In-Venue Technology and the 2nd Coming of Retail

Shopping blog

In-Venue Technology and the 2nd Coming of Retail

I love shopping in Supermarkets. I totally appreciate all the reasons why one might order their food online and have it delivered, but I personally take genuine pleasure from the in-store experience. Done well, it is time well spent. The choice of products is fantastic, and I often trial new lines just for the hell of it. The only bit I really dislike is queueing for the checkout. I hate waiting, and it’s a bit laborious unloading everything onto a conveyor just to have to load it up again. Anyway, whilst in my local out of town Sainsbury’s I was stopped in my tracks by the “Mobile Scan and Go” trial they’re running. This isn’t the already-established Waitrose style picking device, but an app. You simply walk round the shop, scanning products with your smartphone, packing it away as you go. Nifty. You don’t actually have to be subjected to the checkout experience at all, you just scan a QR code on your way out. I’ve yet to try it personally, but it strikes me as a fairly liberating experience.

It’s fair to say, these last few years have been pretty hard on retail. Many big names have given up, or gone online. From what I’ve read in the papers this week, even the seemingly unstoppable food retail behemoths are having a bit of a mare; 3 of the big 4 are facing profit warnings, reduced footfall, a squeeze of margin, and competition from all angles. Now, maybe we should view this positively. Competition is good right? It forces businesses to think really hard about how their proposition stacks up against their rivals’, and whether it really addresses customer needs. To take Supermarkets as an example, they have a product range about as extensive as really could be. In terms of price, I don’t think anybody should conscionably be lobbying for a reduction in price, considering most food price rises are due to global shortfalls in supply. So what’s left? Well, quite a lot actually. Supermarkets are having to re-think the shopping experience as a whole. The Sainsbury’s Scan and Go trial is just one example of a new wave of technology making its way into retail environments. Of course, it is relatively early days for such technologies. In a recent survey by The Integer Group and MARC Research, fewer than 1 in 10 shoppers will download a retailer’s app.

So here in lies the first challenge every retailer faces- how do you get your customers to download an app? Well, there has to be an incentive, and it has to be instantly gratifying, meaningful to the consumer, and measurable by the retailer. This could be a simple email, or a leaflet, or a fly poster. “Download our app for a free slice of cake or x% off your next purchase”. Ideally, this incentive has to be pushed through both online and offline channels for maximum reach. Once the consumer has downloaded the store app, you can safely follow the following 4 steps to achieve in-venue technology nirvana.

    • Optimize your email campaigns, SMS, direct mail, etc. for mobile wallets.

Two years ago, 29% of web traffic was accessed by a mobile device, that number is now somewhere over 50% and growing. For retail websites, that statistic favours mobile devices even more.

    • Take advantage of a customer’s proximity.

There’s a lot to do here, but generally, iBeacons are where its at for pushing relevant, location critical information to your customers.

    • Alter your customer experience to encourage mobile payment and checkout.

Ibeacons, SwipeStations, POS, staff training. Whatever it is, it has to be a positive experience that customers want to adopt as habit. If its not fun, quicker or cheaper then nobody will want to use it. Simple.

    • Use the insights gained from the above technologies to fine tune the experience.

This last point is absolutely critical. Many early adopters drive offers through apps, or email, but can only wave a finger in the air at the campaigns’ effectiveness. In venue touchpoints can really transform this journey, and make the insights gained accurate, and extremely useful at maximising effectiveness.

So there you have it. Mobile payment, iBeacons, SwipeStations and store apps are all coming to a town near you. This is the most exciting revolution to hit the shops since U-Scan checkouts. I’m just off to the supermarket now in fact …

Image: The Guardian – Business Visual/Rex