|| The Perspective
Wednesday, 18 March 2015
By Jessica Glynn
Consumers may love shopping online, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right for all purchases. Sometimes, you need to try before you buy. This is where having a physical location comes in handy.
Retailers that began in an exclusive eCommerce format like Birch Box and Athleta have started opening brick and mortar locations over the past few years. Now even Amazon is opening physical locations.
Google may be thought of first as a search engine, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their place in retail. After all they have products to sell; like laptops, phones, tablets and Chromecasts. In the future they may also have a reinvented version of Google Glass. With this in mind, they have opened their first “shop in shop”, called The Google Shop, in Curry’s PC World in London.
The Google Shop will allow customers to explore the different devices available from Google and to learn about how the devices work together.
Features of the Google Shop
Just because the Google Shop is a shop within a shop, doesn’t mean it’s a simple mall kiosk where you buy cell phones. The Google Shop experience is a unique, innovative and interactive one.
It features “Portal”, a surround-screen which allows users to explore Google Earth. The “Doodle Wall” lets customers use digital spray cans to paint their own version of a Google logo, which they can then share on social media. The “Chromecast Pod” is a spot for customers to watch movies from Google Play or videos on YouTube. The “Shadowbox” is positioned to be visible from the sidewalk to draw passersby into the store. It shows rotating digital art which highlights local London landmarks.
The Google Shop will also host public events and classes, including Virtual Space Camps which will teach children how to code.
Wednesday, 04 March 2015
A year later, retailers are reporting positive results from iBeacon campaigns. There are, however, still challenges from the caveats associated with iBeacons.
Specifically, customers must be iPhone users. They must download the retailers’ app. They must enable Wifi on their phone and opt-in to receive notifications. Many consumers are not willing to opt-in because they have privacy concerns about retailers collecting their data. Physical Cookie gives retailers and their customers the benefits of iBeacons without having to meet all of these requirements.
What is Physical Cookie?
Physical Cookie is a RFID-tag within a piece of plastic, usually on a key-fob, which retailers can give to their customers as they shop. The customer puts Physical Cookie in their pocket and then has to take no additional steps. Electric readers are then placed around the retail store. The Physical Cookie key-fob collects data in real-time in the same way cookies on websites do (hence the name). Digital screens within the store, show customers advertisements based on their behavior. Customers do not sign up or register, so there are no privacy concerns involved. Physical Cookie has operated in the Citycenter shopping mall in Helsinki, as part of a trial since Fall 2014.
Physical Cookie is easier for the consumer to use than iBeacons. Unlike the Bluetooth technology used for iBeacons, Physical Cookie is always on. Instead of pinging a user’s phone, the actual retail environment reacts to the consumers behavior, which feels much less spammy.
The Physical Cookie Customer Loyalty Program
In the Citycenter trial, a customer loyalty program called VIP-key was launched. The VIP-keys were given to 14,000 randomly selected customers who were then automatically part of a loyalty program, without ever having to opt-in, register, or sign up for anything. The trial was in a shopping center but Physical Cookie has said this can work for both retail chains and for brands working within big-box retailers.
While this trial was conducted using Physical Cookies in a key-fob format, the company said in the future this does not necessarily have to be the case. The key-fob format was selected with the thought process that customers enter the shopping center with their wallet, mobile phone, and keys with them. The average customers wallet is already full of loyalty cards, and mobile phones would require opt-in. The key chain was chosen instead because it does not already have any smart device on it.
- The VIP-key cost the equivalent of about two cents in US Dollars.
- 15% of the VIP-keys were active.
- They showed a 14.5% increase in activity between floors.
- There a was a 21.7% increase in time spent in the shopping center.
For more information on enhancing your customers’ retail experience, please visit our About page.
Photo Credit: Physical Cookie
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Is it just me, or is virtual reality (VR) popping up everywhere? Whether you’re chowing down on pizza or waiting at a bus terminal, interactive VR technology is growing every day. Now, we’re seeing the first smart retail store using this technology.
You might think the Rebecca Minkoff flagship retail store would want the incredible technology it created with partner eBay to be the focal point of the retail space. But it’s precisely the opposite — they made it as subtle as possible.
Reflecting the Future
High-tech touch screen mirrors bring the online world into the physical retail space. At first glance, they look like regular mirrors, until shoppers tap to transform them into touch screen, virtual reality havens.
Shoppers select the pieces and sizes they want to try on and a sales associate will bring the items directly to a changing room. Shoppers receive a text message when their room is ready — hello, omni-channel networks!
One Step Further
The smart changing room takes it even further to enhance the interactive shopping experience. RFID technology allows the self-service software to recognize each item within the room. With one tap on the touch screen mirrors, shoppers can request different sizes, place items into virtual shopping carts, and purchase.
The software also attaches each item tried on and purchased to a shopper’s account. This allows it to make intelligent retail recommendations based on the customer’s taste in the future, further customizing the experience.
The smart store understands that VR can’t replace the need to physically experience something. We’re seeing this with larger items too, like Audi’s virtual reality car showroom. For as amazing as this interactive technology is, Audi also incorporates samples of interior and exterior finishes for customers to touch.
Having physical samples is important for both large-item retailers and stores with mass customization options. A shoe store, for example, could have one sample pair of shoes with virtual images and physical swatches of all the different materials the style comes in.
Previously, we’ve always looked at an online store as an extension of the physical store, but the smart store flips this idea on its head. eBay views the physical items in the smart store as a manifestation of the online experience. Pretty crazy, right?
What do you think — would you want this technology in your retail experience? Or is this too much, too soon?
Wednesday, 04 February 2015
By Reflect Systems
The world of retailing just keeps getting more exciting as the landscape continues to radically shift and morph with new business models and approaches in the age of the Connected Customer. Traditional retailers have been honing their digital chops with omnichannel strategies. But we’re also seeing other brands that are not traditional retailers now expanding with efforts to get closer to the consumer with a “physical” retail presence.
A new form of retailers are emerging and exploring the benefits of physical stores and showrooms. While many brands have leveraged pop-ups and store-in-store implementations, dedicated stand-alone locations are increasingly part of the strategy for many brands. Examples include Nike, Levis, Polo Ralph-Lauren and many others.
Some brands have had long-standing programs using their own branded store locations. Some of these brands rely on the bulk of their sales through wholesale channels and now, increasingly, through online purchases. But they have also leveraged their own physical stores for branding and customer insights.
Newcomers continue to move into the physical store landscape. Samsung, seeking to increase brand awareness and better customer education, made a big effort with a store-in-store partnership with Best Buy and will soon be seeking to test their own dedicated stores to further solidify their brand presence and compete with the likes of Apple.
