RBTE 2015: Stores need to perform like giant marketing machines

Retailers are going to have to introduce innovative new marketing tactics more commonly used to engage with customers online to provide the personalised shopping experience that will drive increased store sales.

That's the view of Sarah Davis, head of digital at Kurt Salmon, who will be elaborating on this topic in a presentation at RBTE, tomorrow (Wednesday 11 March).

"Around 50% of customers leave a store without engaging with a member of staff or a product; less than 20% are encouraged to purchase complementary items and only a handful are even offered products based on their personal history and search or loyalty programme preferences," she explained.

"Yet by improving up and cross selling by between 5-9%, retailers could sell an additional 15-25% of product."

According to Davis, retailers "must disintermediate and take control of a strategy that uses customer data, from every source available, to more accurately target customers'  buying preferences".

She added: "They ultimately need to deliver an in-store shopping experience that while different, is just as personal, as that achieved by many of the online specialists.

"Retailers need to use their stores as a giant marketing machine, tapping into every step of the customer journey throughout their stores, utilising technology that will sell the products on show and personalise the proposition on a individual basis."

Davis will use the three phases of the customer journey to illustrate her theme. In the pre-purchase stage, she says it is all about knowing what a customer likes and has previously bought and targeting them with offers (e.g. the Tesco Clubcard), and educating them about products and services they might like (e.g. Topshop's online and mobile apps magazine feature with social media integration to educate loyal customers on fashion trends and identify key trend setters is a good example).

In the purchase phase it is about showing the product clearly and demonstrating value for money and educating, she noted. The staff in Apple stores who give product demonstrations and tutorials, or Lush, awarded for its customer service and heightened product knowledge, are arguably among the best exponents of this, Davis said.

In the post purchase phase it is all about support, helping customers make the best use of their purchase, with the Kurt Salmon representative suggesting that electronics firms are leading the way here such as Currys, which will install a product, test it, remove the packaging and take away the old product free of charge. For retailers, it is also about rememberance – making sure the next time the customer shops, their likes and dislikes, purchase history and decisions are recalled.

"The same marketing message must be communicated via the website, mobile devices and in-store," Davis remarked.

"With beacon technology and geo-fencing, stores can immediately recognise when a customer steps over the threshold and can be marketed with relevant products. It might have taken more than 20 years, but at last RFID is being widely adopted so a store can easily recognise the product that a customer is touching, trying on and interacting with and make recommendations based on previous preferences."

Within the fashion sector, smart fitting rooms can provide the mechanism to upsell and cross-sell. In-room digital displays, meanwhile, can be used to suggest additional items based on a customer's previous search and purchase history.

Then there are the dynamic mannequins. Viewable on a smartphone via a mobile app, customers are presented with all the related marketing information for items on a mannequin, offered additional product recommendations and the option to require a store associate's assistance.

RFID-enabled store fixtures attached to digital touchscreens can display related marketing information, which is updated in real time, to reflect the specific products a customer chooses from the fixture.

"As well as the store being connected to the customer, it must also ensure that the customer is connected to its sales staff," says Davis.

"With the appropriate technology – tablets, iPads, etc – sales staff can immediately be more proactive in showing customers the product they are interested in and act as their personal shopper in every instance – anonymity is out.

"Instead of asking a customer if they can be helped, sales staff should open a conversation with a comment that tells the customer they know something about them – and that is a very powerful marketing tool.

"However, acquiring that single view of the customer is going to be a huge challenge for retailers, as it will require changes to their organisation structure, technology and supply chain but is essential to running a truly omnichannel business."

Visitors to RBTE 2015, which takes place this week on 10-11 March, can hear more from Sarah Davis. Her session, '1 to 1 Connected Consumer Retailing: Bringing The Best Of Online Personal Marketing Into The Bricks And Mortar Operation', takes place at 15:40 on Wednesday 11 March, in Theatre A.