What's coming in 2016: Smarter in-store technology strategies

| by Joe Holley
What's coming in 2016: Smarter in-store technology strategies

As we began 2015, we predicted retail was in for a big change, noting it was the "year to watch how the in-store experience changes to accommodate the self-regarding Millennial." We understood new technology would enrich shopper experiences with benefits like improved productivity, inventory counts and use of store square footage, but we were yet to fully grasp how this technology would be incorporated or all the effects it would have.

 As the year went on, we saw how astute retailers such as Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Target, Westfield Malls and Walmart applied customer-centric focuses through  omni-channel strategies, websites, mobile applications, and in-store digital integrations. With the implementation of these strategies, benchmarks for consumer expectations were set and pressure grew for retailers to create a brand experience that was not only personalized for each shopper but flows seamlessly from their websites to their store. When this is done effectively, the consumer's experiences are consistent across all channels; the in-store experience is as convenient and easy to engage with as the website, and it promotes personalization, excitement and brand loyalty for the consumer.

So what does this mean for the 2016 retailer? This year, we will see continued growth in using technology in-stores but this time we will have a better understanding of how and why we use it.

In 2016, we will see successful retailers capitalizing on the use of digital services as a competitive advantage to empower shoppers. That is, retailers will increasingly use technology to engage with consumers for direct analysis of their habits; this technology used in data points throughout stores, exemplified through beacon-based messaging, location based marketing, digital signage recognition and in-store consumer connectivity through retailer Wi-Fi networks, will be used to engage with consumers. As consumers embrace these interactive points, retailers collect data and begin to recognize who their buyers and what their habits are.

Perhaps, Ryan Craver detailed these trends for retailers best as he spoke about beacon technology at the ARE/POPAI Summit.  During his keynote session regarding technology in the retail environment, he explained that almost all shoppers with smart phones leave their Bluetooth function on all the time.  Retailers and OEM's are placing wireless beacons in the merchandising fixtures that push a promo or coupon to the consumer once they locate their Bluetooth on their smart phone. In turn, the retailer can also detail many other points of consumer habits for critical data.  From a curiosity standpoint, this technology draws the consumer to the display fixture to see and touch the product. While it is currently being used, we can expect an increase in usage with both OEM's and retailers in 2016.  

The meaningful use of this technology differentiates each consumer's shopping experience through personalization while allowing the retailer to effectively predict what will sell when, where and to whom. 

Today's shopper considers time and experiences more valuable than money. The most successful retailers are going to be the ones that engage this shopper by penetrating the experience of the shopper's life somehow.  More than just presenting 'stuff' for consumers to buy, the most successful retailers will engage the shopper by knowing their interests, knowing who their friends are, and what their challenges are. The most successful retailer will then offer solutions to the problems the shopper actually has, and pathways to get them to where they want to go. This all has to happen in the most subtle way. In a way that doesn't look or feel like conventional marketing. Maybe it's a personal concierge like Apple's Siri or Microsoft's Cortana that offers life enhancing services and helpful, timely advice free of charge. Retailers could purchase the attention of an individual's 'helper,' but any breach of consumer trust could blow the whole thing. Retailers who use such a service would be carefully vetted for quality of goods and service prior to being presented to this 'discerning individual' shopper.

The experience movement will extend beyond basic omni-channel strategies and personal concierge all the way to promotions and in-store design. While shoppers will continue to purchase a lot of commodity items at brick and mortar stores such as Costco, Walgreens and Target as well as their online storefronts, for aspirational items such as sporting goods, electronics, high end cosmetics and clothing, the trend is going to continue toward an experiential engagement with the shopper. In other words, while shopping for sporting goods, it may seem more like going to the gym or the yoga studio than a store. Similarly, shopping for cosmetics might look a lot more like going to get a makeover, and when buying video games, TVs and sound systems, departments or stores may reflect where you go to hang out with your buddies and play the latest games on the best hardware. It's going to be about creating the optimal experience in the optimal setting where you can order the items you just played with or tried on and have them delivered to your home sometimes by the time you get home. For those who like the thrill of the hunt, the liquidation retailers like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, and Off 5th Ave. are great examples of how some retailers will be appealing to the bargain hunting, individualistic, psyche of today's shopper.

It is an exciting time for retail; one where we will see that the successful retailers curate brand experiences to exceed the expectations of loyal customers.

So tell us: in 2016, which technologies are you interested in to gain a better understanding of who your customer is and what/when they are buying?  How are you positioning your product to engage with your consumer?  

Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Technology, Trends / Statistics

Companies: Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.

Joe Holley

As Vice President-New Business Development for Displays/Merchandisers, Joe Holley’s focus at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc. is to cultivate new relationships with accounts to meet their needs for permanent fixtures, displays, merchandisers and retail signage.

wwwView Joe Holley's profile on LinkedIn

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