Now, even more interestingly, e-tailers are getting aggressive with new forays into dedicated shops and “showrooms". While some of these efforts are still experimental, toe-in-the-water programs, many examples are proving to be quite successful to brands seeking to move beyond the confines of the digital world to establish valuable face-to-face connections with customers. Some of these brands may keep their physical footprints relatively small to grow awareness in strategic markets and leverage customer insights to further strengthen their online business. Others may prove to be more expansive and farther reaching.
There are many cases of brands moving into the physical store game, including Bonobos, Warby Parker, Birchbox, J. Hilburn, Trunk Club, Alton, Justfab, SwimSpot, Nasty Gal, BaubleBar, and others.
Many of the newcomer brands like to the physical retailing world are starting the move to the physical world by experimenting with pop-ups and store-in-store formats before taking the plunge into dedicated stores.
Birchbox, Athleta, and Amazon
Birchbox, a New York-based apparel e-tailer, has been one of the oft-cited examples of this transitional, phased approach to entering physical stores. They partnered to make selections of merchandise available in Nordstrom and Belk stores. Birchbox expanded their own presence with dedicated “Guideshops” in multiple major markets.
Athleta, previously a web retailer for women’s sportswear, was acquired by Gap, Inc. and is making the move into dedicated brand stores. While other e-tailers will face learning curves on the science of merchandising in the real world, Athleta will likely benefit from the operations and traditional retailing expertise of Gap.
And then there’s the proverbial elephant in the room… Amazon. It’s unclear what their overarching long-term strategy is for physical retail presence, but they are likely to make waves.
Insights and Lessons Learned from Brands Moving to Dedicated Physical Stores
- Boosting brand awareness and creating a connection with new customers is a big driver for many businesses. However, there are lessons being learned related to timing and brand awareness. While going physical may be a good move for some online-only businesses, it helps to have recognized brand and buzz before opening physical stores.
- Personalized services like beauty consultations and other one-on-one appointments are playing a big part in this new world of connected retailing. Stylists in Trunk Club locations consult with customers and fill a “digital trunk” with selected products to be shipped to the customer. This approach is proving to be effective at helping men who may not like the hassle of shopping, but need help and consultation to quickly find the right fit, brands and accessories that are right for them.
- E-tailers and consumer product brands are recognizing the customers’ desire to touch and feel products in the real world. Many products are challenging to effectively sell online. Apparel, glasses, and makeup and beauty products in particular can benefit from physical shopping. This can be a challenge for e-tailers as they move from online to physical. They must learn or acquire the knowledge to merchandise products using best practices ingrained in traditional retail models.
- The art/science of product curation has a big impact in showrooms for engaging the customer and educating them on offerings. Brands are experimenting with the breadth and depth of the products to show in the store, and they are finding the best ways to merchandise in person. Birchbox, for example, has showcased products by category, rather than by brand.
- In-store events like celebrity appearances, classes, and other events like make-up and beauty parties provide brands with more opportunities to leverage the in-person benefits of a physical location. Using the storefront or showroom to leverage the “art of the happening” may prove to further enhance the brand to consumer connection.
- Digital is still playing a part in the physical store. Even as traditional retailers are embracing in-store digital technologies, e-tailers and brand stores have an even stronger reliance on having a seamless connection with the web. Birchbox uses video content and product reviews with their interactive in-store displays. Alton Lane, another men’s apparel retailer, uses a 3D body scanner to take measurements, providing an in-person edge over the challenge of finding the right fit online.
- Some of these new in-store purchases have shown higher average transaction sizes versus online. They are also seeing customers acquire a higher comfort level with brands in-store, then transitioning with ease to making follow-up purchases online.
- One of the big findings of e-tailers has been that there are still many people who just like the act of browsing products in person. While traditional retailers are getting better at their web presence, e-tailers are learning how to best bring their website into the physical world.
- Shopping, for many, is still an activity and event providing an outlet for moving around and exploring. As Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal has acknowledged, shopping is a form of entertainment.
While the online and physical worlds collide and alter the retail landscape, the recognition of the value of physical presence is gaining more visibility. Online is big, but brands are also getting physical.
Tuesday, 06 January 2015
Ron Bowers (bio)
SVP, Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates
Millennials controlling 70% of the spending power in the U.S. creates vast uncertainty amongst retailers; but with the strongest economy in years, optimism prevails as we begin 2015.
For many retailers, the Millennial consumer is an enigma: they are more suspicious of who to trust and yet, more likely to be influenced by apps and social media than any other generation. Only 19% of Millennials (versus 40% of Baby Boomers) say that, “generally speaking, most people can be trusted” (PewResearch). However, in order to make buying decisions, consumers look to a retailer’s online presence and social influence before considering a purchase.
This generation’s spending habits are moved by its self-paradox. Millennials are self-focused and at the center of their own global communications. It is vital for them to have a positive self-image while finding a sense of belonging when purchasing consumer goods. They desire self-preservation and a personal connection to a product or service.
So, what does this mean for retailers?
The heightened competition amongst store fronts and e-commerce will increase. Currently, roughly ¾ of consumers claim to showroom (Retail Future Trends 2015) or rather compare brands in order to receive the lowest price, best quality and/or widest selection of merchandise when shopping—many times without ever stepping foot in a store. This creates less in-store traffic and increased wavering among dominant brands. So, retailers must draw their target markets in through a strong online presence while providing feelings of exclusivity and individuality for a reasonable price.
To draw consumers into their store fronts, many retailers have begun incorporating various electronic capabilities; this includes the use of tablets, interactive kiosks and beacon technology. Tablets and interactive kiosks extend inventory past what can be offered in stores. The use of tablets has expanded into the retail environment to replace paper signage with digital advertising while providing sales associates quick and easy access to inventory, online ordering, product information and faster checkouts. Interactive Kiosks act in a similar way – allowing for added promotions through electronic ads specified to a department and the time of day. They also enable retailers to connect with consumers by blending in-store merchandising and virtual product displays. Beacon technology, on the other hand, provides the retailer with direct communication to the consumer and has the potential to completely change the in-store shopping experience by creating personalized and targeted marketing in real time. A beacon uses a Bluetooth signal to send special offers to nearby smartphones equipped with the store’s app. App users will receive targeted messages and deals while moving throughout the store.
