There is no denying that customers are getting smarter about their shopping choices and their expectations of the retail experience are accelerating quickly. With the online retail business booming, high streets are taking the hit, and it is going to take something special to get shoppers back into stores.
If Internet of Things (IoT) technology is used in the right way, retailers can build a competitor differentiation. According to research by HPE Aruba, early adopters of IoT are already seeing the benefits, including:
- improved customer experience (81 percent);
- improved visibility across organisations (78 percent); and
- increased profitability (74 percent).
Here are a few practical steps that any store owner could – and should – implement to increase that all-important customer footfall.
Getting customers into stores
The in-store experience needs to go digital but we need to get shoppers into the store first. We know customers often have their smartphones in hand and Wi-Fi/data/location turned on, so why not send them personalised digital promotions when they are near your store? Or use digital signage in the shop window to communicate the latest offers, products and services.
IoT technology keeps the in-store experience interesting, immersive and allows retailers to constantly innovate their in-store offerings. Just look at Browns East, a retailer in London with plans to undergo a “full transformation” every two to three weeks to cater to the short attention spans of consumers. The technology the store expects to install includes: mobile points of sale, smart mirrors (to request another size of clothing without leaving the changing room) and an app that shares your purchase history and wish-lists with staff in store.
Competing with online retailers (or your own website)
- Exclusive offers and experiences such as partnerships or limited edition products will help bricks and mortar stores compete with each other – and with what’s available online.
- Once consumers have set foot in store, retailers can use connected devices to their advantage, such as:
- Arming employees with tablets so they can instantly see what’s in stock or work out how they are tracking against their monthly sales targets;
- Installing touchscreen displays where customers can look up the location of an item or preview next season’s stock or upcoming events;
- Encouraging employees to take payment through connected devices and retail payment apps to save time and increase productivity.
When retailers embrace IoT technology, the in-store experience instantly becomes more convenient and more interesting for customers and employees alike.
Getting to know your customer
If a customer is on a retailer’s website or app at the same time as being in their store, or they interact with touchscreen displays, data can be captured. Once analysed, this data helps to build customer profiles and lets businesses better understand their customers’ behaviours.
Contextual data can be used to improve the location of in-store product displays; boost the effectiveness of promotions and communications in high-traffic areas; and improve point-of-purchase influence. Real-time analytics lets retailers align staffing levels based on footfall, so money isn’t wasted staffing an empty store and full stores aren’t understaffed at peak times (like the festive season).
Going into 2018, the retail industry is all about being disruptive and offering consumers a unique in-store experience. We’ve been saying this for a few years but the difference now is that this unique experience can be achieved.
By 2019, 79% of retail organisations will have adopted IoT technology and 77% believe it will transform the industry. Bricks and mortar stores that adopt IoT now will reap the rewards – and quickly.
By Pieter Engelbrecht, Business Unit Manager, HPE Aruba