Digital Store Must Keep Customer Top of Mind
While digital business will influence every part of the retail experience in the near future, it’s important for stores to recognize that the customer — not technology — will still be the star of the show.
Sure, the digital store will use technology to excite customers and to streamline store operations. But, as analysts at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015 noted, delighting the customer is job #1.
And that is logical, for without a happy, satisfied customer base, a retailer has no foundation. To begin with, retailers must cover the basics: Does the store have sufficient inventory? Are the store associates pleasant and available to serve the customers? Is checkout hell on Earth? How smooth is the return process? Without those pillars in place, a retailer is stuck constantly trying to invent itself. Customers won’t wait for a retailer to “figure it out,” they’ll simply take their business elsewhere.
Technology can help bolster those pillars, making them strong enough to withstand product shortages, labor issues and other challenges.
“Well established technologies, such as electronic shelf labels and RFID used in the past in the back office for stock management, are now being used in innovative ways at the front end to enhance the customer experience,” said Miriam Burt, research vice president at Gartner. “Retailers need to evaluate how these ‘old’ technologies can be used in conjunction with newer applications of technologies such as NFC, augmented reality and smart machines for robust execution of the in-store basics.”
Once the basics are nailed down, retailers should determine how they can make their customers feel special, valued and appreciated. Historically, coupons were used to thank customers. And in the 1930s, S&H Green Stamps ushered in the first “loyalty rewards” program, with shoppers collecting stamps as a reward for making purchases, and eventually trading those stamps for other goods. Today, technological personalization and innovation can be combined to offer shoppers incentives for their continued patronage. In-store beacons, for example, offer shoppers personalized deals, discounts, recommendations and rewards based on how the shopper has been interacting in all their channels.
Today’s retailers have the opportunity to use technology, and to connect multiple systems in an effort not just to provide shoppers what they want, but to help them enjoy and enriched retail experience. In addition, that experience must reach across channels, with online complementing the brick and mortar experience, and vice versa. That means not duplicating the experience, but to offer a seamless journey, one that can pick up where the other left off. That’s the type of technology-enabled service that will have customers leaving a digital business with a smile.