Let’s say you’re shopping at a retailer equipped with these devices and have previously downloaded the store’s app. As you walk through the doors, your phone buzzes with an exclusive storewide discount. You wander into the home goods department and begin looking for a new blender when your phone alerts you of a sale on KitchenAid products. You can’t pass up the sale price and find the specified blender but are not happy with the color selections available in store. Scanning the product’s barcode at a nearby kiosk, you find additional product specifications, customer reviews and available colors. The color you’d like is available only online. No need to worry. Once your shopping is complete, you bring all of your selections to the nearby associate. They ring you up on their iPad and include the desired blender and ship it directly to your home.
As many stores have already begun implementing this technology, this experience won’t be a thing of the future for long. In fact, Macy’s has added 4,000 iBeacon devices nation-wide and provides coupons via this technology to customers who have downloaded ShopKick. They have also begun testing smart dressing rooms and an image search app. The smart dressing rooms have a wall-mounted tablet that allows customers to view various sizes and colors of a product while the image search app allows customers to snap a photo of an outfit or clothing item to find similar items on sale.
With these exciting advancements in technology, 2015 will be a year to watch how the in-store experience changes to accommodate the self-regarding Millennial. While it is clear that tech-enhanced stores offer an enriched shopper experience with benefits like improved productivity, inventory counts and use of store square footage, we have yet to determine exactly how to incorporate this technology so that it is most useful to each individual without overwhelming them.
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
By David McCracken
I don’t know about you, but it seems every time I’ve been in a Starbucks over the last few weeks, it seems like everyone is scanning their smartphone instead of paying with cash. The retail world is moving so quickly towards convenient technology solutions like these, and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Craig W. Smith, founder of the New Channels Department at London retail giant Marks & Spencer, gave his predictions for the five pretty incredible in-store retail technology trends we will see in the next year. (Original source: http://retail-innovation.com/)
1. First payment by smart watch
Smart watch payment…because reaching into your pocket or purse is too much effort (not!) Smith predicts we will move beyond paying with cash, credit cards, or even smartphones, to paying with your wrist wear. The smart watch will establish itself as a credible payment instrument.
2. First Google Glass in-store retail applications
Google Glass applications are popping up in the medical and hospitality industries, and retail will soon join them. Retailers will offer applications like customer recognition, personalized concierge services and pick, pack & dispatch.
3. Personalized targeting with beacon technology
Smith says retailers will start to engage customers with location-based personalized targeting. When customers enter a certain geographic range, retailers can send targeted promotions straight to their mobile phones.
4. Pay and go using your mobile
Have you been in a grocery store that allows you to scan your items as you put them into your cart? Picture the same thing…but with your smartphone. In the next 12 months, retail stores will trial software that allows customers to scan items as they shop and pay on their phones before exiting the store.
5. Payment on shop floor will move from trial to full-scale rollout
Some retailers are currently taking payments on devices like iPads, but mobile payment is definitely not without its challenges. Over the next 12 months, Smith predicts that hardware and solution providers will fix these problems, which will lead to more and more retailers adopting them. Mobile payments will move from proof-of-concept ideas into fully-fledged rollouts.
In which of these trends do you see the most potential? What other tech predictions do you have for the next 12 months?
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.
There is a fascination with studying Millennials since they are a cradle-to-grave digital generation and the heirs to vast purchasing power as their Baby Boomer parents pass the consumer torch. There are some noteworthy contrasts, and marketers should be asking what they need to do to change their stores and products.
Because Millennials have grown up with a variety of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops, they are considered by some researchers to be more adept at task switching than older generations. Nielsen’s 2012 State of the Media Report identifies characteristics like multi-sensory processing power and response to intense color palettes when comparing Millennials to their Boomer parents.
In planning for marketing to Millennials at retail, younger people may respond positively to more vibrant graphics and interactivity, but there is still a commonality of experience that requires in-store merchandising not to lose sight of the fundamentals.
In the end, the human animal doesn’t change much. We are all looking for a path to an ideal, especially when we’re young. On one level or another we are often searching for a way to become what we perceive to be ‘more than we currently are’.
For example, I’m going to purchase the pair of headphones that costs $100 more than the next pair if it has been effectively communicated to me, that if I purchase THIS product, in some way, I am receiving some of that famous rapper’s DNA. In making this purchase, I am now ‘more’. This purchase is a step on the journey to actualizing my ideal in a real, tactile way.
As designers, we’re most successful when we design a retail piece that sets the stage for that kind of transference. We utilize the most appropriate technology available to extend that offer in a way that breaks through the noise, to make that offer to ‘become’ heard and understood.
I’m curious what you think. Perhaps we’re turning up certain tactical elements of marketing and merchandising to appeal to a younger, purely digital generation while acknowledging some universal common aspirations.
Wednesday, 08 October 2014
By Christopher Hall
The aesthetics of digital signage and design — and the intermarriage of the two — are in flux. The idea behind digital signage is now in many cases as much about providing a digital experience as about advertising a sale or delivering a message. And design, specifically the design of a physical space, is becoming more and more about connecting people to place with experiences — experiences that can be provided or enhanced by digital signage.
A look at how the two can work, and in some cases already are working, together brought Justin Molloy, the director of education for The Society for Experiential Graphic Design, together with Matt Schmitt, the president and co-founder of in-store digital media solutions provider Reflect, at the recent Digital Screenmedia Association Symposium in Dallas.
"We don't want to just throw technology at the wall," Schmitt said during the duo's presentation, "Connecting People to Place Through Digital Experiences," that looked at how digital signage can help create the built space as an integrated design element as much as bricks or mortar are. "[Designers] want to understand how it complements the environment."
Digital signage and screen media have changed, as have the perceptions of them by outsiders, Molloy said. They are becoming viewed by architects and designers as a key part of a tool kit for creating branded experiences, and have moved beyond being seen as useful primarily for wayfinding or dynamic messaging, he said.
"Where does the screen end and where does the drywall begin?" he asked. "The traditional silos that have existed for so long have blurred."
The SEGD is a collective that bills itself as a "global, multidisciplinary community of professionals who plan, design and build experiences that connect people to place," according to its website, and it includes a range of "graphic and information designers, fabricators, architects, exhibition designers, technology integrators, interaction designers, brand strategists, students, wayfinding specialists, teachers and others who have a hand in shaping content-rich, experiential spaces."
"People are creating experiences that connect people to place," Molloy said. "They're creating that relationship between content and space."
Molloy provided captivating visual evidence of that with several video case studies — including one from the Yale School of Management in Connecticut and another from the lobby of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Both showed digital signage technology as an architectural and experiential medium that had more to do with how people experienced the built space.
At the Cosmopolitan, the digital signage is part and parcel of the built space, it seems, covering lobby pillars and creating a sensualized experience for visitors.
