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GUEST COMMENT The future of shopping is digitally-enabled stores

Digital innovation is supercharging offline shopping experiences. Mobile check-outs, automated payments, personalised customer experiences; these are just a few examples of how physical retail stores are revolutionising the shopping experience to stay relevant in the era of ecommerce. Shoppers want a streamlined experience and digital innovation is leading the way to reinvigorate physical shopping.

Take Sainsbury’s first ‘On the Go’ shop – opened in London’s Square Mile, this marks a new era for bricks and mortar shopping. Using data and insights gathered about shopper preferences, coupled with a physical store in a smart location, the supermarket is able to meet the needs of local customers in an intuitive way. The new store set up also allows customers flexibility in how they pay for items through the mobile app, allowing for fast, seamless check out.

Digital shopping in the offline space

Analysing data to offer a more tailored experience is nothing new, but offering it within the physical shopping environment is the next step that brands need to invest in to personalise retail offline. 

However, as retailers have different systems and databases they need to organise, it is harder to personalise in this way than it appears. It’s complex to provide an excellent shopper experience, and challenging to obtain a 360-degree view of shoppers across multiple channels. According to Google, omnichannel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. 

However, personalised experiences online have set the bar high and shoppers now expect tailored recommendations, convenience, and a consistent experience regardless of the channel they’re transacting on. High expectations from shoppers are the key driver for retailers to invest in bringing these systems together.

Mobile can be the glue between online insights and offline sales

Retailers should take advantage of the value driven through personalisation on mobile, and the online insights which are vital to engage shoppers with relevancy in store. For example, we worked with Taco Bell to launch personalisation capabilities on the fast-food chain’s app. The restaurant is able to offer tailored menu recommendations directly to users. Using machine learning and AI technology, the app shows the most relevant menu items, promotions, and content based on their individual preferences, past dining history and location, as well as restaurant-specific menus and pricing. 

Using the same underlying machine learning which powers personalisation can also help retailers understand what optimal inventory levels are at a given store location. This helps check stock levelling and enables retailers to anticipate demand and optimise shipment flows, as well as understand the path of a product between the distribution centre and the customer. This drives efficiencies and savings which improves the business’ bottom line.

From a customer experience perspective, it’s also effective because if someone orders a product online or on their mobile device, and they visit their local store to pick that product up a couple of hours later the retailer can personalise the order pickup communications with additional offers for that customer to consider whilst in store. Empowering retailers to tie together the customer profile, the product that’s been purchased, plus inventory that’s available in a local store means they can offer customers better service.

The power of engaging with your most loyal customers 

Omnichannel personalisation fosters loyalty with flighty shoppers. When it comes to personalisation, there is no blanket approach – recognising that every shopper behaves differently with unique expectations is crucial. 

Episerver’s Reimagining Commerce 2020 report found that 22% of UK shoppers felt it should be more of a priority for brands and retailers to offer personalised experiences this year compared to 2019. Retailers need the ability to recognise shopper profiles. Distilling audiences into groups by location, device or demographic is an effective way to begin. These insights can work in tandem with machine learning and will enable brands to use real-time models to identify what works best for each individual. The use of data should continue to improve a shoppers’ personal experience as insights inform how, where and when to best interact with each potential customer.

Retailers can improve customer loyalty through the increased relevance of products, messages, and other pertinent information that personalisation offers. Knowing who your most engaged customers are will allow you to focus on who to build strong relationships with and in time, increase loyalty and most importantly, conversion rates. 

Ultimately, retailers need to consider the online and offline shopping experience in equal measure. Shoppers may start their journey online, but using data analytics from digital channels means retailers have the insight to offer a seamless experience in store too. Retailers don’t have to second guess instore anymore – sophisticated personalisation is allowing retailers to offer true multichannel experiences and improve communications with customers. With this approach retailers can drive long term loyalty, increasing customer lifetime value. 

Lisa Kalscheur is CMO of Monetate, a Kibo company

Main image: Fotolia

Author image courtesy of Lisa Kalscheur/Monetate

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