Allan Haims is a guest contributor. If you would like to contribute a post to Street Fight, contact us here.
The current boom in retail technology innovations — ranging from hyperlocal deals apps to beacons and video monitoring — are once again transforming the retail landscape. In today’s ultra-competitive retail market, where Amazon, Google and other online shopping behemoths have disrupted the glory days of brick and mortar, major specialty store retailers and mall developers are now deploying the latest technologies to engage today’s sophisticated shoppers and reignite a growth trajectory where the largest share of dollars is still spent in brick-and-mortar venues.
The dramatic growth of smartphone adoption over the past five years, combined with retailers’ organizational realignment to centrally manage digital marketing efforts, is only strengthening this marketplace’s evolution. Let’s take a closer look at this burgeoning space and its latest symbiotic innovations driving brick and mortar resurgence.
In-Store Customer Behavior and Environmental Analytics
Hyperlocal shopping data, specifically behavioral, environmental and demographics, yield a goldmine of critical information for in-store consumer engagement trends. Most major retailers’ store operations teams go to great lengths to place merchandise in strategic areas of each location but how many know whether it is optimized based on an ideal flow of traffic and other factors such as demographics?
Companies like RetailNext and Euclid Analytics offer brick-and-mortar retail teams the ability to monitor and track store traffic patterns via video technology, including gender of shoppers, timing patterns and external factors like weather. Other location analytics providers like Placed provide panel data to customers like Pandora and PayPal to track offline behavior and preferences for specific consumer segments and the stores they visit. When linked with retailers’ POS systems, brands can holistically apply this data, rich store traffic analytics and real-time sales data to improve the overall store and sales ecosystem—including ensuring proper levels of store staffing and pushing specific types of deals to shoppers’ mobile devices.
Payments Drive Customer Insights, Seamless Transactions
Another shifting piece of the hyperlocal and digital marketing puzzle is the expanded role of payments — both as a source of consumer data and a tool for expediting the path to purchase. For example, many retailers are leveraging store-branded loyalty credit cards (offered by companies like Alliance Data, Citi Retail Services and GE Capital) to tap into a foundational wealth of CRM data that can be used to automatically inform which types of customers are most likely to respond to specific retail offers. This data trove can help retailers to better tailor in-store customer acquisition efforts via a multitude of mobile and digital channels such as in store video feeds. It also offers retailers yet another digital channel to offer “instant credit” promotions to drive further in-store sales opportunities.
Additionally, heightened consumer awareness and adoption of mobile payments is helping retailers stay connected with digitally engaged customers throughout their omni-channel shopping experience. Chances are high that these shoppers have already turned to a device to research product options or access promotions, so having the option to pay via ApplePay, Google Wallet or mobile POS systems like Square offer a seamless transition from browse to transact.
Beacons, Apps and Social Campaigns Shepherding Deals
Speaking of digitally engaging consumers with in-store deals, beacons and shopping apps have come a long way in the past few years. Available across malls and stores nationwide, Wi-Fi based and native deals apps are now becoming more personalized to ensure stronger consumer engagement. Ranging from browser-based mall apps to native apps like InMarket that call on beacons and bluetooth technology to proactively push deals to smartphones, these solutions have become a go-to shopping resource for the always-on mobile consumer. Beacon technology providers are growing too, with vendors such as Estimote and Swirl joining the ranks of major providers Apple and Qualcomm. Utilizing beacons to their full extent, retailers like Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters have used Shopkick’s beacon-powered native app to entice mobile shoppers to take advantage of special deals or try on merchandise while they are in stores. For many, consumer app usage has become fluid, where they may engage with an app first (at home or while on the go) and then decide to download a particular store’s branded app after loyalty is established.
Retailers are also leveraging social media strategies to augment consumers’ in-store experience, ranging from Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest campaigns that reward shoppers for posting specific items, photos and hashtags to specific promotions that are related to an in-store shopping experience or brand event. An example of this on a grand scale was the Marc Jacobs pop-up shop during last year’s New York Fashion Week, where tweets containing the hashtag #MJDaisyChain served as the currency for purchases. On any level, incorporating social into the in-store experience both reinforces customer loyalty and offers overall proof of engagement.
Retail Inventory Gets Smart
Inventory monitoring and planning is another area where retail innovation has made major strides. As brick and mortar retailers must leverage every opportunity to drive sales while shoppers are on premise, companies like Retailigence are improving path-to-purchase marketing metrics by leveraging inventory data for brick and mortar stores to drive targeted mobile advertising promotions. Additionally, retailers like Nordstrom and Rebecca Minkoff are implementing real-time POS systems and connected fitting rooms with RFID and bar code scanners that help store associates close sales on the spot, with the option to ship a product in a different size or color directly to a consumer’s home for free—instead of losing them an online sale potentially with a different retailer.
Today’s retailers have a plethora of customer data and technologies at their disposal which can be effectively combined to personalize the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. By tapping into the rich analytics and capabilities of these cross-functional offerings, in-store retailers will be well positioned to not only regain market share lost to online options but also reinvent brick and mortar shopping as a new personalized experience.
Allan Haims, CEO and founder of StepsAway, is a former retail executive with a 20+ year career with retail brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Wet Seal, and Disney Stores Worldwide. StepsAway is an in-mall mobile retail solution offering shoppers smartphone access to hyperlocal in-store deals—driving more brick and mortar transactions.
To find out more about the latest advances in in-store analytics technology, join us at the Local Data Summit in Denver on March 5th. Hear from and network with top industry experts. Buy tickets before Friday and save $400!