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Customer experience - doubling down

Retail is evolving rapidly – no big secret. It seems an eternity since retailers’ main challenges were ‘just’ delivering excellent customer service and ensuring product availability. Compared to yester-year, today’s smartphone-clutching consumer can shop anywhere, at any time, for almost anything. They have a wealth of information available to inform their choice of products and services. And whatever they purchase, they can often take delivery, consume and enjoy it at a time and place of their choosing.

However, inside this stampede of changing technology and habits, smart retailers are recognising a very important constant. To paraphrase Peter Drucker: “customer experience eats everything else for breakfast”.

Providing a peerless customer experience is vital. Getting it right means harnessing the rich data and communications provided by the digital realm, as well as the power of the good old-fashioned bricks and mortar shop front.

Grand Unification

The secret sauce of today’s customer experience is unification’. This flows from an understanding that all consumer experiences, across all channels, reinforce rather than compete. Unification is the creation of a holistic, seamless and delightful shopping experience that meets a customer’s needs at different points in time and place.

Gartner and Boston Retail Partners have both published comprehensive studies that conclude that with increased smartphone and mobile internet access, consumers have unlimited, immediate information at their disposal and expect their shopping experience to transcend channels. Consumers no longer just browse, select and take their products to the till. Now they peruse, buy, pick up and expect service anywhere at almost any time.

“The digital world is infiltrating bricks and mortar stores where consumers want full transparency on product pricing and availability. Miss a step on any of these data points, and your customer can immediately shop the competition, even while still in your store. This is the new normal.” – The Future Store Manifesto, Boston Retail Partners.

Ensuring your steps are perfect means unifying the longed-for sensory experience; touching and feeling products, talking to a sales assistant; with the unique and personalised shopping experience common in the digital world.

Key to this unification is the ability to engage with a customer as soon as possible during their in-store visit, leverage a wealth of information to support their buying choices, and match the convenience and speed distinctive to online shopping.

Technology lies at the heart of this ability; particularly the smart use of the mobile point-of-sale – the mPOS.

"With increased smartphone and mobile internet access, consumers have unlimited, immediate information at their disposal"
"With increased smartphone and mobile internet access, consumers have unlimited, immediate information at their disposal"

More than wireless

mPOS is a relatively new technology and is often seen as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Of course, it enables a mobile device to take payment anywhere, anytime using just a card reader and an app. This alone goes a long way towards improving the customer experience by speeding up the checkout and providing a convenient set of payment options.

Where things start to get interesting is when retailers use mPOS to furnish their sales staff with information such as available stock, historical product trends and consumer information. This also provides a real-time view of what’s going on in store – enabling them to improve their customer interactions; supplying the right products and ensuring staff availability.

Customers can now reduce the time it takes to collect the shopping they ordered in store; encouraging them to buy additional products. Returns and refunds are simplified, and alternative items offered.

The Art of Recognition

To really leverage mPOS, retailers are combining it with complimentary technology such as beacons, apps and omni-channel marketing. This array of tools provides true insight into individual consumer behaviour, their personal shopping history, social trends and much, much more. This is where mPOS has the potential to revolutionise the shopping experience for consumers and retailers alike.

Online, consumers and their habits are unique. Abandoned shopping carts are available for forensic examination, search histories enable product pop-ups, and cookie-enabled notifications alert consumers to new purchasing opportunities.

Contrast this with in store. Often the checkout is the first opportunity to recognise the customer; sometimes they aren’t recognised at all.

Smart retailers are changing this. Near-field communications tools like beacons, paired with consumer’s mobile devices, unlock the ability to recognise and reach-out as soon as a customer steps through the door – even on the street outside.

Consumers can now be provided with relevant information on their visit, encouraged to examine a potentially interesting product, and helpfully educated on those that catch their eye.

When combined with mobile apps, and mobile loyalty programmes; “…these technologies enable identification of the customer before they make a purchase decision, which allows the retailer to tailor the shopping experience and influence the purchase decision” – Boston Retail Partners

In the future, this data, intelligence and insight will be linked with machine learning that will further tailor the customer’s experience depending on the weather, social media trends and their location.

"Retailers use mPOS to furnish their sales staff with information such as available stock, historical product trends and consumer information. This also provides a real-time view of what's going on in store."
"Retailers use mPOS to furnish their sales staff with information such as available stock, historical product trends and consumer information. This also provides a real-time view of what's going on in store."

Empowerment

Today’s retail assistants are no longer just smiling faces behind a counter telling customers what’s in the stock room. Instead, they need to approach the consumer armed with the information and knowledge to enable them to make an educated – and enthusiastic – buying decision. They need to know what’s trending, what’s available elsewhere and in-stock. And they need to complete their customer’s purchase as soon as they make the decision to buy.

Combined with information kiosks and smart fitting rooms, existing technologies like RFID tags enable sales assistants and consumers to fully understand the possibilities of their products.

What’s in stock? What can be easily brought in or home delivered? What do the reviews say? What would it look like in red? Can we deliver it within an hour to the customer’s home or office address?

Harnessing the real-time data provided by mPOS, analytics can indicate high foot-traffic times, surge predictions based on time, weather and other factors. The Business Intelligence encompassing loss prevention, merchandising, workforce management, supply chain, brand and campaign delivery are all enriched by real-time data.

Double-Down

Forbes predicts 87% of retailers will deploy mobile point-of-sale technology over the next four years. The percentage of those retailers who treat this technology as more than just another type of payment device, and embrace the opportunity it unlocks to double-down on delivering truly excellent customer experiences will be the ones first in line for breakfast. Those who don’t will see consumers shopping elsewhere, in the same moment, with the simple push of a button.

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