When data gets physical — the magic of personalised bricks-and-mortar retail

Vodat International Head of Sales, Paul Leybourne, explains why it’s not all about e-commerce – high street retailers can use technology to improve the bricks and mortar shopping experience, too.

Wherever you go in retail at the moment, decision makers and influencers are talking up the importance of data and personalised customer experiences. It seems you can’t move for tripping over these buzzwords. What does seem to be in short supply, however, are practical examples of exactly how data and personalisation are having a positive impact on the in-store customer journey, but these examples of data getting physical do exist.

Here we show three ways bricks-and-mortar retailers can use strong, secure and scalable digital networks to deliver personalised in-store experiences that boost conversion rates and customer engagement.

Clienteling – know your customer

Most savvy retailers have now heard of the phrase ‘clienteling’ and the ambitious aim to ‘know’ every customer digitally at scale when they enter a store. Knowing your customer is an old idea that’s been given a modern twist thanks to digitisation and data science.

In practice, clienteling involves equipping a customer-facing sales team member with an internet enabled device such as a tablet, which is linked to the retailers’ back-end systems (customer relationship management system, inventory, order management and Epos) to provide real-time data-rich actionable insights.
These insights enable sales staff to give highly relevant and personalised product recommendations based on data such as purchase history, average order value, likes and browsing history.

The benefits for the retailer include higher conversion rates, a higher rate of repeat business, increased customer advocacy and great opportunities to upsell and cross sell highly relevant products and services.

If you want to witness slick clienteling at first hand, go to any Apple Store or a visit the bed retailer Dreams, both of which have invested wisely in in-store digital networks so they can use clienteling to great effect.

Beacons – recognising your customer

There is a huge fly in the ointment when it comes to delivering personalised in-store experiences. Before you can wow your customer you need to be able to recognised them when they arrive on your premises. This means retailers being able to identify customers in real-time when they arrive on instore, so they can share tailored content.

This is exactly what beacon technology promises to achieve. Beacons are tiny, low-energy devices that use Bluetooth technology to identify participating shoppers’ mobile phones and send out personalised content to them while they’re in or near a premise.

Personalised push notifications or text messages can then be sent to customers as they enter or pass close to a store of if they enter a particular area of the shop. Customers can be alerted to an in-store even, a sale, reminded of their loyalty status or notified if one of the items on their online wish list has been reduced in price. By connecting beacons to digital signage, retailers and hospitality companies can also provide customers with new product information. The options as limitless.

To participate customers simply need to download an app, agree to terms as conditions and have their phone switched on. Customer adoption can also be accelerated by one-off incentivisation and compelling content shoppers can’t do without.

Several big-name brands have already found success with beacon deployments. US department store Lord & Taylor has seen a 60 percent engagement rate with customers as a result of the beacon technology they installed in one of their Boston locations.

Beacon technology also provides data-rich back-office consumer Intelligence, such as how long customers stopped at personalised beacon-enabled displays, the relationship between beacon-enabled sales offers and actual sales, and similar information that can be analysed to adjust offers as well as staffing and placement of sales associates. These insights enable retailers to drive better revenue and profits from brick-and-mortar locations – as long as retailers have the strong, secure and scalable digital networks needed to cope with the increased data traffic.

In-aisle payment

In-aisle payment apps are a potential treasure trove of personalisation and a sure-fire way of providing time-poor customers with the individualised service, convenience and speed they crave.

The Co-op, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are currently among a select group of UK grocers trialling the technology which enables shoppers to pay for goods using a smartphone app. The Co-op is piloting the checkout-free scan-and-go technology in its staff store in its Manchester support centre. The grocer expects to release the technology more widely in the near future.

By linking a payment app to a company’s CRM it will be possible to collect data about an individual’s purchasing behaviour and then use this to create tailored experiences. For example, users could be sent in-app push notifications if they haven’t bought a specific product, such as pet food, for a while and could be running low. They could also be given discount codes to tempt them to buy alternative products or simply to thank them for extended loyalty. Payment apps would also be a great way to incentivise customers and keep them up to date with their loyalty card status.

Retailers who want to transform their customer data into physical in-store experiences need to invest in the kind of scalable, flexible and secure digital networks that can not only handle the increased data flows needed, but also ensure they are safe from criminal data breach. Retailers who do this will be able to unleash the power of their data and deliver the kinds of in-store experiences that modern shoppers are increasingly demanding.