2019 is already becoming a big year for the omnichannel retailer. According to the National Retail Federation, retailers saw a 40 percent increase in multichannel shopping in the 2018 holiday season, with social and mobile technologies reigning supreme in the customer shopping experience.
I want to break down some of the behaviors that are continuing to drive the data which has become the new currency of retail. In 2019, stores will play a new role in capturing and accessing data to deliver an elevated exceptional and of course an “Instagram-able” customer experience.
The use of Internet of Things (IoT)
Sensors, cameras, mobile devices and in-store analytics empower retailers to act quickly on what they learn. Amazon Go stores, for example, are as much about testing and learning about customers as they are about fast, cashier-less shopping. Walgreens is currently testing a new program that allows its cooler doors to track customers via camera and motion sensors and then serve them targeted advertisements in real time.
Using technology from a startup appropriately named Cooler Screens (tagline: “a cooler way to shop”), Walgreens recently introduced digital cooler doors to six stores across the country. Instead of using perfectly adequate transparent glass, the doors now look like touchscreens (though they don’t react to touch), with digital renderings of the goods that are inside.
The doors are embedded with technologies like a camera, motion sensors, and eye tracking to help advertisers understand who is standing in front of their products. In real time, the software analyzes the “anonymous” data and serves up ads based on parameters like gender (creepy), age, emotional response (extra creepy!), and how long you’ve been lingering in front of a certain product.
Cooler Screens is reportedly working with 20 of the largest consumer product companies including Coca-Cola and Nestlé, but any company can buy banner ads and dynamic, full-screen ads to display on the doors.
The idea is that this information can help companies serve more contextualized advertisements to the right people at the exact right time (If you’re buying a vegetarian frozen dinner, perhaps you’d like a kombucha half off, too?). Kind of sounds like your web-based browsing experiences, right. Your google shopping searches follow you everywhere.
Delivering Real-time Insights to Associate Mobile Devices
The more a store associate knows about an individual’s needs, the better service the associate can provide. That’s driving a huge uptick in investment in associate mobile devices, as well as analytics investments that enable retailers to process new data in real-time. By 2020, most retailers (83 percent) will equip store associates and managers with mobile devices, according to RIS News’ 2018 Retail Technology Study.
These devices will leverage an increasingly robust array of data sources to enrich the quality of that service. By 2025, for example, 74 percent of retailers envision using geolocation devices to recognize a shopper as they arrive at a store. A store associate can then welcome them, already armed with insights such as the shopper’s recent searches on the retailer’s website and purchase history. This allows a quick, easy and enjoyable shopping experience for the customer.
Retail has a long history of relying on gut instinct and merchandising art to understand and serve customers, with data playing a supporting role. But now, retail is in the throes of a rapid shift from data-generating to data-centric. Among the most prominent retail trends of 2019 will be the ways data and analytics start delivering real value in supporting retailers’ store-level, data-fueled transformation.
Customer Engagement delivered by Innovation
According to Forrester, retailing is now all about “obsessing about your customer’s experience.” To get there, organizations must unify disparate data to develop deep customer insights. While today’s retailers have their own ways to measure and act on consumer data between marketing, sales and social media engagement, increasingly they will need integrated platforms supported by robust AI and analytics capabilities to take a more holistic approach.
Gartner reports that “an understanding of the overall condition of the customer’s attitude toward the enterprise is lacking for the majority. What matters is not the customer’s attitude about a store, department, process or product, but the level of trust they have in the organization as a whole and their likely intent to remain loyal.” Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 40 percent of all data analytics projects will relate to an aspect of customer experience.
“In a digital economy, the new currencies are speed, mass personalization at scale and intelligence. This is why retailers need to think about emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), mobile, social and cloud in order to deliver the ultimate experience for the shopper.”
As millennials and Gen Z become more influential, both as employees and consumers, they are pushing the world to behave more responsibly. 66 percent of consumers felt it was important for brands to take a public stand on social and political issues.
As a final thought, empowered customers expect amazing experiences. In 2019, retailers need to stay laser focused on personalized, experiential, and mobile-first customer interactions. Think of Gen Z and Millennials’, and remember the experience starts in the palm of their hands.
Tony Giudici is a Director of Market Development for Excelerate America, the ultimate resource for modern entrepreneurs and small business owners. What do you think about the new technology that is being deployed around shopper behavior? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.