December 2013 / HP Technology at Work
The smartphone is transforming the typical purchasing experience. As more customers wielding feature-packed phones roam store aisles and surf the web, the lines between online and in-store shopping are blurring. Savvy retail businesses are adopting an omni-channel strategy to align and interconnect all of their customer-facing touch points—web, brick-and-mortar, mobile apps, and social media—to put their data-empowered customers at the center of the retail map.
Retailers need to collect and analyze many sources of data as part of an omni-channel strategy. One of the most important is the vast amount of unstructured data created by customers via social media. Here is a look at the technologies that are driving this change and how businesses are responding to it.
The smartphone factor
Armed with a modern smartphone, customers have access to a world of information about the products on store shelves. This easy access to information has created new shopping patterns and increased customer expectations. Shopping assistant apps let customers scan the UPC and QR codes of products in a store and see how the price compares to other retailers. Some of these apps not only show competing online offers, but also show the prices of other local retailers ranked by distance from the mobile device user’s current location.
Mobile access to real-time, location-specific information has created a behavior retailers refer to as “showrooming,” in which prospective customers use the brick-and-mortar store to try out a product, only to leave and buy the product later, online at home, with their phone, or at another local store. Retailers need to react to this trend by using the same techniques their customers are using, staying aware of the competitive landscape, and by making the in-store purchase experience more compelling. That’s one of the primary goals of the omni-channel strategy.
It’s important to offer relevant paths into social media because customers aren’t just accessing price data with their mobile devices. They’re also creating and sharing a wealth of opinions about businesses and retail experiences on local search sites and on social media sites. Customers can gather a real-time view of a store while they shop. Businesses need to be active in each social community. By taking part in these conversations, businesses can tell their stories in formats that are relevant to the audiences they’re trying to reach.
New York–based pharmacy chain Duane Reade presents a good example of a robust, multi-platform social media presence as part of its omni-channel strategy. Duane Reade achieved a remarkable 6,709 percent increase in followers year over year on its micro-blog feed, which now has more than one million followers, according to a case study released this fall.
The key to the chain’s success was understanding the kinds of conversations customers were having online and providing relevant content, not just sales pitches. The @DuaneReade feed consists largely of time-based and location-based items of interest, including neighborhood-specific news with promotion-related content blended in.
Duane Reade is also using other strategies, including promotions that encourage sharing a post to unlock a specific discount, and that sends offers only available to followers or at specific stores. Most social media platforms also offer analytics tools so businesses can see the performance of promotions, but more importantly, they can monitor the sentiment of their audience.
Connections and conversations
Many retailers are leveraging more opportunities to engage with customers via smartphones in the store. The goal is to keep the conversation going before, during, and after a sale in ways customers will find valuable. Some of the ways retailers are engaging with in-store visitors include:
- Enticements for Likes or Follows—providing an instant discount on purchases for Facebook Likes or Twitter follows or Retweets of the store’s Twitter feed
- Opt-in email promotions—for special offers or newsletters
- In-store app downloads—posting signs with QR codes to encourage downloading a branded mobile app
- Emailed receipts—Aside from the convenience factor offered to customers, an emailed receipt gives the business another opportunity to thank the customer, include links back to satisfaction surveys or user manuals related to the purchase, and more.
Pulling together all of that activity into one cohesive picture is a big challenge for every organization. HP’s Autonomy technologies are designed to help gain a useful understanding from a host of unstructured data sources: social media sites, phone conversations, video and more. Tapping into these insights is essential for businesses to be responsive and stay relevant in customers’ connected lifestyles.