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4 Areas of Focus for Retail Digital Success

It’s no secret that the worlds of brick and mortar and online retail have collided with one another, with some predicting doom and gloom for physical stores and others seeing an opportunity for partnership. In the past year alone, the world’s been shocked by Toys R Us declaring bankruptcy and Amazon acquiring Whole Foods—the two very obvious sides of that debate.

But while a lot of attention has been focused on the loss of Geoffrey the giraffe and trying to predict which step Amazon will take next, other retailers have also been watching, learning, and adopting digital strategies of their own in order to not suffer the same fate as a once beloved toy store.

So, what should retailers be focusing on in order to avoid the fate of once successful stores like Toys R Us, Radio Shack, and BlockBuster? According to Forrester, retailers who have been able to drive measurable digital success have done so in the four following areas:

1. Personalization – aka Nordstrom service with Amazon data. According to Brendan Witcher, principal analyst for ebusiness and channel strategy at Forrester Research, “Over 70% of retailers are trying to personalize the store experience.”

When it comes to personalization in retail, the easiest way for most retailers to succeed is through content and the customer journey, followed up by more sophisticated personalized offers and product suggestions. True personalization goes beyond “also boughts,” and relies upon data and knowing your customer.

2. Omni-channel fulfillment – In the retail world, there’s some debate as to what the definition of omni-channel means. Here at Kony, since we’re a digital transformation company first and foremost, we think of it as having a presence across devices—whether those devices are at a customers’ home or in your physical store (e.g. your POS system or in-store beacons).

woman shopping on phone while in mallJust to give you an idea of how important omni-channel fulfillment is, though, here’s an interesting statistic for you: according to a 2015 InReality study, 75% of shoppers have used their mobile device while standing in a brick and mortar store. Furthermore, 25% have actually made an online purchase while standing in said brick and mortar store. While I wasn’t one of the people surveyed (that I’m aware of), I am definitely one of those people who’s used her mobile phone while standing in a brick and mortar store and who’s made an online purchase while standing in said store. My reasons for doing so were plenty: first, if I’m making a large purchase or buying something like a laptop or vacuum cleaner or even a Bluetooth speaker, I like to see what I’m looking at physically, but I also want to read reviews and compare products if necessary. If I want to buy a certain product but the store happens to be out of it, I’ll often use the store’s app or website to see if I can find nearby stores that do have the item in stock. And, yes, I have purchased items online after looking up reviews and seeing that I could get a significant discount online as opposed to in-store, if that store is one that doesn’t happen to offer price-matching to online retailers.

In other words, having an omni-channel experience—and an amazing app that allows shoppers to see store inventories and customer reviews—can be a boon to in-store business.

3. Real-time data and analytics – So far, it’s been fairly difficult for brick and mortar stores to harness real-time data and analytics the same way that Amazon has, but through innovative technologies they are beginning to catch up.

Take for example an app developed for this year’s New York Fashion Week by Badgley Mischka—the Badgley Mischka Runway app for iOS. The app recognized which outfit was being worn on the runway by a model thanks to sensors that were either in the pockets or sewn into the fabric. The app then collected sentiment analytics from users—who were retail buyers from major retail houses—that were then generated in real time to provide custom forecasting data and to help optimize business planning.

Beyond that, one of the most simplistic ways of using real-time analytics is via personalized push messages that rely upon data such as geolocation, web or app activity, or time of day; every time I’m near certain stores I receive push notifications or text messages with special offers, and sometimes while I’m in stores I’ll receive even more specific notifications/offers depending upon which section of the store I’m in or what products I’ve looked at in the past.

4. Reimagining in-store experiences through digital store technologies – There are some retailers doing some amazing things with digital technology in-store. Sure, it’s pretty cool paying for your coffee or groceries with your phone, but digital in-store technologies can go way beyond cardless payments. Take for example what Rebecca Minkoff is doing with smart mirrors in their fitting rooms, which allow customers to ask store associates to bring them a different size to a fitting room, or order a different size online from the fitting room.

Or there’s what ECCO Shoes, a Danish footwear brand, is doing with 3D printing and scanning. Basically, a customer has their feet scanned and then custom silicon midsoles are created using a 3D printer.

Outside of the clothes space, there’s also what stores like Michael’s, Home Depot, and Lowe’s have been doing by introducing in-store wayfinding and product location into their mobile apps. In other words, the possibilities really are endless.

To learn more about these four trends—and how successful retailers are mastering them—check out the “Masters of the Four Top Retail Tech Trends” report from Forrester Research. And then get to innovating!

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