And at the Yale School of Management, not only did digital signage become a key component of the building and the experience of the space, data itself became a key element of the signage and the experience.
Still, despite the changes, one key thing remains the same, and that is that the merger of design and digital signage or experiential technologies still needs to have and achieve a defined objective, Schmitt said.
Schmitt started off the talk by going over a project his firm did for upscale jewelry chain James Avery in which digital signage was a key component of the new store design from the start. The process "really drove home" the value of having designers take part in the same discussions with marketers and technology providers, he said. The designers too often work in parallel with, or in isolation from, the other two, according to Schmitt.
"They need to be at the table," he said, rather than just being told they have to fit a screen in somewhere. "So they can make it seamless and still achieve the objective."
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
by Joe Holley
Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc.
Millennials are as large a demographic group as their Baby Boomer parents and their presence is already felt at retail. Their power to purchase and influence is on the rise.
Despite having lived through the Great Recession and carrying an average of $25,000 in student loan debt, Millennials’ $600 billion of spending is projected to increase to $1.4 trillion by 2020. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is naturally interested in this economically powerful group and concludes they will “completely upend many of the established businesses, methods, and processes that have defined the U.S. Public and private sectors for decades.”
This generation is moving at a pace that legacy retailers are hard-pressed to keep up with. The physical store is still the focus of the vast majority of sales, but there is a plodding but undeniable “any channel” transformation being influenced by Millennials’ desire for shopping without boundaries.
Besides renovating disparate technology platforms, what are retailers doing to court this powerful, ascending generation? Their responses include changes to format, visual merchandising, product displays, digital signage, interactive shopping experiences, location-based mobile communication and targeted product offerings.
Take for example, Macy’s, which is incorporating many of these strategies. They’ve developed apps and installed Wi-Fi. They’re using Shopkick and testing iBeacon for location-based in-store offers. They’re integrating interactive technology into numerous departments to satisfy expectations for immediacy, access and engagement with fresh content. Localized product assortments catering to specific Millennial sub-segments are a part of their merchandising strategy. So committed to this target is Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren that he has breakfast monthly with a group of Millennial employees to get their feedback.
There are numerous other examples of retail transformation in our latest whitepaper Succeeding with Millennials as well as a list of implications for marketing to Millennials that emerge from vast amounts of research being conducted on them:
- Embrace the multi-channel mindset by catering to expectations for relevancy and accessibility that are rooted in online experience.
- Create store environments that merge physical and digital elements.
- Create environments that are vibrant and dynamic.
- Balance deal-oriented incentives with exceptional experiences in order to win hearts and pocketbooks.
- Develop marketing and merchandising plans that incorporate multi-directional engagement.
- Incorporate opportunities for validating purchase decisions through peers and ratings/reviews.
I’m sure you have others to add.
Tuesday, 02 September 2014
Brand advocates are easily the knights of the branding chess board. Versatile enough to reach the audiences regular marketing can’t; they are key players well worth your time and effort. Armed with one of the most powerful weapons of our time, the internet, advocates can create a tidal wave of buzz around a brand in few simple clicks. Their good reviews are marketing gold. In fact, 90% of consumers believe Internet recommendations are the most credible persuasion when purchasing a product or service(1)
How Do You Get Customers to Advocate Your Brand?
So people seem to like your brand: Your products are trustworthy and you’ve trained your employees to have great customer service skills. You market your sales and special events, but you still can’t seem to create a special connection between your customers and your brand. While customers may spend money on your products and services, they aren’t compelled to talk about it.
To create conversations about your brand, you need to be innovative and unique. 60% of consumers feel more positively about a company after reading custom content on their sites or #digital displays. (2) Digital signage incorporates endless options for viewer engagement. One of the top three reasons consumers will follow a brand on social media is for interesting content.(3) Digital signage is a medium that can provide interesting content that reaches every shopping persona. Instead of using static marketing to relay one or two messages about your brand, digital signage plays dynamic content and integrates social media applications. Therefore, campaigns can be designed to target specific shoppers at specific times of the day.
Select the Right Promoters
Once you’ve engaged and engrossed potential advocates with your dynamic digital media, you can start deciding who is worthy of being your brand cheerleader. Keep this in mind: the entire world can love your brand, but they don’t all have to be your advocates. Choose a couple influential members (with lots of appropriate followers) to can reach your targeted audience with the correct messages.
3 Ways Digital Signage Can Help You Retain Your Advocates
Once the relationship is solidified, put together a program to thank, reward, and maintain your advocate. Don’t make this a campaign, campaigns don’t last; make this an ongoing program. Longevity is good for a relationship, after all. Have an entire plan for the program so that you can identify how you and your advocate will both get what you want for the entire length of the program.
1.) Give ‘Em Publicity: An easy way to show appreciation is to display advocate-generated content on your digital signage. With Instagram and social media integrations, your advocates can become your models.
2.) Keep It Exclusive: Interactive Kiosks are a fantastic way to keep your advocates engaged and coming back for more. Implement a reward system for exclusive offers that only advocates can access via the kiosks. Hashtags for reward points!
3.) Contribute Together: Donate to charity on behalf of your advocates. Create an ‘Advocate of the Month (or Week)’ system that will honor a select member. Then your brand can donation in their name to a nonprofit organization. Their picture and donation can be displayed on your digital signage.
Marketing for sales doesn’t cut it anymore. Consumers need a fellow shopper with an opinion that they can trust. Obtaining, choosing, and keeping your advocates might seem intimidating at first, but with digital signage, the integrations practically do all the work for you. By making sure the content around your brand is dynamic and interesting, you’ll start conversations that will lead to recommendations.
1: Ciceron, 2: Ciceron, 3: Ciceron
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
By Bill Bishop
Stuart Armstrong was pushing the boundaries of using POS data at IRI to understand shopping behavior when I first met him. Today he’s pushing the boundaries of using digital screens to communicate with shoppers inside stores at ComQi.* In between, he developed multi-channel marketing strategies for the consumer goods and retail industries.
I think he has important things to say about where we’re going with the technology-enhanced shopping experience, which changes in the retail environment are most transformative, and how retailers and brands are using interactive screens to build customer relationships.
You’ve spent a long time at the intersection of retail and communications media. How would you describe where we are today?
A lot of the things we’re doing today with omni-channel, big data, technology, millions of dollars, and many hours are taking us back to the future – back to something retailers used to know how to do very well. It’s taking us back to the intimacy of customer service that retailers used to offer.
