Speed and personalisation. These are perhaps the two factors which separate the successful retailers of today from the rest. A customer’s experience should be seamless from the second they enter a shop, to the moment they hand over their cash at the counter. Simple, smooth and hassle-free at every step. The key to achieving this is understanding the customers and knowing what they will need at that exact moment.
It is the ability to excel in this respect which has seen the likes of Amazon flourish in recent years while High Street stalwarts have foundered: while Amazon has been named the most valuable retail brand in the world and making forays into new sectors, bricks-and-mortar retailers are struggling to keep up with the growing expectations of the customers. It’s for this reason that virtually every conversation around retail lapses into hand-wringing about the inevitable demise of the High Street.
But does it need to be inevitable? What if, rather than wistfully reminisce about some idyllic yesteryear where shops were full and shoppers easily satisfied, bricks-and-mortar retailers fought back?
Retailers shouldn’t fear technology and should look to beat the eCommerce giants at their own game. By combining the benefits of technology with the aspects of shopping in-store that can’t be replicated online, retailers can create a winning shopping experience for customers. Location-Based Services (LBS), a customer experience analytical software, will be key to evolving retailers’ business models and take the fight to online retailers.
Location, Location, Location
Location has always been critical to retail success but with LBS, this is set to take on a new meaning. LBS are the portal to in-store personalisation, gathering and analysing with ease a whole range of data that typically only e-tailers have access to. Insights into customer demographics, duration visits, in-store behaviour and customer preferences are all trackable and consequently actionable. Store layouts can be remoulded and optimised to provide more compelling shopping experiences. Likewise, as customers are increasingly willing to use their smartphone throughout the path-to-purchase and utilises it as a medium to channel information, contextualised incentives and offers can be pushed directly to their smartphone, at the time when they will be the most effective. Customer’s desire for more relevant and tailored experience has never stopped rising, and personalised in-store experience has become a very critical factor in influencing customers when they choose a shop. Being adaptive and responding to the new market dynamics and ever-growing expectation of the customers are crucial to earn loyalty from them and ultimately turn their fortunes around.
When looking to deploy LBS, retailers are faced with a choice. They can commit a substantial portion of their IT resources to employ a team of data scientists to develop a fully customised solution using multiple third-party products. Alternatively, partner with a vendor providing them with a pre-integrated solution that will provide access to insights instantly.
The needs of every retailer are different but when making this decision, there are three essential questions they should ask themselves: what is the time to market, who owns the data collected and is the solution future-proofed.
What is the time to market?
Retail is a cutthroat industry, categorised by competition and a constant battle for brands trying to set themselves apart from one another. Therefore the temptation might be to opt for a tailor-made solution. This, however, can cause more problems. As much as retailers need to stand out, being left behind is a far worse fate. While a bespoke solution might sound appealing, retailers might have to wait months before they start to see ROI. As such, keeping up to get ahead can prove to be a better option than trying to reinvent the wheel. This is why ‘plug and play’ technology solutions are so popular – easily adapted to any environment and able offering value from the moment they have been installed.
In a market where retailers all too often are pulling down the shutters for one last time, deploying solutions that make money now should always be front of mind.
Who owns the data?
Data is the currency of modern business. For retailers considering LBS solutions, being able to access the data they collect without limitations is vital. That data will be used to validate decision-making around store operations and marketing strategies; it is where they will derive their competitive difference. If that data is owned or sold to other entities – as is often the case with third-party products – that difference is lost. It might even be that data collected by one retailer is sold to direct competitors, further damaging the retailer. Full, unrestricted and exclusive access to data will allow retailers to create personalised experiences for their customers. Ownership of the data being collected should, therefore, be a primary consideration when deploying LBS solutions.
Are you future-proofed?
If a retailer is working on an LBS initiative it is likely to be a significant investment not just for now but the future too. They will want this solution to be delivering value for five years, 10 years or possibly more. This means thinking about the overall direction and strategy of the brand and picking a suitable solution. Are there plans to expand into new markets and open new branches? For a purely physical retailer, are there plans to open an online store and will they want to integrate with online tracking tools? A good LBS solution should be both scalable and interoperable with other solutions.
Tech Means Hope for the High Street
Having an agile solution is imperative to surviving the fast paced nature of retail. Being able to complement the unquantifiable something that comes from shopping in-store aspect with the speed and convenience that technology can provide will be the key to creating all-new and all-compelling retail experiences for customers. Whether it’s offering timely coupons for savings or using data to reshape the layout of stores, retailers should turn to LBS technologies to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world.