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While talking at the recent Killer Retail Experience about the blurring of the lines between online and offline shopping, I highlighted the rising need for a human connection in the retail experience. There were three main points in my talk to help companies, and in particular retailers, focus on why you would use technology to help enhance interactions with their customers.
The increased need for a human connection
A human connection
From a retailers perspective, customers can appear to be schizophrenic frogs - hopping across different communications channels and then randomly purchasing items that weren't previously researched online. From a customers' point of view, there are now so many different and fragmented methods of researching and receiving information. Multiple instant messaging apps, twitter, Facebook news feeds along with all the traditional media types all have a role to play, but the proliferation of communication adds complexity and heightens the desire for simplicity and consistency.
A human connection remains the most influential means of getting a customer to make a choice or take an action. Far from replacing people, as the use of programmatic delivery of content and advertising grows the need for a personal interaction increases to give assurance and confidence.
This doesn't always mean a face to face conversation. It can be a genuine and human piece of communication such as live chat, reviews, phone conversation or bespoke emails. It's worth noting here the importance of a physical shop to also driving online sales. The ability for customers to touch and feel products, ask questions and seek assurance has been shown to drive online sales from customers who reside within the catchment area of the store. The significant additional revenue that is derived from multi or omni-channel shoppers makes this case even more compelling and is leading to traditional 'pure play' online retailers to start establishing high street stores.
Create value - take something away from your customers
In the rush to be relevant to their customers, many brands make the mistake of feeling like they need to add or insert something into the lives of their consumers. A newsletter, a loyalty program, click this, scan that, get this card stamped all add something extra to do that wasn't there before. What value are you really adding in this scenario? The ubiquity of sales, reward points and special offers has reduced their effectiveness and are increasingly seen as a chore rather than a benefit.
Perhaps consider using technology to take something away from your customers. Save them some time by using technology to undertake low-value actions on their behalf. Show me the nearest car space, pop up more information about the product I'm looking at, bring my parcel to me if I'm now not at home and automatically bring my order to the collection desk when I arrive to pick it up from your store are all good examples. These create genuine value for your customer by saving something they value the most - their time.
Start by solving a problem for both the business and the customer
It is much easier to justify spending the limited budget you have on something that is going to save the business money, than on something that is speculatively going to increase the sales revenue received from customers. An area that brings benefits from both is improving the efficiency of your in-store fulfilment. As ever increasing numbers of consumers choose to buy online and pick up in-store (Click & Collect), the impost on your most expensive resource - your staff - increases. Throwing increased numbers of people at inefficient in-store stock and click & collect processes is a fast way to killing off whatever small margin was available in the first place.
Using location technology to make a process like this more efficient not only saves costs, but vastly improves the experience for your most valuable customers - those who shop both on and offline. It can also be used to create an ongoing connection between your brand and the customer based on real value. Our clients have found that these customers are then much more receptive to other value-add opportunities you may suggest.
The author of this blog is Tim Andrew, Co-Founder and Commercial Director at Localz.