Back in the day, Sam the grocer might stand on the sidewalk beside his nice-looking produce. When Mrs. Smith walked by with little Patty, he knew what she’d bought, what she liked and disliked, and even that what flavor of penny candy her daughter preferred. It was a great customer relationship. It was personal. He knew her needs and he met her needs. And she talked with her friends about Sam the grocer, the original social media.
Then we moved to the other end of the spectrum with individual consumers. Broadcast media came on the scene, and we went through a bubble. Brands and advertisers developed a theory of reach and frequency, and they built a whole economic structure around mass media: Bombard enough people with messages and the small percentage of individuals that responds will be enough.
Today, we’re trying to get back to the level of intimacy we used to have with individual customers. We may be using technology to get there, but in the end, retail is a high-touch story, not a high-tech story. We’re using purchase histories and data analysis to re-establish relevance and recency. The more we can relate to consumers at a specific time with relevant information, the greater share of mind we gain and the greater the opportunity to influence purchases.
Which recent developments in retail strike you as most important?
There’s been a tsunami of change in the past 5 years. I think these three are important to recognize.
1. BYOD (bring your own device). Smartphones have spread far and wide in the last 5 years, and 40% of shoppers want to use their device while they are in the store – to compare prices, to scan QR codes, to look up alternatives. It’s changed the in-store experience, and now that people can shop anytime, anyplace, retailers and brands need to be present in the digital space as well.
2. The endless aisle concept. Retailers are trying to do more with less – offer more variety, greater selection, better experiences, but with less square footage. This means smaller on-site inventory and fewer back shelves. The endless aisle enables retailers to say “Sure, we can get that for you” and deliver fast.
3. The potential for technology and data to underpin greater levels of customer service. Frequent shopper programs have mostly delivered a sea of discounts. It degrades the brand and takes away the intimacy. There’s huge potential to use technology to improve customer service.
Powerful synergies arise from these developments. Check-in, for example, is a huge opportunity that touches on at least two of them. Say you go to the big electronics store to buy a smartphone and check in by swiping your device. And say check-in triggers the ability of the sales associate to call up your purchase history. The associate will understand your needs better, and you’re going to get much better service. Using technology and data to deliver customer service like this can bring retailers closer to the kind of relationship Sam the grocer had with his customers. Using it just to push promotions doesn’t create the same kind of intimacy or trust, and the more our customers trust us, the more information they will be willing to share.
What do these changes mean for product brands?
Brands are building stronger presence in stores using the “store within a store” concept. Fashion brands have done this for years in department stores, and CPG and cosmetics brands do it in grocery and drug stores mainly with displays, but brands are branching out into other venues now.
Remember that smartphone purchase? The last time I bought a smartphone, my sales associate walked me over to the manufacturer’s display and introduced me to Sally. “Sally will show you how to use your phone,” he said, and for the next 20 minutes Sally did exactly that. Sally works for the manufacturer, and she was servicing, not selling – but because she was servicing, she was selling. (Sometimes brands are delivering this kind of service via kiosk or screen.)
Brands used to print and send out mass mailings and figure that ½ to 1 percent of people would trip over them and buy. Now they’re starting to target stores where they have particular opportunities to grow sales and investing larger amounts of money in those locations.
You talk about the importance of screen-rich environments. What do you mean?
Screen-rich environments are playing a big part in the increasingly interactive store shopping experience.
- “Public screens” deliver one-to-many messages. You find these on the aisle, over the aisle, or even worked into the décor as part of the millwork; they don’t have to be a screen on a stick.
- “Private screens” deliver one-to-one messages and are the best vehicle for customer service. These are the mobile phone screens of individual shoppers, where they can download information and receive personalized offers, support or instruction.
Some screens can do double duty. My company recently helped roll out a digital price board in the automotive service sector that doubles as a “video on demand” screen. Remember Mrs. Smith? Imagine she comes in for an oil change and notices the price difference between synthetic and regular oil and asks about it. Her sales associate might or might not know the answer, but now he or she can use the same sign to show her a 90-second video that explains the difference. Now Mrs. Smith gets the answers she needs to make a decision from a credible source. This would be a powerful tool for many areas within grocery and drug store environments such as health/pharmacy, organics and even the wine department. By the way, it's important to note, that supporting sales in this manner has dramatic effects in increasing sales and trading up the purchase.
Finally, screens can now interact with each other – which means that Mrs. Smith can download the video explaining the difference between synthetic and regular oil to take home and discuss with her husband, and not just in English. If the household is Hispanic why not furnish the information in Spanish? Another example of delivering better customer service that results in increased sales and shopper loyalty.
Which retailers are doing the best job with screen interactivity?
Burberry’s High Street store in London is one of the best. They’ve created an entirely new shopping environment. They can even create a rainstorm to inspire shoppers to buy a raincoat.
There’s a similarly great use of digital screens in the Victoria Secret Harold Square store in New York that includes a 3-story video wall and screen synchronization following the shopper up and down the escalators. (In the interest of transparency, that’s our technology.)
What do you see on the horizon?
More wearables. Google Glass is a prototype, but heads-up display will evolve and wearables will become more common. And more augmented reality, where you can place your phone over a digital or static menu item and it will tell you about calories and nutritional value. Digital signage will serve up targeted content and mobile with will deliver a lot of the information people want without having to print it on a label or a menu or a shelf tag.
*ComQi is a global leader providing a cloud-based Shopper Engagement Technology that influences consumers at the point of decision, in-store, using all digital touch-points: digital signage, mobile, video, touch, web, and social networks. ComQi’s mission is to deliver an end-to-end solution that is tailored to engage consumers by optimizing communications and marketing strategies that provide the best ROI. Learn more about them at comqi.com, follow them on Twitter and Facebook, or visit their YouTube channel.
Friday, 30 May 2014
President & Founder
Today’s brands are more focused than ever on adapting to consumer lifestyles and delivering a branded experience that resonates with their audience. The importance of well-executed brand media increasingly puts all brands, including retailers, in the content game.
Marketing’s role in retail is shifting from advertising to brand storytelling. In the past, the driving force of many marketing strategies was to use print and broadcast to get customers out of the home and into the store. Customer segments were focused on demographics using age, gender and location. In this traditional “push” model, the idea was to reach a captive audience and deliver them a message, with the goal of influencing a transaction.
Today, marketing is about creating a brand media network that spans a variety of engagement channels. We’re not simply trying to get customers to a location. We want them to create a lasting connection with the brand and adopt it as part of their lifestyle. Moving beyond demographics, psychographics focuses on behaviors, interests and lifestyle. And rather than a push model, brands are pursuing an engagement model that creates a two-way dialogue between them and the customer.
