In digital marketing circles, we tend to view Big Data and the Internet of Things as vague digital promises for the future, whose more perfect realizations are awaiting better AI.
The reality is, more is possible with today's technology than many CMOs & CTOs realize. We have to anticipate the future & until predictive analytics evolves in Retail you'll want to cover your bases. Enabling the infrastructure to create smarter spaces is the preliminary step. If retail really wants to see disruptive growth and getting a competitive advantage, consider upgrading your in-store analytics and do a pilot with this solution. The Internet of Things has a bright future in Retail, and I'm not talking about iBeacons here.
If in retail customer experience (Cx) is one of the driving concerns, it's only a matter of time before smart spaces and in particular BLE sensors every 10 meters in Retail spaces to personalize each person's shopping experience will come into being. This works best for analytics and alerts to store staff about the needs of each customer, in a sense, predicting the best interaction with the customer.
Reward the loyalty of your customers, create real time incentives for consumers increasing the frequency of user-generated content that's live by brand advocates, thereby fostering more positive brand associations with an improved personalized customer experience. In 2015, we learned website testimonials pale in comparison to more authentic brand-advocates UGC, word of mouth testimonials, of real actual customers. How consumers trust brands is changing quickly in the digital and attention economies.
The catch here is this isn't just the optimization and personalization of Customer Experience, this is creating another level of service for most loyal customers (e.g. those who have downloaded the brand's app) and a loyalty retention gamification layer. Plugged into Big Data and emerging predictive analytics technologies, this doesn't just make the store smarter (which it does), but the allows for the emergence of real-time segmentation and SMS offers fully customized to each person. Basically, this is the holy grail of the Inter of Things, meets Retail.
Tracking customers in-store will soon be the norm, we've all heard about the facial recognition cameras. But tracking analytics to optimize displays, seasonal promotions, special events and promotions, is also key from a Big Data perspective. Sensors provide Retail with the smart data it needs to truly enter the digital era. The social context here is obvious, as wearable devices increase, even if customers do not opt-in (and the incentives for customers to do so is key), Retail will get smarter analytics that can further drive its Business Intelligence insights and more importantly, real-time predictive analytics solutions that will be coming more aggressively as we near 2020.
Having sensors in a Retail store is the first step to create the smart grid necessary to have:
- Anonymous device recognition data & the BI do make use of it
- Device & customer recognition.
- Sync with CRM.
- Automate SMS or Email promotions personalized to the individual and their buying habits & demographics profile.
- If the customer (does not have the app) their devices are logged anonymously and their store location data helps the Business Intelligence of your smart space.
- Alerts to store-staff about special needs of this customer, boosting personalization of customer-staff interactions.
- Access to direct online customer feedback via social media and extended user-generated content "on the spot" options.
- Real-time personalized offers to SMS or Email of customers who have opted-in, have your app or have triggered that they want the personalization service.
Internet of Things of Retail
The first step is to get the sensors in place, and companies such as reelyActive have the partners in industry (or if you want to be a partner) to hook up the sensors to all of your other systems in Retail. Without the hardware of the sensors and the open-source software that goes with it, none of the advanced personalization that smart spaces entails, is possible.
How Retail uses the data, is up to the genius of its CTO and CMO, industry partners and marketing team. An investment in the sustainable delivery of a better Customer experience is obviously huge, the Big Data optimization that this analytics entails clearly has the potential to revolutionize an industry's Business Intelligence and the ROI of these factors alone makes being an early adopter of BLE sensors, a no-brainer. A sensor every 10 meters, it's really not that complicated.
From the Customer's Perspective, Opt-in Incentives are Key
From the Customer's experience, I am trading my personal info for better service. Sure, I'll download your app, what's in it for me? Do I get coupons or loyalty points? If I download the app and consent to the new level of personalization, I'm saying "I believe in this brand", and I want better deals, less waiting time, better access service from humans, displays that know me, SMS and Email offers that are tailored to my buying patterns and basically a superior shopping experience that comes with this territory. Can you do that? I want to be able to opt-out easily, and I want me opting-in to influence my loyalty points and have gamification ramifications.
In the 2020s, we know all this will be the norm. It's not even a question of how, it's a question of when. What's more is, as a young consumer, I demand this, I think if it's within our reach technologically, it should exist. Maybe I should even go on social media and bug my favorite brand and ask them for this!
Millennials are early adopters, so any Retail chain whose demographics include millennials in a big way obviously wants to take a closer look at this technology and how it can hook into existing systems, such as: Wearable Devices
However, even anonymous analytics could work this way: I'm new to your store and I walk in, your sensors recognize I'm wearing a Fitbit device, you conclude that I'm a health-conscious individual via this, and send me offers appropriate for the typical demographics and interests of those targeted personas.
Every wearable device that comes out will have a targeted audience around it that can be used as a frame of reference for automated offers, maybe even stack loyalty points if Fitbit for example, happens to be your industry partner.
Anticipating what's next in customer experience is one of the keys to good branding. Optimizing your mobile strategy and finding ways to prepare your Big Data and Internet of Things infrastructure for when predictive analytics matures, I believe is key for Retail. Tracking anonymous visitors and loyal customers who have opted-in are useful for both your Business Intelligence and for your future systems which will be real-time automation systems.
ROI for Merchants
The ROI is in the personalization of the customer experience and for tapping into Millennials and iGen via their mobile and wearable devices. This becomes more important every year with a changing population that is increasingly mobile and as wearable devices start to become more common.
The ROI is in the brand loyalty and retention of your best customers, in stimulating UGC, and more authentic brand advocacy that is about your customers and not about your advertising.
The analytics that sensors can provide boosts your BI and provides a data set for future integration of your Big data with emerging predictive technologies and automation systems well on their way. At the end of the day, smart customers will prefer to shop in smart spaces and contexts that interact with them more intelligently. Not just for Millennials, but for cross-selling and targeted offers via a customer's buying history to create a more responsive and customer-centric environment in-store in which to shop.