There’s a new trend hitting the high street – consumer show-rooming. This term refers to the practice of consumers entering the shop floor to seek out desired items and then making their purchases online or via mobiles. In light of this new behaviour, retailers need to get smarter about how they interact with consumers. Instead of shying away from technology, shops need to use it to retain in-store loyalty.
It’s the speed and flexibility that people like about buying online – to ensure that consumer show-rooming has a positive effect on high street sales, retailers need to create a similar environment to the online space, one that makes it easier for consumers to buy in-store.
How can technology improve consumer interactions at the shop floor level?
Retailers need to have the ability to recognise when a loyal customer walks into a store, and crucially, have access to an accurate and complete overview of their previous interaction history, not just with the physical shore, but across all channels.
Contact can be established by using wi-fi-based ‘presence zone’ technologies to identify a shopper as soon as they enter the shop. Working in tandem, location-based services linked with smartphone devices can give retailers the ability to identify customers individually and send targeted marketing alerts to these devices.
The best way to turn consumer show-rooming into a positive behaviour is to arm in-store employees with technology that builds on the two areas above and helps them engage directly with customers. By collating online and offline consumer insight, retailers can offer personalised promotions and ramp up sales conversion in-store.
Many high-street retailers recognise that innovations such as augmented reality applications can also provide on-the-spot product information and promotions. However, it takes an innovative retailer to deploy this type of service.
Ultimately, there are many technologies that can be used to recognise customers once they enter the store: presence zones, location services and even biometrics such as facial recognition can all be used. But their usefulness stems from organisations having sufficient and appropriate customer data, insight and understanding to identify each customer individually. Integrating this data across multiple channels is also vital for success.
By treating consumers as individuals, retailers can engage them through a variety of devices, from digital signage to interactive kiosks. If customers are using the store as a showroom, this type of technology can engage them in ways that encourage purchases to happen in situ rather than online.
The shop floor is fast becoming a point of consumer interaction that could just as easily lead to follow-up sales in store or online.
Retailers need in-depth understanding about their customers to be able to offer more engaging and immersive experiences. And all this depends upon having the right technology to turn customer data into customer insight.
James Lovell – IBM European Smarter Commerce Solutions Consultant