The “Right Here, Right Now” Marketplace Demands Digital Solutions

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The Internet of Everything is delivering new customer experiences in retail.

Today, shoppers turn to their smartphones and mobile devices to browse, compare prices and ultimately order goods online.

This type of shopping experience means that the once acre-spanning darling of the retail world, the mall has seen a sharp decline in shoppers. This drop in physical purchases means that retailers need to quickly innovate and create new customers experiences, as the Internet of Everything (IoE) continues to drive evolution and creates new business opportunities within the retail industry.

Consumers are driving the change. They want to buy what they want, when they want, with seamless connectivity. In a recent study of more than 1,100 consumers, 80 percent of shoppers were identified as “digital,” buying and browsing through digital means.

And it’s moving into the store with “Uber Digitals,” the 18 percent of the population who use smartphones and tablets while actually in-store.

As shoppers rely more and more on their smart devices, retailers must be quick to follow or be left behind, and risk losing loyal customers – and revenue.

IoE is the connection of people, process, data and things. And when everything works together, the possibilities are limited only by our imagination.

It’s estimated that of the total IoE Value at Stake for the industry, $179.6 billion – 55 percent of that value – was unrealized in 2013. Part of that untapped value comes from not having insight into the shopping and buying habits of customers.

IoE analytics creates the opportunity to capture and understand what shoppers are doing and buying.  That in turn gives retailers the ability to create competitive differentiation and keep customers coming back.

“We’re talking about significantly greater magnitudes of data, data management and data analysis that are available,” said Lisa Fretwell, Cisco Consulting Services Managing Director of Retail.  “And then of course, the most critical thing related to all of this is driving better decisions and processes by utilizing the data better.”

Personal Shopping
With the emergence of a new shopping paradigm – coined “hyper-relevance” – consumers expect efficiency, savings and engagement. Going beyond offering personal coupons or offers based on past purchases, hyper-relevance is about delivering what the customer needs at a particular moment. Whether it’s help from an in-store associate, a notification of an opening checkout line or a tally of their loyalty points when they walk into a store.

“Some of the biggest challenges the retailer has now is providing access to information that is accurate and enables customers to find what they want, when they want,” said Leslie Hand, Vice President of IDC Retail Insights.

“Understanding how to deliver and answer these demands can lead to increased customer satisfaction. And the salesperson inside the store has a better experience being able to support the customer. Retail has a higher turnover, but if you empower the associate with tools that enable them to help the customer have a great experience, you not only retain the customer, but you have a better trained employee on the floor that’s invested in making the customer happy,” Hand continues.

Several major retailers and shopping outlets have begun to incorporate the use of connected retail solutions to optimize their in-store shopping experiences:

  • The city of Leeds was slipping in its ranking as a top retail destination in the United Kingdom.  So when commercial property management company Land Securities wanted to change that with their newest facility, the Trinity Leeds Shopping Center, they became an innovator and implemented a single network, which allowed 135,000 visitors on the day it opened to safely access the center’s free Wi-Fi network, sharing their experiences across multiple social media platforms. Retailers also shared special offers on the mall’s smartphone app and reached out to shoppers through a digital signage network. 

    To make this happen, Trinity Leeds used a single network from Dimension Data to connect tenants, phone systems, surveillance cameras, doors, digital signs, sophisticated lights, interactive games and more. This network simplified management and reduced spacing costs since it operates as a virtual server.

  • Sephora, one of the world’s largest cosmetic and skin-care retailers, had enormous success integrating digital with the in-store experience. With heavy global mall presence, their San-Francisco-based Innovation Lab is a full replica of a Sephora store, where digital concepts are tested to measure their ability to enhance shopper experiences, whether across the web, mobile or inside a brick-and-mortar-store. 

    Sephora has also introduced a program called Flash that offers free and low-cost shipping after finding their customers desire instant-buying gratification when they hear about a product they want. In a pilot program, customers have spent nearly twice as much using Flash than those who had previously been comparison shoppers.
     
  • A short four months after investing in future-proofed, center-wide, high-capacity fibre optic cabling and Wi-Fi networks, Intu grew its customer base by 25 percent. The United Kingdom’s leading specialist shopping center, developer and manager, Intu owns their network and Wi-Fi technology directly. This allows the Intu team to gain invaluable mobile business intelligence and provide value to retailers.
     
  • At Poland’s Stary Browar mall, innovation is the core of everything. The artistically designed shopping center answers guests and management needs with location-based services over its Wi-Fi networks. Once customers enter the mall, their Wi-Fi enabled devices can be tracked once they connect to the mall’s network, creating new engagement and monetization opportunities. Dwell times, number of visitors, repeat visitors and typical path analysis can be used for marketing and increasing staff productivity. 
     
  • For its new Centrum Riviera mall, Mayland Real Estate wanted to know how many people were in the mall, while gaining insights into their shopping behaviors when visiting the largest mall in Pomerania. From the moment they enter the mall’s parking garage, Wi-Fi enabled devices can be tracked, providing mall owners with analytics that helped them negotiate lease terms with retailers and adjust the mix of stores in the mall. Taking full advantage of the technology they’ve installed, Mayland Real Estate can access foot traffic categorized by day of the week and time of day.

Though these retailers have made grand-scale changes, small digital innovations can have a great impact on retail operations as well.

“Retailers have to consider things like enabling Wi-Fi and broadening the kind of bandwidth available to execute on many of these digital experiences inside the store that extend our ability to satisfy customers,” added Hand. 

The needs and expectations of today’s mobile-driven consumer have changed. However, brick-and-mortar retail can keep pace with consumers by focusing on enhanced shopping experiences, deeper levels of consumer insight and translating real-world data into new levels of consumer engagement.

More information: See how other retailers are thriving in an Internet of Everything world by engaging digital shoppers. Learn more here.