides towards the fitting room. After putting on the t-shirt, she looks in the mirror. It is as she suspected: green is not her colour. She air swipes through yellow, then red, then purple - each time, her reflection’s colour of the t-shirt appears differently. Lily decides the blue t-shirt is perfect, so she pays for it using a fingerprint on her phone, then shares her emoji-laden mirrored reflection on Instagram. As she walks out of the store, a shop assistant hands her a bag:
Your blue t-shirt, size 12, Lily. Have a nice day!
So how has the above addressed touchpoints for customer engagement?
- Customer Composites: Customer Profiles are in a state of constant refinement. All channels of data acquisition and marketing must share and contribute to understanding a single picture of the customer, regardless of whether they interact through a click, tap or their voice.
- Voice Actions: Current voice interfaces are limited, but given the pace of improvement, it’s important to start participating in that customer conversation. Advances in voice interface codebases and ML will soon develop Voice interfaces into personable, natural and even desirable recommendation experiences.
- Targeted Vouchers: Retailers love the incentive and retention hook of vouchers. As customer profiles evolve, Retailers should ask themselves whether their vouchers are keeping pace with the opportunity. 25% of a public surveyed by Valassis in 2016 saved £5-£10 a month, while a further 28% saved £2-£5.
- In-store targeting: Shop floors are designed so customers move efficiently towards the best stock. This customer pairing refinement needs to dynamically evolve. Dwell time in front of displays need no longer be just a passive observation, when products like Skyfii offer realtime in-store feedback. There is no better time to get creative with a buyer than when they have the product in their hands!
- Shop floor engagement: Customers expect bespoke engagement online, so why not on the shop floor? Truly personalised experiences could offer a personal shopping experience that has previously been the domain of only the wealthiest of shoppers. Even when they are reluctant to speak to a human shopping assistant, a Shopping AI can keep in touch via any device and follow up with them once they are out the store.
- Fitting room engagement: Smart Mirrors may soon appear in the Home, but they are already improving personalised shopping in spaces such as in the Hajuko Puma store, with products like Memory Mirror. The full range of customisation options should always be available for the customer to view, regardless of on-site stock limitations.
- Unlimited Payment options: Solutions such as Worldpay Total tie together all possible payment options, which means that whatever the customer’s preferred method of payment, you can oblige.
Data-led Retailers are revolutionising their businesses by starting conversations with their customers at home, leading them to their store, and out the door with a purchase.