When Agnes (not her real name), a budding entrepreneur in the retail business, started putting out her fairly ordinary retail commodity out in the market, she did it with much pizzazz that many clients instantly paid attention. Other veterans in the retail industry were puzzled: what did Agnes do that we have not done? For Agnes, an IT enthusiast with a penchant for creativity in the marketing front, it was a no brainer. She did it because she knew how to maximize IoT in enabling unique experiences for the retail market.
Agnes knew about customer experience and gambled on intelligent retail spaces to shore up her business. The latest Beecham Research proves her correct. In its newly published ‘Internet of Retail Market Brief’, the research group says IoT will be “pivotal in shaping the experience-based retailer of the future. The research suggests that emerging technologies like 3D virtual realities and biometrics, among others, will create new levels of customer engagement.
Beecham’s findings give us a deeper analysis of the ongoing transformation of retail space and where this will lead to. It’s important to know – and this is not just for retailers but everyone in the IoT business as well — the impact to key enabling devices and applications on the retail environment. Specifically, the study shows the trends in hospitality, interactive kiosks and entertainment. It also looked closer at experiences among multisite retailers, virtual retailers and specialist retailers, and how the Chief Experience Officers within their space should take on a more active role in harnessing emerging technologies to win customers.
What Experience Do Customers Want?
Enhanced customer experience. What does it mean anyway? Huffington Post says customer experience is how customers perceive their interaction with your company. In the realm of retail, customer experience would mean their shopping experience, the ways by which you as retailer was able to help the customer find what he or she wants.
Like Agnes who has become a savvy retailer by using technology to engage with customers, appreciation and recognition of IoT and the “magic” that it can do to attract, captivate and win over loyal customers.
Beyond hard selling, or even cold calling, retailers today recognize how various platforms in devices can fire up interest in a customer and let him stop, think and make a decision at the point of sale. Beecham Research calls it the “intelligent use of multi-sourced data and advanced data analytics.” Simply put, make IoT work for you.
According to Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at Beecham Research, “Data will be the life blood that will flow through all these technologies, making physical and virtual retail spaces more intelligent and able to adapt to new needs, experiences and business models.”
One of the most cited examples of IoT-based customer experience enhancement is Disney’s Magic Band. This unique technology gives the ultimate convenience to the visitor by giving him easy access to a wealth of services and capabilities. That would mean avoiding long lines, allowing easy purchases and being able to walk in and out like a VIP. In the retail grocery front, the in-store app has given a great opportunity to capture customers who are understandably acerbic to long lines, or products going out of stock, or just traveling to the supermarket. The in-store app can send text alerts and notifications on where and when to buy products. It event tells when milk has run out or if the kitchen pantries need to be replenished.
These are just few examples, and there is still much, much more that retailers can do to bring customer experience to the next level. IoT offers the widest space for retailers to trudge on and fully maximize to their advantage. In a study published by IBM in 2015, it says customers are more empowered than ever before and “creating real, relevant connections with them has become extremely challenging.” In this hypercompetitive environment, retailers who use IoT get the upper hand.
New skills for the retailer
However, designing and implementing experience-based retail strategy will not be a walk in the park, according to Beecham Research. It calls for new skills and changes in the organization, as well as the engagement of professionals who understand the challenges.
Saverio Romeo gives this advice to today’s retailers: “To succeed, the industry must embrace the IoT vision and ensure that they have the right strategies, skills and technologies to become experience-based retailers across multiple physical and virtual channels.”