As I stated in Part One of this series, there are ways that retailers of any size, even those with limited budgets, can start down the path toward unifying and personalizing online and physical retail experiences for their customers. In this post, I’ll cover what those methods are, and how to get started.
The first and most foundational step is to implement an optimization and personalization engine on your ecommerce site (if you haven’t already). Here at Corra, we typically use, and strongly recommend, Monetate. However, some of our clients utilize other platforms such as Optimizely and VWO. Once your ecommerce system is up and running with an optimization and personalization engine, the goal is to extend these features and capabilities into the physical retail space.
This extension can most readily find its way into physical retail shopping in two main components: a shopper’s own device and an assisted selling or clienteling tool in the hands of a Store Associate. Assuming each of these experiences has the ecommerce and optimization and personalization platforms at their core, much can be done to present relevant and compelling content to the shopper at the right time and place.
For each of these interface options to enable personalization, it’s critical for the system to accomplish two things:
- Recognize when a shopper is in or near the retail store
- Match that shopper to a stored profile that includes shopping history and behaviors, if any
If these can be achieved, a world of personalization opportunity is opened up.
Making the Most of an App
The shopper’s own device provides the best opportunity for a retailer to automatically know the shopper’s location. The device can present a personalized shopping experience via a retail app or, with an eye toward the next wave in mobile shopping, via a progressive web app (PWA). Each can enable location detection through one or more of the following:
- Bluetooth Beacons
- Near-field communication (NFC)
- Store wifi
If location detection is not automatic or if the user has elected not to share that information, a manual check-in is required.
Whether app or PWA, each would typically have access to user’s shopping history and behaviors across all devices through a stored profile. With location awareness and access to shopping history, personalized messaging and notifications, product recommendations and cross-sell and other types of creative, pertinent and compelling content can be delivered.
One retailer doing a great job of utilizing this personalization strategy is Barneys. This classic New York retailer offers both a shopping app and an editorial content app, coupled with beacon technology. This allows Barneys to recognize shoppers when they are near the store, as well as where they are in the store, to send personalized messages and content informed by their recent shopping behavior and current location.
Beacons push relevant content, such as videos, look books and designer interviews from The Window, Barneys’ luxury editorial site, when users are near or in the store. These beacons are integrated with the Relevance Cloud platform to deliver personalized recommendations of content to users who choose to opt-in for this experience via the Barneys New York app. The app also delivers personalized notifications when a shopper nears items currently in their mobile shopping bags or wishlist.
Empowering the Store Associates
Even if a brand doesn’t have its own retail shopping app or a PWA-driven mobile shopping experience, there is still a great opportunity to personalize the in-store shopping experience — and it is potentially the most powerful. By placing a tablet-based assisted selling tool or clienteling app in the hands of your Store Associates, you can greatly elevate in-store customer service and give personalized, expert shopping guidance in the following ways:
- Provide product suggestions and recommendations, especially when a user is recognized in the system
- Provide deeper product information
- Enable endless aisle shopping
- Enable full checkout with an integrated POS
At bottom, this Store Associate-facing experience is simply a tablet-based responsive version of your regular ecommerce site. Assuming there is an optimization and personalization engine behind the scenes, and the system is enabled to identify the shopper, it can be utilized to help the Store Associate more fully understand that customer’s shopping preferences and history. With that information readily available, a skilled Store Associate is enabled to do full clienteling and to really make that customer feel understood, taken care of, and valued by the brand.
Look no further than shoe giant Aldo for an example of how to do this well. Aldo’s customer app and in-store displays enable endless aisle shopping. In addition, Store Associates are equipped with assisted selling tools that enable them to provide more detailed product information, going beyond what is available in the app or touch displays. Shoppers can even utilize the app to “call” a Store Associate for service. Dedicated runners are on-hand to quickly retrieve items that the shopper would like to see or try on, allowing the Store Associate to remain with the customer and continue to build the relationship.
This type of scenario has not only been shown to greatly increase conversion and AOV, it’s also one the very best ways to deepen the brand relationship with an existing customer or to build brand affinity with a new one. And that, as much as anything, helps ensure that that customer will come back again and again.
To get started with personalization for your retail business, Contact us today!