Everywhere, All The Time
Brands are becoming more omni-focused, with content executed across a variety of channels, from the digital world to physical locations. The brand media should be consistent and adapted to suit the channel type.
1. Broadcast is still a major platform for all brand media. Broadcast is still primarily about traditional television, but the landscape is shifting rapidly. YouTube is becoming a big player for brand media, with strong appeal for the brand. The ability to better target audiences and track engagement is key. And brands are able to tell more of their story with longer form content and media that moves beyond the 30-second spot.
2. Social Media is a fast-moving target. It’s easier to think less in terms of the individual applications, and more in terms of a communications network with a shifting landscape of providers. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and others provide new ways of engagement and require new methods of branding.
3. Mobile is increasingly becoming synonymous with online, and commerce transactions are shifting away from the desktop pc and retail website to an untethered, app-centric world. Mobile apps are about personal empowerment and enabling relevance in time and place.
4. In-Store is where all of the engagement channels can be brought together to create an impactful brand experience that can create deep engagement with the customer. The physical location presents a powerful platform for telling the brand story in a contextually relevant way.The Art Of The Happening
Going to a physical store to shop is an event. To use an analogy, it’s like going to a movie theater instead of watching at home. Sure, there’s the instant gratification that comes from going to the location to “get it now”. But there’s more to the theater than exclusivity. The venues, at least the better ones, provide an experience. It’s an event and a happening.
Shoppers who “check in” to a physical store via social media aren’t simply looking for a coupon or offer. Often they are saying “Hey, look…I’m doing something. I’m out there in the world, taking action.” But are they being treated to a feeling of excitement by the brand experience and given reinforcement that what they’re doing is interesting? In other words, did they arrive at a location, or at an event?
The Audience As Participants
In the age of the connected customer, the audience for brand media is not passive. Because of their affinity for empowerment and communications, they are able to be active participants in the new media.
For a compelling example of brand media engagement, take a look at the recent campaign by the fast fashion retailer Uniqlo. To promote their new line of t-shirts, a multi-channel experience was created to engage the customers as brand media participants.
A purpose-built mobile app was created for the campaign. The app allows customers to create two-second video clips showing them with their new Uniqlo t-shirt and “showing off their moves”. The app is promoted in the store, with a small stage area set up with lights and a backdrop. Customers can shoot their video (either in-store or elsewhere) and can post it to social media and to a special microsite set up by the brand at ut.uniqlo.com. The user-generated content is also showcased in the store as montages on digital signage video-walls.
In the post-advertising age, the most effective brand media content can go beyond storytelling, and into customer participation. Brands are now finding ways to move audiences to participate in the storytelling process.
The Store Is Still The Star
For most retailers, the store is the ultimate manifestation of the brand. It’s the place where customers are fully engaged with the brand. And while it’s still the moment of truth for creating transactions, it’s also the time and place for creating a deeper connection with the customer.
Many retail brands have great mobile apps, websites, YouTube channels and social media. But there is often a lack of awareness of these touchpoints. This awareness gap can be bridged by more effectively leveraging the store to tell the brand story, and to let the customer know all the ways they can engage the brand further after leaving the store.
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
VP New Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates
Mizuno Golf DisplayShoppers are bringing a set of expectations and a cache of knowledge gleaned from online research through the doors of stores like never before. New consumer behaviors have impacted especially categories like electronics, books, clothing, household goods and sporting equipment. Numerous studies of multi-channel shoppers make it clear that online research doesn‘t lead just to online purchases. There are plenty of occasions when the store has the final influence on purchase decision.
Increasingly the in-store experience will incorporate tools like touchscreens, digital signage and mobility, but ask any retailer or brand and they will say that merchandising and point-of-purchase displays where the product is the hero are integral to conveying information and making an impression. Products that are prominently and expertly displayed can be a call to action, whether that action is immediate or takes some alternate path.
So what should retailers and brands focus on to create the maximum amount of impact from a display? Here are some of the tips from the pros that are encapsulated in our latest POP guide, Traditional Merchandising in the Age of Self-Service.
Linda Hofflander, director of vertical marketing with the enterprise business division of Samsung:
People get bombarded with signage, and sometimes it’s what is unique or a little bit of a surprise that can be most effective
David Anzia, vice president of sales at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.:
With customers already armed with so much pre-purchase information, retailers have the ability to utilize less copy on their displays. The marketer is able to simplify their message, content copy and photos to distract the customer.
Kevin Lyons, senior vice president of e-commerce with h.h.gregg:
A customer wants to know the most important ways the product will help them, not just everything it does or can do. For example a ‘super radiant heating element’ on a stovetop means nothing to the average consumer, but ‘boils water in 60 seconds’ does! Traditional signage takes on a new role in today’s retail environment as it relates to supporting the mobile customer, those that are researching as well as comparing/reinforcing their purchases.
Dean Cole, brand support manager Mizuno, USA:
If the display can help communicate the benefits of the product and help the consumer visualize how those benefits will improve their experience, the odds of that product being chosen are improved greatly.
Ryan Lepianka, creative director at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.:
Having the ability to touch a product and make a connection with it can beat nearly any other way of selling, and some of the most effective displays the company has designed are those that encourage physical contact.
Wednesday, 02 April 2014
Frank Mayer & Associates
Consumers today face an almost unlimited array of media and merchandise to compete for their time and resources. According to a recent Nielsen Newswire, Americans’ retail trip frequency has decreased by 15 percent over the last six years, while basket size has only increased by 9 percent. This is a trend that cuts across income levels and has implications for a wide range of retailers.
With shoppers visiting stores less frequently and ever present competition, retailers have their work cut out for them to attract customers to their stores and increase their dwell time. With hyper-connected shoppers, there’s much thought and discussion about interactive in-store experiences, but a recent visit by a colleague to the flagship store of Whole Foods Market reinforced the importance of visual merchandising and store ambiance to retail experience.
Retailers have a lot of competing demands and a whole host of touchpoints that didn’t exist a decade ago, but they can’t lose sight of the power that physical design and in-store merchandising have on customer experience. Whole Foods Market is not a current client, but as an in-store merchandising company serving a mix of retailers and brands across a variety of categories, we admire the way Whole Foods has carried out its philosophy to create store environments that are “inviting and fun, and reflect the communities they serve”.
As much as any retailer can, Whole Foods embodies the notion that stores aren’t simply places to buy things; you can buy things--even groceries—online. Careful planning of every detail naturally occurs when company headquarters sits atop your store, as it does in the heart of Austin, and the effect is awe inducing, a retail feast for the senses.
