Identifying customers in-store is high on retailers' agendas

The majority of retailers in North America are planning to implement technology that enables them to identify customers in a store environment, according to new research released this week by Boston Retail Partners.

Some 72% of the 500+ businesses questioned in the consultancy's 1st Annual CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey said that they are looking to introduce the technology within five years, while 3% indicated that they already have the ability to identify the customer in-store.

A total of 95% of the respondents suggested that customer experience or customer engagement is one of their top three current initiatives as they look to achieve "unified commerce" that provides a seamless experience in the store, on the web or anywhere customers choose to shop.

Commenting on the research, Walter Deacon, principal at Boston Retail Partners, said: "It was impressive to learn how many retailers are now focused on implementing the technologies to deliver unified commerce, but there is still a lot of work to be done to deliver these capabilities.

"Delivering unified commerce requires seamless execution of the right strategy, technology, and business processes."

But this is not solely a US trend; the European retail market is facing similar challenges in terms of customer engagement.

Many of the technological solutions that can aid retailers in this process were on show at RBTE 2014, which took place at London's Earls Court in March. Motorola Solutions, one of the 250+ exhibitors at the event, has this week launched new solutions that it says can improve customer engagement – including the MC18 in-store self scanner (pictured above right), which can help businesses measure shopper behaviour.

Meanwhile, its indoor locationing MPact Platform for Mobile Marketing (see graphic below), which was publically announced this week and is currently in pilot mode with a range of retail businesses, utilises Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology – intertwined with individual retailer mobile apps – to provide various customer communication channels. For instance, the tool allows customers to receive customised offers relevant to specific parts of a store via a Bluetooth Smart-triggered loyalty app, as well as providing Wi-Fi access to help shoppers locate more product information.

Mark Thomson, director of retail & hospitality at Motorola Solutions, told Essential Retail: "The overall goal for retailers is to sell more and in order to sell more products they need to understand their customers."

He suggested that "one-on-one conversations" represent the next stage of marketing, which is made possible if retailers understand when and where their customers are in a store, adding: "Now we are moving to a stage where we are trying to make the marketing hyper-personalised so you only get the offers relevant to you or adjacently relevant to you."

People shop in different ways and Thomson acknowledges that this kind of technology is not going to be adopted by all shopper demographics, but there are various surveys highlighting how the mobile phone is becoming increasingly important in terms of the in-store purchase journey.

Digital communications company EE revealed recently, for example, that more than 20 million consumers in the UK now visit physical stores to browse products while using mobile devices to find the best deals online.

Commenting on the potential traction for mobile-led shopping journeys, Thomson added: "It's not necessarily something shoppers will do unless they see added value in the process, so if I take out my mobile phone I want more info, I want to see what everyone else bought and I want to see what the reviews are.

"In the same way I use TripAdvisor every time I book a holiday, we should be able to do that when we're in a store. If I find a product, it's got five stars and great reviews – I will buy it. The more expensive the item is, the more I want to be accessing those types of reviews, and we know that kind of technology and approach filters down to the lower-priced items."

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Motorola Solutions

Boston Retail Partners