Do you remember the days when shopping for clothes was a group effort? And I’m not just referring to have a number of BFF’s needed to help you decide which outfit to choose. I’m talking about those engaging sales people who would be constantly at your side, ready to swop sizes, offer an alternate colour-way or simply BE THERE when you needed them?
Those days are long gone as we navigate store aisles alone or shop on-line. The retail shopping environment continues to affect the way we shop as computing power influences e-commerce, data collection, financial services and digital customer service in ways we have never experienced before.
The smartphone in every consumer’s hand has unlimited computing capacity millions of times stronger than conventional computers that will drive the owner’s ability to reference, research, buy, bank and impact the economic trends shaping the markets.
The scope of data gathered through those smartphones and other applications is the foundation of information gathering that discovers trends, patterns and correlations that form the algorithms that will drive what we buy, when we buy it and how we pay for it.
Detecting shopping behaviours through AI computing will allow retailers to manage their product sourcing and optimise stock levels to meet demand or cut back on lost leaders. The data gathered through e-commerce will create individual profiles of customers tracking everything from how many times they order take-outs to what brand of wine they prefer – and map out a personal profile that can be individually targeted.
Customer feedback, traditionally captured through suggestion boxes in-store moves to the social media space and offers the customer a platform to express satisfaction, complaints or referrals and give the retailer invaluable feedback and the chance to get to know and engage with customers.
A knock-on marketing effect, as a result of all the data captured, will allow retailers and marketers to promote layers of related products that the customer’s profile identifies. A penchant for buying pastas or risottos will prompt the promotion of other Italian products or a drive through social media to promote food recipes or related products and information.
But, amidst all this technological input, is there still place for the good old face-to-face interaction?
According to an interview in bizcommunity with retail guru Andrew Jennings, former group MD of Woolworths and author of Almost Is Not Good Enough, the fundamentals to attracting and retaining customers remains the same.
Jennings’ secret to bringing the shopping experience back to life is: “Be relevant!”
“Understand your customers’ needs, wants and aspirations. Too many retailers don’t spend enough time thinking about and talking to their customers. Do your staff ask customers how their experience was as they walk out the door? This kind of research isn’t expensive. You can do it on your own at minimal expense and maximum return.”
People, not machines must be at the heart of any business as they make or break an organisation. As the face of the business, they are the ones that make that first impression on a customer and set the tone for on-going engagement. Having the right people, training them correctly to give friendly, consistent and inspired service will bridge the gap between the accelerated pace of change and building an engaging personality brand.