The Austin flagship is an example of store as destination – a concept that can maintain the health of physical retail. The store itself is large, but each department is, in fact, a destination made manageable and engaging by display materials that reinforce a natural, wholesome, clean positioning and ample, friendly, sometimes whimsical, signage that reflects the Whole Foods brand.
The Austin venue is more than a market, it is a social center with outdoor dining that draws people off the street and multiple indoor food bars that invite people to linger and interact. It has the feel of a community hub.
Reflective of its location in a music-loving city where even the airport has live musicians, it is an entertainment venue that attracts people and invites them to stay. The store contains a live stage; where on a Friday afternoon musicians were setting up to usher patrons into weekend mode.
Common design elements are a necessity for all chains, but Whole Foods strives for product and visual connections that reinforce a local feel. The local ambiance is reinforced in part by a neon “Love Austin” sign hanging above merchandise that celebrates the city. In Detroit, for example, it is reflected in Motown 45-LP records that adorn the checkout lane markers. These are elements that might appeal to civic pride and spark a little allegiance in an era when it is harder to come by.
Not every retailer can be Whole Foods Market, but every retailer should be focused on the elements that ensure that physical stores are places of discovery and delight and can instill some sense of loyalty so we are enticed to get out from behind our screens, loosen our pocketbooks and experience retail with all our senses and some of our emotions.
Tuesday, 08 October 2013
By David Anzia, Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc.
I recently gave an interview where I was asked about the challenges of managing retail self-service projects given the rapid progression of in-store technology. With the array of tactical mobile options and digital innovations, there are seemingly limitless opportunities for in-store merchandising to connect retail shoppers to the online and virtual worlds.
We can now provide a call to action for consumers to interact with content on demand on any type of retail display or self-service kiosk. Still other “next big things”, like gesture-based interfaces and virtual imaging, are competing for attention.
The challenge in planning for retail merchandising and self-service projects is navigating with our customers through the practical versus the promising.
Retailers are looking for ways to draw traffic and accelerate their omni-channel agenda in-store. Retailers and marketers straddle the line between wanting to evaluate new technologies and wanting to deliver an experience that is intuitive and accepted by consumers.
Forrester Research recently issued 2013 Mobile Trends for Marketers, which evaluated the readiness of “game changing” mobile technologies. All of these offer the potential of being combined with in-store merchandising. To summarize their analysis:
We expect significant progress in mobile technologies in 2013 — especially around indoor positioning — but not major breakthroughs…While we believe that mobile technologies like GPS, NFC, augmented reality, image recognition, and 2D bar codes will offer phenomenal potential to enhance real-world experiences for consumers, they can’t do so in isolation.
Gaps in infrastructure, the cost of scaling, availability of specific applications on smartphones, and consumer education are all factors that marketers have to consider when making the decision about whether to incorporate promising mobile ‘’on ramps” into in-store merchandising.
Decades of attending trade shows, seeing new technologies demonstrated, engaging in trusted partnerships, and listening to retailers who are constantly taking the pulse of their customers have given us insights that help us evaluate the latest innovations.
What we know is:
- The number of NFC enabled phones is growing but still small.
- More people are scanning QR codes, but the absolute numbers are small. Context and content are important in making these deliver.
- Texting behavior is more pervasive than QR code scanning.
- Augmented reality is still a young and developing industry. ROI is an issue.
- At the same time we are in the midst of rapid change with the ramp up in smartphone ownership – 56 percent of all U.S. adults according to PEW Research.
- Young, active mobile users are a growing force at retail.
While a dose of reality is necessary, the pace of change and the stream of innovation should keep us continuously evaluating the parade of “next big things.” You might say it’s like driving on the highway; we’re aware of what’s right in front of us, but we’re focusing several car lengths ahead.
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
by Ajay Chowdhury, Chairman of ComQi
Ten years ago the received wisdom was that cinemas were dead. The rise of Blu-ray, home surround sound, 50-, 60-, 70-inch screens in the home and the fall in DVD prices as contrasted with the inexorable rise in cinema ticket prices were all factors that had everyone convinced that cinema theatres could not survive.
Ten years later, cinema box office takings are at record levels, films are regularly breaking records for opening weekends, ticket prices are even higher and a carton of popcorn costs as much as a full meal in a restaurant.
What happened to the doomsayers?
What happened was that cinemas reinvented themselves. They stopped being a place to just go and see a film and became a community experience. It was no longer about just seeing a film, it was about the experience of a night out with friends in a plush, comfortable environment. Cinemas now offer comfortable seats that lean back, huge IMAX screens, amazing sounds, sofas, food that is served by waiters at your seat, alcohol and much more. They are also getting clever about pricing – different prices on a weekend, lower prices for families with babies during the week, a different experience for seniors and so on.
What they got right was that it was not about the film, it was about the experience.
Today, rumbles are being heard about the death of bricks and mortar retail. No less a visionary than Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape and one of the savviest investors in Silicon Valley) said a month ago “Retail guys are going to go out of business and ecommerce will become the place everyone buys. You are not going to have a choice.” And this is apparently being borne out on the high street. Large brand name chains that have closed include Borders, HMV, Jessops, Circuit City, Virgin Megastores, B. Dalton, Woolworths UK and the list gets longer every month. And for those retailers who are surviving, they face the threat of ‘showrooming’ (consumers checking out goods in the store and then buying them online or on their mobile), increasing rent, reducing store sizes, lack of qualified staff, customers wanting to order online and pick up in store and so on.
When we speak to retail CMOs, the top two concerns on their mind are: ‘How can we be more like Amazon?’ and ‘Should I get a mobile app?’ But are these the right questions? Amazon is a unique company that is truly visionary and has reached an amazing scale with very forgiving capital markets. (It was loss making on $61bn of revenues last year and is capitalised at $125bn. Contrast this with Target that made a profit of $1bn on $22bn of revenues and is capitalised at a third of Amazon…).
Similarly getting a mobile app is also not necessarily the answer. There are 775,000 apps in the iPhone App store and 80% of them get less than 100 downloads. Of the ones that do get downloaded the majority get used less than five times a year. Not quite a recipe for success. (As an aside, on these numbers, 620,000 apps get less than 100 downloads. If we assume they cost an average of $10,000 to make – that is $6.2bn wasted in app development effort.)
