The “brand” means more than ever today, and it encompasses all the interactions, small and large, digital and physical, that consumers have with a retailer. We have finally embraced the true success of the retail shopping experience; the experience is the Brand.
Shopping solutions of all kinds are becoming more prevalent in consumers’ lives. We talk about how kiosks can enable the connection between the online and offline worlds. When we drill down, the real objective is to sell more at retail, by meeting customers’ needs in an engaging experience. There is value in meeting consumers where they are.
We know that one place we can find today’s consumers is on their mobile phone. We hear more and more about how mobile phones will transform retail, and they likely will but behavior still has a way to go to meet up with expectations. There are some pretty outlandish numbers floating around about the number of people “using” their phones in-store. According to Forrester Research only 14 percent of people who have Internet-capable phones have used them to make a purchase, and not all of those purchases are for retail products. It could be another year or so before half of us have smart phones and engage with them.
So, if you see numbers purporting that half of shoppers are using their phones in-store, know that a few of those people are buying, some are researching and some may just be texting their “BFFL” (Best Friend For Life).
Whatever the numbers, as we think of shopping with a phone, we consider how that changes the focus of consumers while they are in-store. Customers concentrating on the tiny screen may indeed be checking reviews and product information on a retailer’s app, and they may just as easily be involved in connecting with a retailer’s competitor. Either way it is a pretty solitary experience, at its best not a very engaging experience.
Herein lies the strength of shopping kiosks, associate-controlled tablet devices like the iPad, and on-shelf digital signage. Customers are interacting on the big screen with fewer limitations to viewing content, and they are involved in a way that allows a store associate to engage and offer service unique to the customer’s needs. They are viewing proprietary information in a well-organized format that leads to decision-making and leaves room for personal selling.
We read that Generation X and Generation Y, which together comprise adults and teens under age 46, will lead us into economic recovery. These are not monolithic munchers of only things mobile. They have grown up with technology in a range of forms. They will shop in multiple ways because they show up in cross-channel shopper data. And they will value a consistency of information and a quality of presentation that addresses their needs and likes that a larger screen can deliver.
In ‘The New Consumer Behavior Paradigm: Permanent or Fleeting’, PricewaterhouseCoopers looked at post-recession shoppers. They concluded that retailers must leverage their marketing, merchandising and positioning to push their offerings that are “need to haves” and build a case for the “must haves.” This is a tall order in the context of a two-inch by three-inch screen but attainable when elements are integrated and retailers employ a variety of digital media and in-store merchandising.
This brings us to the real success at retail, collaboration across channels. Consumers, post “The Great Recession”, are looking for trust relationships with retailers. Consumers are guarding their resources and have changed their shopping paradigm in a direction that is more selective and targeted. It is the Brand that has brought the consumer back to the shopping environment. It is the experience at retail that builds loyalty and will keep them coming back.
Consumers are expecting that all contacts with the Brand, across channels, on-line, in-store, or in-hand will be consistent. They are expecting their needs to be met without limitations being placed on a particular channel. The “Brand” means more today than it did as little as just three years ago, and it encompasses all the interactions, digital and physical, that consumers have with a retailer. We have finally embraced the true success of the retail shopping experience; the experience is the Brand!
Ron Bowers is senior vice president of business development for Frank Mayer & Associates Inc.