Have you read any of the recent articles debating the subject of how Amazon will ultimately destroy in-store retail business? Well, don’t place big bets on Amazon just yet. Retail business has begun to figure out how to compete.
Customers don’t care what you do or how you do it. They only care what they are left with after you have done it.
Retail is a dynamic industry with its set of multifaceted and diverse business processes and requirements. Small business retailers today are challenged with addressing multiple disruptive technologies and the demanding “Digital customer” who like to order products and services using more than one touch points.
Check out our thoughts on customer focus.
This includes both online and offline at their convenience of location and device. In such a rapidly changing environment, small business retailers are likely to drop their ‘Run the business’ strategy hat and wear the ‘Change the business’ one.
Related post: 15 Remarkable Beacon Technology Ideas to Share
Today the strong focus is on innovation. There are new store formats being launched along with multiple selling channels such as online, kiosks, mail catalogs and call center, etc. There is a need for retailers to become truly omnichannel by providing a seamless shopping experience to the customer no matter what channel, the format they use for their shopping.
Retail business … advantages of in-store shopping
A recent business intelligence report listed six reasons customers prefer to shop in-store as opposed to on-line as shown in the figure below:
Certainly goes counter to the on-line growth we have seen in the last decade, doesn’t it? Here are some game-changing capabilities small business retailers are using to hold their own with their on-line counterparts:
Apps for fun and engagement
Going to see a movie in a theater is a shared experience. The Timeplay app for use at Cineplex theaters enhances a shared experience while providing rewards that are valuable to me – scene points towards free movies. A great example of the growing value and utility of apps for small businesses.
This app allows everyone in the theater to compete in a movie trivia game where the mobile devices are used to submit answers to trivia games on the screen – like bar games of old. The top winners get Scene points and snack bar prizes. My grandchildren like to compete with me, we all have fun, and I eventually get a free movie entry.
Small retail business ideas … apps for pre-ordering
Pre-ordering is another awesome application of small business apps. As an example, the pizza ordering process has a process to it that lends itself well to mobile ordering. There are some options available, but the one that works for me isn’t an app at all. Dominos pizza has a mobile enabled website. Their ordering options are very simple, and best of all, my most recent orders are front and center when I log in.
Dominos does a great job of showing the status of your order and lets you track your order through the process. It would be fantastic to do this with orders for bigger items.
Animations are fun for first use, but not when I want just to order the same order I had last time for pickup on the way home from the airport after a long day. No need to pay for the app. I pay when I get there, so no need to enter card numbers.
If they ever put this simple interface on an app and stored my login, it would certainly have a place on my mobile. For now, it’s one of few bookmarks on my mobile desktop – and they even remembered to provide the icon on the site, so it’s easy to see on the mobile.
Rather than competing with showrooming, brick-and-mortar stores are certainly beginning to see its advantages and embrace it.
“Stores will become like museums—we will go to see something, to learn and be entertained,” predicted Thomas Keenan, adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and author of a book called Technocreep, which explores the future of technology.
Further, beacons—sensors placed around stores that communicate information to smartphones—will track information such as which products customers linger around. The beacons can then push information on those products to customers’ mobile devices, allowing them to order from their devices and have merchandise shipped to their homes.
Beacons are already deployed at large retailers as a way to provide more interactive shopping experiences. There is nothing prohibiting small retailers from employing is in similar ways. They don’t need the GPS element so much, but can certainly utilize the messaging elements.
For small transactions with regular customers, enabling payment via a barcode and stored value card is the best way to enable payment without using the pin pad at the point of sale.
While this payment capability is very useful, I still see shoppers re-loading their stored value card at the POS. That is a value of both of these stored value apps – the cards can be reloaded on the app. No need to hold up the line or enter a PIN at the POS. I think most people aren’t comfortable setting it up, and there is some need for culture shift there.
Apple’s foray into mobile payments signals the mobile payment model may soon be ubiquitous. By 2020, not only will more transactions take place via our mobile devices, whether it’s our smartphones or wearable technology leveraging near-field communication (NFC) technology, we’ll also see the emergence of even more streamlined payment experiences.
The goal for companies is to make the payment process as seamless as possible. Starbucks’ new mobile payment app—which allows customers to pre-order and pre-pay for beverages via their iPhone before arriving at a Starbuck’s location—is just one recent example of how businesses are moving toward more frictionless payment and checkout experiences.
Retail business examples … mobility commerce
Use of technology in-store (e.g. web kiosks), and customers own smartphones devices is one of the latest capabilities to see growing use. Retailers are using store Wi-Fi, mobile apps, and beacons technology.
Also, social media is used to target customers with personalized offers, which can be done using next-generation customer analytics. Improvement is underway to payment processes by making them agiler and beat the queues options with mobile POS, mobile wallet, mobile money to money transfers, etc.
Expanding retailer 2016 … hyper-personalization
Customer expectations for personalization across all customer interactions are growing in demand. Many retailers loyalty programs allow shoppers to save “loves” and purchases (both online and in-store), while leveraging a shopper’s profile to link specific customer attributes with products for sale within the store.
Information is accessible across devices – even on iPads at store counters. By providing relevant, accurate services in exchange for customer data, businesses are paving the way in persona-driven customer innovations.
Customers want this because they can get better offers and more tailored recommendations to what they want when they want it. By combining customer data gathered online and in-store, retailers can deliver a customer experience centered on value and convenience in exchange for customer information, and enabled by new apps and mobile technologies such as beacons.
Gartner has predicted that by 2017, 89% of marketing leaders expect customer experience to be their primary basis for competitive differentiation.
