In my last blog I spoke about the promise and peril of indoor positioning system (IPS) technologies like iBeacon – that it could be a game changer for retailers, but only if approached in a way that does not anger, frighten or alienate already-skeptical consumers. Convincing customers to opt-in to a program that tracks their behavior is the first big hurdle, but once you have them on board you need to make good on the promise of added value to them.
Indoor positioning systems make possible a lot of “win-win” features that can enhance the shopping experience for customers while driving growth for retailers. Here are some of the most obvious areas:
Promotions – With technology that tells you where a shopper is located within a store, retailers can deliver promotions for specific products right at the time when the shopper reaches that product in the aisle. These promotions can be customized based on what the shopper has purchased in the past.
Products – True omni-channel retailing brings the best of the online world into the retail store, and with IPS, product information should be one of the biggest advances. A customer who needs ground coffee can let the store app quickly guide him to the proper aisle, and once there the app can generate a list of all the available brands, with reviews, price comparisons and promotions.
Assistance – Getting assistance while in the store can be enhanced when the store knows where shoppers are. A customer can summon a staffer to come to help her rather than go off on foot looking for someone. Orders placed from the deli or seafood counter no longer need to be waited on; the clerk behind the counter can pack the order and then walk it over to wherever the shopper happens to be. At a Waitrose location in the UK, customers can pre-order (and pre-pay for) items from the juice bar; staff at the juice bar will have a picture of the customer and know when he arrives, so that his item can be handed over with a smile the minute he steps to the counter.
But retailers would be wise to incorporate IPS into a broader omni-channel strategy that also includes non-IPS features. For instance, the app that offers IPS features should also serve as a loyalty card and let customers create a shopping list from home that they can send into the store before leaving the house. Store staff can gather and pack these items to be ready upon arrival, whether or not the customer needs to browse the aisles for other items. Such an app could also help shoppers keep a running tab of the items on their list and allow them to pay for it all digitally, generating an e-receipt.
The real rewards of such a strategy will come after it has been in use for a while, and retailers have collected vast amount of data across their customer base. With the right technology analyzing that data and creating “next-best-action” triggers that are tailored to individual shoppers, stores will truly begin to succeed in helping their customers live richer yet simpler, and provide them with enhanced shopping experiences on a regular basis.
The resulting loyalty should lead to significant growth that is sustained for the long term.