As we’ve seen through store closures from the likes of B&Q, brick-and-mortar stores have suffered in comparison to e-commerce sites from having limited space for products, high overheads and less personalisation. The result is that these physical stores have to some extent turned into showrooms while orders and transactions are often made online.
In this environment, retailers with significant physical presence need new ways to re-build in-store loyalty. Part of the success of building loyalty online comes from the ability to gather data around customers’ online shopping behaviours – from looking at their purchases to knowing what they looked at but didn’t purchase – and using it to deliver personalised messages and offers.
Retailers can bring this level of service back in-store through the Internet of Things (IoT), which has the potential to change the in-store shopping experience.
Location: Zoning and Positioning
Indoor positioning systems such as iBeacons can be used to detect and infer a customer’s browsing behaviour in a similar way to cookies online. Combining bluetooth beacons with wireless technology means that a customer’s smartphone can be detected when it enters or leaves a store via wi-fi access points. With this network a customer’s journey around the shop floor can be accurately tracked with an accuracy of up to one metre. Retailers can even see where a customer stopped to look at merchandise, how long for, and then determine exactly which products customers are looking for.
This information can be used in conjunction with cloud based IoT platforms to deliver customised messaging on in-store displays and personalised deals to shoppers on their mobile devices as they shop. These forms of location services, display messaging and personalised marketing are transforming the marketing possibilities during the in-store shopping experience. This goes a long way towards mitigating the showrooming effect, giving retailers the power to incentivise customers to buy then and there by offering a more personal experience.
RFID tags allow retailers to monitor clothing as it arrives in store, keep a track of exactly where an item is located, and have real-time visibility over inventory levels from any connected device or cloud platform. This means that shop-floor staff can have this information at their fingertips in real time. Combining real-time tracking of inventory with the ability to communicate seamlessly with back-of-store staff means that floor staff have more time than ever to interact with customers: engaging, upselling, and adding value.
With the Internet of Things, retailers will be empowered with the intelligence to make strategic, informed business decisions that improve customer loyalty and increase effectiveness while creating exciting experiences for their shoppers. A key facilitator of this is the availability of in-store Wi-Fi, which is the foundation upon which the ability to gather insights about customers is based. The industry benefits are clear: nearly 96% of the retail industry has already started to make the necessary changes to implement IoT solutions in their businesses, and 67% have already begun deploying IoT technology.
It’s clear that the tide has already begun to turn – in today’s ultra-competitive retail marketplace, those who ignore this, do so at their peril.
By Mark Thomson Director of Retail & Hospitality Solutions EMEA Zebra Technologies
As Director of Retail Industry Solutions at Motorola Enterprise Solutions (now part of Zebra Technologies), Mark works closely with retailers and hospitality providers to provide input on how to face the challenge of a new retail landscape, where customers are often more connected and informed than shop floor staff. Mark helps retailers focus on developing a vision for their retail business that aims to improve customer experience and drive business efficiencies.
With over 24 years customer focused experience, Mark Thomson has developed in-depth knowledge of the EMEA retail market place and regularly speaks at industry events throughout the region. He has worked closely with retailers on the pain points of modern retail and explains how technology solutions can be an integral part of their business strategy to help them solve their real business challenges.
Prior to joining Motorola Solutions (now part of Zebra Technologies), Mark was head of EMEA Market Development at Zebra Technologies, responsible for helping to growing Zebra’s EMEA business by focusing activity on core growth verticals. He specifically focused on Retail. He has also held senior roles in Financial Services and Hospitality businesses.