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The Modern Marketing Blog covers the latest in marketing strategy, technology, and innovation.

Don't let the in-store marketing opportunity slip through your fingers

It’s easy to overlook the in-store experience with so much focus on mobile and online marketing — but don’t fall into the trap. Surprising as it may sound, the lion’s share of retail sales occur in-store, not online. According to National Retail Federation research, e-commerce sales were only 6 percent of total retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Online and mobile channels are undoubtedly important, but in-store is where the vast majority of shopping activity occurs. It’s critical for retailers to provide a great in-store shopping experience — and also to leverage exciting new mobile technologies to help close loop on customers’ in-store transaction information for a complete customer profile, online and offline.

Personalized in-store experiences

In-store technologies such as Apple’s iBeacon, geo-fencing and QR codes are a powerful way for retailers to supplement customers’ in-store experience. Many retailers that are implementing these technologies are using them to push personalized offers, rewards and recommendations, but another, often overlooked, benefit of iBeacon and other technologies is improved customer service.

According to Mobile Commerce Daily, British grocery retailer Tesco is using iBeacon in a pilot program to deliver a better, more personalized in-store shopping experience, not to push location-based offers to customers. How? Using iBeacon, the retailer helps customers locate items in a store that they’ve reserved or purchased online. Instead of bombarding customers with push notifications on every aisle, the company provides a service to help them quickly locate their items. Not only does it provide a better shopping experience, it could encourage customers to opt-in to Tesco’s mobile app experience. The program, while nascent, is a brilliant way to leverage the in-store experience to get a foot in the door with mobile when a customer (literally) steps foot into a store.

The power of 1:1

Email is one way to reach customers with product offers and recommendations before they visit a store to pick up purchased (or reserved) items. But retailers would be remiss to not use that information to better serve customers when they’re actually in the store, engaging face-to-face with employees.

Sales associates, equipped with technology and mobile devices, can deliver those offers and recommendations with a personal touch, which leads to higher sales. Take Restoration Hardware: the company gives its sales associates tablets and kiosks to record the products customers express interest in, and then follow up with an email reminder listing those products (and recommendations or offers). Everybody wins — the customer appreciates the personalized experience, and the retailer sells more products.

Move beyond push

iBeacon and other in-store technologies are useful to reach customers through push notifications — as long as the customers aren't being bombarded — but it’s also crucial to capture in-store purchase data to build a complete customer profile that spans across all channels. It’s a crucial point that’s too often overlooked by retailers.

Retailers should think about these technologies from a mobile and in-store perspective. Geo-fencing tools and iBeacon are great at showing intent by tracking where customers linger while in a store. That’s valuable, but it’s only part of the equation. Retailers must also be able to leverage the intent and purchase data to send personalized, targeted communications once a customer leaves the store. Don’t let the purchase data slip through your fingers. The best way to know whether a customer purchased those black pumps or power tools is to use eReceipts at the point-of-sale.

Close the gap between online and offline with eReceipts

While some retailers such as Apple, Home Depot, Nordstrom and Sears have adopted eReceipts, overall adoption is fairly sparse — and that’s a wasted opportunity for retailers to build a complete profile for every customer and to continue a personalized conversation with them across all channels.

The missed opportunity is two-fold. First, by not offering eReceipts, retailers fail to deliver a great customer experience. eReceipts have high engagement, and customers like — and are beginning to expect — them when they purchase in a store. Second, retailers fail to tie in-store purchase and transaction data to a customer profile. That data can be used to send relevant, personalized messages in the future — but only if retailers capture it in-store.

These days, consumers’ path to purchase is more complex than ever. They may browse online or on a mobile app, but odds are they’ll purchase in-store. Make it simple for customers to find and purchase their products in-store, create a great experience by funneling that data to sales associates  — and capture that transaction and purchase data through eReceipts. A tightly integrated online and offline marketing strategy is a foolproof strategy to increase engagement, customer satisfaction — and to build a more complete customer profile for future marketing efforts, online and offline.

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