The technology making retail personal

Retail Technology Review asked Daniel Domberger, Managing Director at Arrowpoint Advisory, for his thoughts on how the rise of e-commerce is putting unprecedented pressure on bricks-and-mortar retailers.

The rise of e-commerce is putting unprecedented pressure on bricks-and-mortar retailers to up their game. Some traditional players on the UK high street, including BHS and M&S, have clearly felt this more than others. But despite the collapse of some high-profile brands, the news is not all bleak for the sector. When bricks-and-mortar is blended effectively with online, and when digital tools and channels are deployed effectively instore, the impact on the retail experience can be transformational.

True data insights, a personal approach

Today's retailers need to deliver a personalised and relevant shopping experience to each and every customer, from the marketing they receive on their smartphones to the interaction the sales staff in-store. This level of personalisation demands access to vast amounts of consumer data, technology is playing a key role in transforming the way in which retailers engage with their customers.

As the process of technology evolution continues, retailers are likely to gravitate towards more comprehensive and multi-functional platforms enabling them to deliver effective personalisation across all channels. Technology providers can now offer retailers a comprehensive suite of applications that use Big Data to provide a central view of the customer lifecycle across multiple channels, devices and other touch points. A good example is IBM Watson, which allows retailers to extract the data that helps them to build a comprehensive profile of who their customers are, how they shop, and what keeps them coming back for more.

Tracking the journey from online to instore

Mastering the omni-channel shopping experience is considered the 'Holy Grail' for retailers, and a key driver of this trend worldwide is mobile.Omni-channel sales can actually make tracking a purchase from start to finish more difficult for retailers, particularly when consumers use a combination of channels to conduct a single transaction.

Recognising the need to track a customer's interaction with a brand through online to in-store, Carpetright (Europe's biggest flooring retailer) recently deployed specific attribution technology to gain better oversight of how its explore and purchase flooring, online and in-store. As part of that process, Carpetright created a dedicated e-commerce channel to transform its business.

By collaborating with Arrowpoint Advisory client Summit, the online retailing specialist acquired by TCC Global this year, Carpetright was able to harness key data that allows the retailer to personalise its engagement with each customer. By creating a series of interaction points on its website, Carpetright was able to track its customers' progress from website to store, monitoring engagement including input into the local store locator function, requests for free samples, and requests for floor measuring.

Armed with this information, the retailer was able to match online customer data with sales data collected in-store, and thus build a comprehensive profile of its customers and how they shop. The insights the retailer was able to glean as a result included the fact that 25% of those who interact with Carpetright's website go on to buy in-store, compared to 18% who browse Carpetright products on their phone or tablet.

Harnessing technology to empower the shop floor

Technology has transformed the way in which retailers communicate with their customers. By using technology to tap into historical behavioural data, large 'faceless' retailers are now able to connect with customers in a way that feels far more personal.

Smartphones have transformed the way that consumers shop, and made them much more informed and empowered.In response, retailers need to equip their staff with the tools that they need to drive engagement and offer extra perks that go beyond what they can access for themselves online. In 2016, high street pharmacy giant Boots armed its teams with iPad apps that allow them to check the store's product information, browse ratings and reviews, and look up inventory in store and online in real-time.  Boots now intends to roll out technology that will alert staff when a customer signed up to its loyalty scheme walks through the door, and also provide comprehensive details of that shopper's likes, dislikes and shopping habits.

Retail platforms are no longer siloed. It is clear that more and more consumers are now adopting a multi-channel approach when browsing new product lines and in-store stock and when making purchasing decisions. The personalisation journey has only just begun, and the more that retailers (quite rightly) invest in meeting 'anytime, anywhere, anyhow' customer needs, the more customers will demand and expect from their retailers.

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