Why Are We Hiding the Future of Retail?

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 in Customer Experience, Omnichannel, Retail

Everyone knows what a search box is. It’s second nature to type in anything into that glowing, empty white space with an inviting blinking cursor. It provides so much value to people around the world that we freely give intent data in exchange for highly relevant information, with an enjoyable experience to boot.

Now, imagine going to the Google homepage on your mobile phone and there was no visible search box. Instead, that it was hidden and the website being pulled up guesses what you wanted based on where you were and what it thought you would like, at random times. This is what the shopping experience is like in most retail stores today that use beacons. Beacons will directly influence more than $4 billion worth of US retail sales this year at top retailers (.1% of the total). That’s roughly $667 million during the busy holiday timeframe over the next two months alone. So why haven’t retailers made these powerful little sensors that could power active requests for personalized, location-based content outwardly visible and accessible?  

In-Store Technology Adoption Has Been Slow, With No Clear Winner

Shopping online has transformed tremendously over the years. Pull marketing dominates end purchase decisions today. The average person turns to Amazon or Google to find whatever it is they want, when they want it. However, that same concept of pulling the information you want simply hasn’t yet extended to shopping in physical retail stores at scale. The advancement of both personal devices and in-store technologies like beacons have progressed recently, but there is still a massive disconnect when it comes to actually using those and sharing information. The eventual adoption of these experiences will provide a contextual location-based shopping experience akin to the Web.

Many retailers have been experimenting heavily with new technologies as a way to offer customers better experiences and drive more revenue. For example, department store like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor have rolled out beacon programs. In 130 of their stores, Lord and Taylor have received 60-70% engagement and redemption rates for offers between 35-40%.However, like most every other study published it doesn’t mention customer adoption most likely because the numbers are small.

Beacons are one technology getting a lot of beta testing and initial buy-in with retailers, but the key to unlocking the true value of content and offers in-store is to make these sensors active visual cues and fully integrate shoppers via mobile devices.

Beacons Will Unleash More Active In-Store Experiences

It’s no secret that brick and mortar retailers seem to always be playing catch up. Online retailers take full advantage of the intent data available to them. They also relentlessly measure and optimize that data to maximize average order value and customer lifetime value. But, what if it were possible to apply that same level of methodology to the place where 90 percent of retail sales still occur?

Active beacon experiences have the ability to generate more demand and unlock new store-level intent data. Retailers need to stop hiding these opportunities for personalized information exchange under tables and displays and make them visibly exciting and accessible.

Whether shoppers access content through their own mobile devices or on a provided device, smart retailers are creating more active shopping experiences with customers by increasing the digital touchpoints in the physical store. It’s been proven that longer visits online and in-store generate more sales. We use advanced content tactics online, now is the time to begin powering comparable intelligent content and curation in the store.

Will customers be trained to seek beacons and location-aware experience as essential tools of connected retail? There was a day when a search box needed instructions. Everything is a gradual change in behavior. The time to start educating customers and demystifying these new wonderful capabilities is now.