Connectivity Makes Cool, New In-Store Customer Experiences Possible

Think about the last time you went to a retail store and bought something. Anything. Did you research that purchase online before entering the store? Compare the prices of competitors on your mobile device while roaming the aisles? Hunt for deals using a tantalizing array of digital influences - peer reviews, branded apps, and incentives – online coupons and mobile promos?

If you did, you're not alone. This is the new reality for retailers. To win customer mindshare — and a bigger share of wallet — you need to harness mobile technology to engage shoppers in-store and influence their decisions at the point of purchase.

Make the in-store mobile experience engaging
While the allure and convenience of shopping online has certainly changed the dynamic of the retail experience, you can't underestimate the power of the brick-and-mortar store. The goal for retailers is to turn in-store browsers into buyers, interactions into transactions and tech-carrying customers into brand advocates. And that takes technology.

New mobile engagement tools create more connected and engaged shoppers by integrating key technologies — shopping tools, product lookup and mobile marketing — to bring the best of the online shopping experience in-store. Bridging the gap between the physical and the digital allows your brick-and-mortar store to participate and thrive as mobility continues to transform customer expectations and purchasing behavior.

Deliver real-time, context-aware offers
How would a shopper's behavior change if suddenly — while standing in your store, searching for a better price online — they were offered a coupon for purchasing that item today, in the store? It's possible. Real-time location services can allow you to detect Wi-Fi-capable devices that have entered your store and trigger alerts to identify potential sales opportunities.

Contextual engagement is all about sending the right message at the right time, leveraging location-based services to push out targeted welcome messages, offer relevant coupons, make product suggestions and more. This level of real-time personalization creates positive experiences for shoppers and increases the likelihood they will return — and tell others.

Enable a mobile personal assistant
When shoppers have a question that's not covered by available information, it's critical they find an associate who can help.  As we all have experienced, it tends to be this exact moment that an associate is nowhere to be found. Imagine if you could simply text or tweet what you needed to a store associate to help you find another size or a different color?

With the use of guest Wi-Fi in-store combined with proximity awareness and a mobile app, and in conjunction with the appropriate store system (such as mobile workforce management), this kind of interaction is possible.  And, in this case it's even more intelligent. If you have a question about a dress, you don't want answers coming back from associates in men's apparel or shoes.

An application could allow a shopper to simply press a button on his or her phone, indicate the area of interest and have the right associate respond by meeting that shopper at a specific location or sending the information they need via the phone.

Capture and utilize customer analytics
How do you maximize the potential of in-store guest Wi-Fi with a store app?  If you can't tell how many shoppers are connecting, and don't have visibility to their preferences, it's difficult to calculate your return on investment — not to mention justify it. Proximity awareness and analytics solutions give critical, cumulative customer intelligence.

From how long and where they shop in your store, which promotions they are receptive to and who's in line and what they're buying, you gain a wealth of information, including demographic and psychographic data, shopping histories and purchasing behaviors. The more you know about your customers and their preferences, the more personalized experiences you can deliver — and the greater loyalty you can achieve.

Leverage existing assets   
Some investments are necessary to make your integrated customer experience more meaningful and memorable. The good news is that solutions that connect consumers with the store don't require a rip and replacement of existing systems. Current systems and data such as Wi-Fi, customer relationship management tools, promotions and loyalty program information can be integrated to create a platform for customer engagement. This approach combines discovery, personalization and real-time communication technologies with cloud-based delivery to eliminate large upfront investments and lengthy implementation times.

Build a new level of loyalty
Mobility changes everything. Studies prove it. According to a recent Aberdeen Group survey, close to 40 percent of retailers are pursuing mobile channel strategies to engage shoppers via their mobile devices. The urgency is being fueled by customer expectations and rapidly evolving mobile technology. By taking advantage of mobile devices carried by your in-store customers, you can improve your engagement with them and provide personal, high-touch service. When you have better visibility to their habits and preferences, you can anticipate their needs.

The in-store experience you provide to customers matters. And in the end, that positive, connected and engaging shopping experience translates into strengthened loyalty and increased revenues.

Nathan Rowe is next generation retail offer manager for Motorola Solutions.
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