Small retailers … passbook enablement
Many customers aspire to minimize their wallet, and they use Passbook every day to that end. Apps like Air Miles, Tim’s, Starbucks, and Cineplex all enable loyalty or payment cards to be stored in Passbook.
Passbook negates the need to carry another piece of plastic. There is no need to look through your phone to find and open the specific app for the card you want. Many of us always have their mobile with them to show my card. While not every retailer can scan the card as they are not in the right cycle for replacement of their scanners, they can still give their number for entry.
There is not an ideal mobile wallet yet, but changes like this are cultural, take time and are achieved by taking small steps – I start with loyalty cards and coffee payment. Driver’s license and other ID could be next.
Digitalized data management
Handling the customer data (transactional stores POS data) and web analytics data is already known to retailers until now, but data is exponentially grown to become ‘BIG’ with the advent of social media.
Small business retailers face a major challenge to understanding and use this data as the majority of it is unstructured. Big data initiatives are used to improve merchandising, supply chain, marketing, and promotions, e-commerce, store operations decisions and also to track customer shopping and behavioral analytics. Big data projects include targeting potential customers with offers and also using predictive analytics to predict/suggest products & services.
Use of tools and software to manage the master data across the retail business to bring multi-format order orchestration is the key to multi-channel. Linking customer orders in stores to identify customer on social media is effective to target personalized marketing and promotions.
Long before so many consumers were armed with iPhones and Galaxys, retailers had begun the process of collecting rich data to develop individual profiles of consumers. Club cards and the like were designed to help retailers better understand each shopper so that (eventually) they could create more loyal customer relationships and new data-based revenue streams.
Many of us, however, were surprised by how little was done with all that data during the first years of these initiatives. For years, it seemed as if retailers were collecting huge amounts of information that they could leverage, but they didn’t. Broadly targeted postal circulars and email blasts remained the norm for most businesses.
However, that’s no longer the case, and smartphones played a key role in that transformation. They raised the urgency of more segmented store marketing because they gave consumers lots more opportunities to buy the things they needed. Stores could no longer expect the consumer to find what they might like; rather, what they might like needed to go to the consumer.
Retailers used to come in two “flavors” — High-Low and Everyday Low Price (EDLP). High-low stores provided great deals on a relatively small number of deeply discounted items, hoping that once in the door, customers would purchase non-discounted items to make up for lost profits. Alternatively, EDLP stores promised overall low prices and a lower total bill than if you shopped in high-lows.
These days, those kinds of simplistic pricing strategies are disappearing as stores deploy technologies to dynamically change pricing based on current sales figures, inventory, and changes in competitive prices.
Fulfillment and inventory management
One key advantage that brick-and-mortar retailers have over the pure-play internet or mobile companies is their network of physical stores. While having such stores does significantly increase costs, it also provides a network of places where online, and mobile customers can pick up purchases — and get them more quickly than waiting for UPS. Best Buy, for example, can often get a new laptop you order online into your hands on the same day — significantly faster than most retailers could even dream of doing so. Its customers can also pick up goods on their schedules instead of having to be at home whenever an Amazon delivery would come through.
Now, many retailers offer teams and areas dedicated solely to same day pickup of online orders. Think what a cultural change this sort of thing required. Retailers once thought of the aisles and displays in their stores as essential selling environments. They wanted people in the aisles where they could be “closed,” enticed to spend more, or encouraged to purchase related items. Mobile and online changed the location of shopping for millions of people — folks who would rather buy what they want and just pick it up on their way home.
Retailers could have hidden heads in the sand over this development. But rather, they turned the development into a new strength in their battle against only digital retailers. Faster delivery has become an important plus for brick-and-mortar.
Of course, the online-only retailers are responding in turn with experiments in same-day delivery.
E-commerce retailers have had a leg up over their brick-and-mortar counterparts regarding their ability to selectively target customers based on insights into consumers’ preferences and habits, as well as their ability to refine their tactics continually based on insights they glean via analytics.
In 5 years, offline retailers will have the same tools available to them and will employ them widely. Whether it’s using analytics to map where people walk and what they pick up to better position products in the store or tracking shoppers at the device level to target promotions to them, data will be used to understand customers and increase sales.
As more customers start opting into apps that allow them to be identified individually, they’ll receive the benefits of more customized experiences and offers; however, retailers should also be mindful of mounting consumer privacy concerns.
Automation as the sales assistant
Technology will increasingly automate a lot of routine and mundane work that happens in retail institutions. Whether it’s more self-service check-outs, in-store mapping to make it easier for customers to self-navigate around stores, or beacon and NFC technology for greater self-education on products, technology will play a greater role in automating the retail experience.
Of course, sales people won’t disappear. Rather, with many of their routine tasks automated, they will be able to focus on building relationships with customers while increasing sales and affinity for their employers.
The bottom line
E-commerce has certainly revolutionized the way we shop, but brick-and-mortar stores are far from dead. Increasingly, online retailers have begun opening physical stores for the first time, which signals that there may be a return to real world shopping – only this time, reinvented for the digital age.
Need some help in finding ways to grow your customers? Such as creative ideas to help the differentiation with potential customers? Or perhaps finding ways to work with other businesses?
Call today for a FREE consultation or a FREE quote. Learn about some options to scope your job.
Call Mike at 607-725-8240.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you. But believe in the effectiveness of collaborative innovation. And put it to good use in adapting to changes in your business environment.
It’s up to you to keep improving your learning and experience with innovation and creativity efforts. Lessons are all around you. In this case, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Try. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
When things are not what you want them to be, what’s most important is your next step. Call today.
Are you devoting enough energy to improving your continuous learning for yourself and your team?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
Check out these additional articles on business and its performance from our library:
More reading on business technology from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library: