Co-authored by : Aravindhan Raju
In today’s digitally connected environment the expectations of a retail customer have seen gamut of changes. If the retailers do not drastically change customer touch points and experience within a store, they risk steep dip in the footfall. Thanks to technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)/Bluetooth Smart. Now retailers can revolutionize customer experience in an inexpensive way. BLE technology utilizes smartphones and apps to identify customers when they are in a store. Customers with smartphones and the retailer’s mobile app will be identified by an inexpensive beacon in store. Since most customers in a store will be armed with a smartphone, this digital technology will revolutionize brick & mortar retailing in all aspects from merchandizing to customer experience.
Within a store, a retailer can make a positive difference in the customer experience in the buying journey by focussing on two key phases – browsing (where the buying decision is made) and point of sale (decision to come back is taken based on the experience they had). Influencing these would positively drive footfall and customer loyalty.
Looking at leveraging the BLE, we think of various opportunities through which customers can be engaged better by personalizing their journey from the moment they enter the store and persuading them to complete their intended purchase.
Product browsing: In this phase of the journey, customers will look at the assortment in the store and explore the quality, price, brand, and other aspects even before considering a purchase. Personalization in this phase will influence buying decision of the customer. Let´s see how it can be accomplished:
- Personalized promotions, discounts, and coupons – For example, in a grocery store, an instant promotion based on the previous buying pattern of the customer will go a long way in influencing the customer on what to buy. While customer may not have a specific item in the wish list for the day but it will lure them to make a purchase. For instance a customer will be happy to get a “BUY 1 GET 1” or 10% off coupon, on his/her repeated buys like orange juice or diapers.
- Aisle guide – As we know, the retailers quite often change the store layout and floor plans. Guidance on change in the aisle and location of the product within the retail store can be notified to the customers when they visit the store. For instance in a store of a general merchandizer, gifts and cards section might have been moved from Aisle A1 to B1.
Point of sale: As each one of us shop in a store in our daily life, the most annoying part we would say is to wait in the queue to check out. Despite a smooth and happy journey at the beginning most customers complete shopping on a disappointed note owing to enormous waiting times. Let’s see how we can address this.
- Customer `NO BUY´ alert – Generally, customers don’t tend to read through the ingredients which come in “fine print” and even if they read it, it is not possible for them to understand the composition of the coded ingredients such as preservatives and additives. Therefore, it is very difficult for a customer to choose a suitable product to consume based on their allergies and food practices. In order to help customers, the grocery retailers might include questions like food preferences and allergies in the customer profile. Based on this information, the BLE technology can identify a customer profile during checkout and alert the customer service assistant asking them to verify with the customer if they really want to purchase the product as the ingredients in the product may not align with their preferences. Like for instance, a Vegan customer may not like to consume a cake which contains eggs.
- Impromptu discounts - With our desire to celebrate every moment of life, it will be of real delight when customers are offered an impromptu discount in their birthday or anniversary week - Let us say 25% flat discount on men´s wear. Wouldn´t we be happy about it?
In another aspect, when a sale is mapped to a specific customer profile it becomes simpler for the retailer to arrive at an accurate forecast than before, eventually leading to a customer demand driven value chain. While this does not benefit the retail customer directly, it certainly makes the retailer more efficient and customer centric by having the right assortment at right time and quantity.
It is indeed challenging for any B&M retailer to provide a perfect buying experience for every customer as each is different and have varying shopping pattern. The customers as well have started expecting personalized experience with a store. A recent survey by Forbes has identified “Personalization creates a better customer experience” and “convenience wins the day” as among the top 10 customer service and customer experience trends for 2017. To retain loyal customers and to be competitive in the market, retailers will have to incorporate digital technology to enhance their in-store experience and make customers feel important and delighted when they are in their store. With proliferation of inexpensive digital technology like BLE, retailers can easily provide these personalized engagements, as well as a more appealing customer experience than ever before.