By Alan Tamny, Global Product Management, Checkpoint Systems.
How can retailers maintain or even thrive in an environment in which brick and mortar sales and profits have become more challenging?
According to a PWC study, 78 percent of shoppers say sales associates with deep knowledge of a product is important to the shopping experience. And a study by McKinsey and Company notes that if retailers can improve the customer experience by 10 percent they can grow revenue up to 10 percent.
That may sound straightforward, but the problem has been that consumers expect the same shopping experience they get online inside a store -- but retailers aren’t yet delivering it. In fact, it remains difficult for consumers to get product info and recommendations, find products and get assistance in dressing rooms to request alternative sizes and remember merchandise for later purchases.
Today, with customer experience and engagement in the spotlight, retail stores realise the increased need to engage their customers and improve their experience, service and satisfaction levels. The objective is to retain customers who have an infinite number of channels to spend their disposable income. As such, in-store engagement, customer retention and loyalty have become key to brick and mortar stores.
Why Is Customer Engagement So Important?
The bottom line is that customer experience equals loyalty, which directly correlates to increased revenue. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 14 times higher than selling to a new customer, according to Market Metrics. When satisfied by a shopping experience, 73 percent of consumers will recommend a brand to others and 46 percent say they will “trust” that brand’s products and services above others, according to SDL Global CX Wakeup Call.
Some 97 percent of global customer say that customer service is “very” or “somewhat” important to their choices, according to Microsoft. And 62 percent of global customers have stopped doing business with a brand or organization due to a poor customer service experience, according to that same Microsoft research. Finally, once a customer leaves after a poor experience, 80 percent say they will never come back and, if they do, 59 percent say they will be less loyal, according to SDL Global CX Wakeup Call.
Recommendations Increase Sales
One area that online retailers have struck gold with is the use of recommendations. Retailers make heavy use of recommendations in their on-line stores because it significantly enhances revenue. For example, Amazon has recommendations based upon purchased items or those customers indicate they own. Several studies indicate that recommendation in online stores have increased revenue in general from 5 to 15 percent. For Amazon, that number is said to be 35 percent.
The same holds true in the brick and mortar world. In-store recommendations increase sales. Consider the use of mannequins, which have proven a simple way to boost sales since their introduction in the 19th century. They have a number of things going for them. They provide a better shopping experience, they recommend products, they guide shoppers to product locations, they are inexpensive and they fill voided shopping areas.
Improving on the Mannequin
Now consider putting RFID to work in creating an electronic version of that mannequin, which provides all of those benefits in a digital environment. Today, RFID makes possible solutions in which interactive solutions utilize data collected from RFID-tagged merchandise to provide customers with recommendations and additional information about a product. They can sense when an RFID tag approaches and provide shoppers with information about the product, as well as which other sizes and colors are available in the store via touch screens. Apparel stores can use them as an extension of mannequins.
When shoppers look into an interactive mirror, they can see not only what an item of clothing will look like on them, but also display different combinations of merchandise and guide shoppers to product locations or let shoppers call associates for assistance. If internet-enabled, shoppers could post their selections on Facebook/other social media platforms or email a wish list to themselves for later consideration. Consider the benefit whether used on the salesfloor, in fitting rooms or via smaller devices mounted on display tables. Versions for associates could be used to enable staff to better serve customers by delivering more information about products and accessories.
Early feedback on these systems has found that visual images of product recommendations increases upsell and can increase retail sales between 10 percent and 30 percent.
It’s clear that stores need to evolve in order to meet the demands of today’s consumers. The in-store experience is very closely aligned to the store’s overall success. Interactive shopping is a unique way to use RFID data, helping engage the customer, improve satisfaction and boost sales.