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

How to use in-store technology to locate customers on the path to purchase

Customers want and expect a personalized experience with a brand. In fact, 81 percent of customers will pay more for a great customer experience, according to a report from Oracle. The first step toward creating that positive personalized shopping experience is knowing where the customer is in his path to a purchase in order to deliver targeted messages via the proper communication channel. 

That’s why retailers must listen to customers to know what types of messages are relevant. While a path to purchase may seem logical and easily tracked in the online shopping experience, many marketers are entirely in the dark when it comes to understanding where individual customers are in their in-store or offline shopping experience. How can retailers make sure they’re reaching customers at all times before and after a purchase in brick-and-mortar stores? The answer lies in new digital in-store technology that allows retailers to listen to what customers want and where they are on the path to purchase.

Each step that a customer may take before purchasing — identifying a need, researching, selecting a product and buying — aligns with a marketing opportunity. For example, when a customer researches a product, he interacts with the company’s website and may search for recommendations on social media or solicit advice from online reviews. Marketers know that those are the best channels to reach customers and the best content to move customers forward along their path to purchase.

As the customer moves along the path of purchase to selecting a product and ultimately buying one, the customer has a higher level of purchase intent. Even after the order is complete, how the customer interacts with the brand can signal whether the customer is likely to repurchase from the brand based on whether he uses the product and recommends or reviews it.

Marketers can now demystify offline purchase intent with the help of these in-store technologies:

In-store browse or quote: Some in-store shopping experiences (especially those involving high price point items) require a high level of engagement with a store associate. Retailers including Restoration Hardware are equipping their store associates with tablets or kiosks where they can send shoppers a personalized email with information about the products they looked at in the store and provide them with relevant information to move customers from researching to selecting the right products to fulfill their needs.

Geo-fencing: When mobile apps are location-enabled, retailers can provide specific offers that trigger customers to visit a store. While a customer may know that she needs a new set of makeup brushes, sending her an in-store only promotion may remind her of the need when she is conveniently close by.

QR code scan: Whether a customer is looking for a size that isn’t available in the store or wants to remember a product for later, QR codes are a simple way for customers to record that information. Marketers can conclude that customers who scan a QR code are in the “research” phase of the path, so they can send messages relevant to the shopper’s in-store browsing behavior.

iBeacon: Apple’s new technology takes location-specific offers to the next level by allowing retailers to know exactly what department a customer is browsing in a store. Many customers that are browsing are in the “research” stage, so marketers can use mobile push technology to send information related to the department that the customer is currently exploring.

eReceipt: When retailers send an eReceipt, they are effectively capturing the last step in the path to purchase. Smart marketers realize that if they acquire an email opt-in at the point-of-sale and store that offline purchase data, they now have a huge opportunity moving them along the path to re-purchase. Retailers like Crate & Barrel do a great job of offering upsell options to their customers by recommending additional products in their eReceipts. Other retailers might put these customers in a post-purchase program. Nordstrom also leverages its eReceipts as a channel for customers to provide their feedback on the in-store experience. Both of these are great tactics to move customers along the path to the next purchase.

With information about how customers are interacting with the brand, marketers can aggregate the data and develop a plan to engage customers with relevant information, even when they aren’t on the path to purchase. Maintaining customer loyalty and listening to a customer’s preferences is key to knowing how to message customers when they decide to re-enter the path to purchase.

Retailers can keep customers active by designing messages to drive revenue with abandoned cart campaigns and wish list notifications. Anniversary and birthday messages address the equally important goal of long-term customer engagement and loyalty.

Marketers must always be listening to customers, regardless of whether they're considering to purchase at that moment. Using customer data and interactions to understand where a customer is on the path to purchase can help marketers know which channels are most effective for reaching customers — and that's possible with the help of many in-store technologies that deliver value to the customer and the marketer. 

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