So what should retailers be thinking about? Well, the threat from e-commerce and mobile is real. Although forecasts do say that in five years over 90% of shopping will still be in bricks and mortar retailers, there is a huge variation in this number. A majority of music and book sales is now online. Electronics and white goods are moving the same way. Fashion remains largely a high street activity but e-commerce is certainly beginning to eat into this as well. (See the success of Zappos' and Amazon’s move into clothing…)
Grocery, food and drug are still largely done in person but a small minority is moving online. So what should retailers be doing to ensure they maintain their brands and hold onto their customers? We believe that retailers should be looking at three core principles to succeed over the next decade.
- Provide a superb in-store experience
- Link your online, social, mobile and in-store media experiences
- Use the data generated by your customers to provide real insights
1) Provide a superb in-store experience
"Stores will become more theatrical, more immersive, and more of a life experience rather than simply a place to get something. As much as they are selling products they will be selling a good time, a lifestyle.” Christopher Studach, creative director, KRS
Just as cinemas reinvented themselves over the last decade to provide a great experience, retailers need to do the same over the next decade. Walk into Victoria’s Secret on Herald Square in Manhattan and you will see a true brand experience. Media and technology are cleverly used to move the customer through the store and get them to make a purchase. We believe the in-store experience is about mapping the customer’s journey base on their frame of mind and then providing the right media and incentives to make shopping a pleasurable experience and getting them to buy more. The experience starts outside the store with the show windows using dynamic video projection, holograms and the like to entice people into the store.
Once they are in the store, the use of touch screens for wayfinding, linking to customer’s online accounts and making recommendations can be powerful. As they move through the store the use of videowalls, digital signage, music, virtual mannequins and so on get them to a decision point where they want to buy and buy more. Other technologies like Delay Mirrors in the dressing room (a screen with a camera showing a live reflection of the customer, yet delayed by a few seconds to see themselves in an outfit from all angles) provide an experience that cannot be had anywhere else. Finally, linking these screens to the customer’s smartphone allows them to get recommendations, find out more information or link to loyalty cards providing a truly holistic experience. This is what makes them come back and recommend it to their friends.
2) Join up your online, social, mobile and in-store media experiences
Most retailers have e-commerce sites, a Facebook or Twitter presence, mobile sites and some media in-store. But these are all in silos and not linked up. Imagine the immense value of recognizing an online customer as they enter the high street store. You can offer tailored promotions as they enter your store and give specific recommendations based on their shopping habits. We believe you can do this by using one technology platform for your in-store media to manage your experiences effectively. This platform then links to your external systems such as your e-commerce site, Facebook, loyalty card systems, smartphones, EPOS systems etc. to provide one view of the customer.
We provide a cloud based platform that does exactly this. It allows our retail clients to manage different digital media on a global basis and collect information on their customers. Using our technology we can link customer smartphones to digital media in a store without an app so customers can check in as they enter the store and be identified so that tailored offers can be made to them. The platform links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. so it provides a bridge between the online and offline worlds. This allows two things to happen: The retailer has one view of the customer: Whenever the customer interacts with you, you know exactly who they are, where they are and can make the appropriate offer based on their shopping history The customer has one view of the retailer: Whenever the customer interacts with you, they have the same brand experience and can seamlessly move from one medium to the next.
3) Use the data generated by your customers to provide real insights
Finally big data. This is a real buzzword these days. Retailers have a huge amount of data on their customers but only a tiny fraction of this data leads to insights. Working with companies like Dunn Humby, DS-IQ and Path Intelligence allows retailers to take the data they collect and create real actionable insights which then feed back into the in-store strategy to create a virtuous circle. The world is changing and as the consumer has the power retailers also need to change.
”Steve Jobs didn't ask, 'How do we build a phone that can achieve a two percent market share?' He asked, 'How do we reinvent the telephone?’ In the same way, retailers shouldn't be asking, 'How do we create a store that's going to do $15 million a year?' They should be asking, 'How do we reinvent the store to enrich our customers' lives?'”
- Ron Johnson, Apple’s ex Head of Retail
Monday, 06 May 2013
By Paul Shwabe, Practice Leader - Retail Solutions, RMG Networks
The next mega-challenge for retailers is their ability to measure and analyze when, where and how consumers “touch” each fulfillment channel along their path-to-purchase.
Retailers are spending millions to development modern processes in this era of agile commerce with flexibility to meet the consumer’s multi-channel demand. Presently retailers are struggling with actually tracking the entire journey beginning to end (web, mobile, in-store) as a consumer jumps from one channel to the next channel as they get to the moment of purchase.
Before retailers can solve this question/problem they must ask themselves more questions about the consumer. It is critical for retailers to understand the context, content, and community which the consumer will travel… and only then will retailers be able to analyze and build metrics of commerce.
In the past retailers used to control the entire brand message and communicate it in a very linear and one-directional modality to their consumers. Clearly, those days are long gone and today’s consumers are liberated and free to research a brand to their hearts content, price compare, and now “buy anywhere” (web, mobile, in-store) and even abandon a specific channel experience only to resume their quest later with another channel with the eventual purchase with the demand “get anywhere” (in-store, store-pickup, store-delivery, delivery-to-home).
Retailers need to recognize the relevancy of a consumer’s awareness and selection of a brand product or category based upon the physical proximity and decision proximity. The context of proximity will dictate the consumer’s preferred channel.
As well content and community will influence a consumer based upon whether they are making a product choice or comparison or simply looking for more category educational information. Retailers / store associates whom understand each aspect of relevancy of a consumer will also drive a consumer’s behavior.
Retailers and advertisers blend the physical environment as well as every imaginable digital asset (music, video, and graphics) and technology (WiFi, interactivity, augmented reality, RFID, NFC) to influence and shape the consumers experience in their purchase decision.
The skill and balance is that content visually presented and personalized can be used for both Educational – early in the awareness stage and then Selection – later in brand product comparisons or product choice.
Retailers and brands are recognizing the power of social networks (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+) as well that consumers are inclined to reach out to family, friends, co-workers, store associates, and even strangers with whom have made similar life style purchase choices for their opinions, feedback, how-to, knowledge before they will make their final decision.
Consider the number of retailers that are launching other web sites, mobile apps, blogs to support their brand community (MyLowes, Home Depot’s – The Apron, Macy’s mBLOG, Neiman Marcus’ NMdaily).
Retailers must re-educate their store associates as well sponsor increased employee communicate to alter an era of transaction based culture & attitude toward the consumer so it is transformed to a relationship culture. There is a shift in thinking with both Retailers and Consumers as reference in “The AVATAR moment for Consumers and Retailers.” Commerce maybe a primary objective, but relationship is critical to sustain and grow.
Technology helps support the consumer experience, but consistency in the consumer’s path-to-purchase is the first step to innovation and transformation.
photo credit: VinothChandar
View original article on the RMG Networks blog