Marketers are spending a ton of time looking at data and its digital ecosystem to better understand their customers. Mobile – and SMS, as an extension – are huge priorities, challenging marketers to think strategically about communications, push notifications and threading consistent offers throughout.
So what can be said of retail when it comes to the good old-fashioned brick and mortar? First, that retailers can’t afford to be old fashioned anymore. Running a retail shop now is a lot more than just opening the doors and advertising a sale. In-store experiences are well on their way to becoming testing grounds – a real life lab where brands can watch customers interact in a way that the internet doesn’t allow.
This not only means smarter store layouts and a whole shift in the merchandizing paradigm that dominated retail for the last twenty years. It means multipronged experiences are a must – and that includes digital and mobile. Consumers are plugged in at the store; just watch the next time you go into your local store and you will see over 30% of the “shoppers” on the phone, texting, or checking coupon sites. It’s frustrating at times to walk through the phone attached “shopper” and reminds me of driving when a light turns and only one person gets through because he was on his phone and didn’t notice the light change.
And stores don’t have to be super high-tech to stay competitive. You don’t, for example, have to know how my heart rate and body temperature change when I see a product I love (or loathe) to understand my purchase history, my interests, and in which ways I prefer to contact customer service (or be contacted). You simply have to merge my data from my online and mobile interactions and feed that to the brick-and-mortar experience and keep in mind that a consumer wants a single view of the brand.
I don’t want to be cutting out coupons at the kiosk while the retailer sends me a different set of coupons via email. Don’t tell me about a 20% off sale that I can’t find in the store. And don’t have me wondering where is the coupon for the end cap display that I know is being promoted somewhere but I just cant find where.
Some brands are doing it right. Take a look at Warby Parker, the online eyeglass dealer that was recently valued at $1.2 billion. Their next phase of business is to expand brick-and-mortar stores in select markets. And, with an established ecommerce platform, they’re integrating the digital and mobile experience into their store experience. For example, in the near future customers will be able to conduct eye exams using their mobile phones. So not only can you kick the tires by trying on frames, but you can have a real-time eye exam to assist you in making your purchase onsite. And what kind of offers and promotions they’ll be able to integrate remain to be seen, but for a brand that hangs its hat on price point, we can bet that’s coming down the road.
Marketers who focus on customer retention (and, according to Gartner in 2014, digital marketers spent nearly as much to retail customers as they did to acquire new ones, so I know you’re out there) are already miles ahead in this area, wielding the power to deliver messages that are on time, on point, and when and where I am most likely to engage. They seem to get that the evolution of brick-and-mortar means a clear omnichannel experience. Because it’s what your current – and future – customers expect.