From brick-and-mortar stores closing to giants taking over and technology evolving, the retail industry is in a period of drastic change. But one thing that’s stayed the same and always will? The importance of customers – loyal customers. As retailers seek to beat their competitors and increase their share in a dwindling market, retaining customers has never been more critical. With more stores to shop at, customers have high expectations. Retailers have the challenge of luring customers in and creating a specialized, enticing experiences once the customers are there. It’s time for retailers to take advantage of technology available to them and create personalized, memorable shopping experiences, in-stores and online, at any budget.
Convenience is Key
The most important thing for retailers to remember is that it’s the customers world we live in. A retailer who recognizes that customers can shop anytime, anywhere, and feel appreciative to have their business, understand the customer. Personalization is about offering customers a level of convenience they can’t find elsewhere. For instance, Starbucks offers customers an option to order remotely and then pick up their beverages inside a retail location. To make it even more convenient, Starbucks allowed coffee addicts to place orders with the tap of a button or speak to a virtual barista with their new A.I. assistant called My Starbucks Barista. Through data-driven A.I. algorithms, the App is personalized to the user’s preferences and behaviors.
Personalization Through Social Engagement
Millenials’ purchasing power and obsession with all things social media gives money-conscious retailers a cheap and easy way to provide a personalized, fun experience across borders. Social channels present retailers with the opportunity to engage with customers on a platform where they spend most of their time. Instagram is a great social channel for apparel retailers to leverage. Retailers can engage with customers by “liking” photographs, comment ing on pictures and sharing, establishing an emotional connection between the brand and buyer.
Retailers can also use these posts for their own marketing efforts. They can collect images from Instagram in which their products are featured and republish to their site where visitors can see the posts. They can design entire media galleries of content created by their social followers. This helps create a vibrant and personalized website, where users feel special seeing their own clothing featured on a favorite brand’s site.
Brands are slowly starting to adopt in-store technologies, such as using tablets, kiosks and digital signage to help customers discover and locate items they’re interested in, and get in and out of the store quickly. Retailers can provide a personalized, targeted and seamless experience with the help of branded apps, beacon technology and Smart Mirrors.
Beacon technologies work to deliver a mobile ad within a specific geographic area, strategically encouraging customers nearby to shop discounted items. Retailers can track shoppers’ online search histories and then show them other items they might want to check out.
While not largely popular yet, Smart Mirrors are a way to make trying on clothes in a dressing room more personalized and fun. The Smart Mirror reads radio-frequency ID tags on clothes, displays the items on a touchscreen embedded behind the glass and provides suggestions on shoes and accessories. If the item isn’t the right fit, the shopper can select the correct size and color, alerting a sales associate. This helps create a seamless experience between the customer’s in store and online personas.
Whether online or in-stores, customer service is the holy grail for the retailers. No matter the technological advancements retailers will need to implement, providing a one of a kind, personalized experience is what’s going to make them stand out. In today’s volatile retail industry, it’s now or never.