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Retailers need to become 'digitally literate' if they want to survive

Laura  Barnes
Retailers need to become 'digitally literate' if they want to survive

As retailers are encouraged to spend more time collecting data to better understand their customers, software development and IT services company Iflexion has warned that it’s not as easy as just investing in a few bits of hardware and software.

The retail industry has heard an awful lot about the benefits of Internet of Things (IoT), beacons, geofences, and other futuristic tech that will enable them to grasp a better idea of their customers, but what does it all actually mean?

“IoT promises many exciting opportunities for retailers to make their brick and mortar stores exciting places to be. Using various unobtrusive devices positioned strategically around the store, can enable the retailer to understand the customer’s emotions, needs and likes,” explained Iflexion’s Ekaterina Prohorchik is a recent blog post.

“These streams of data transmitted from beacons, cameras, pressure mats in the floors, augmented reality mirrors and the like, can be interpreted immediately and used to enrich the customer experience and hopefully increase sales at the same time.”
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Discounts and suggested accessories and add-ons can be sent directly to a customer via their smartphone, using data both from the current situation and the customer’s accumulated historical data, and it starts before they even get to your store.

“Geofences around the store can recognise that the customer is in the vicinity and invite them in for a special offer,” she explained.

Beacons inside a store can offer personalised discounts to a customer as they near the shelf, known as “proximity marketing”. “It creates an engaging experience for the customer, who is “connected” to the store via a smartphone and possibly also a mobile app. Where the store is out of stock, the customer can be directed to their online profile to purchase it. Added-value services, such as home delivery, can be offered,” said Prohorchik.

“For many retailers, this is still a dream; other retailers are pursuing it and realising increased sales and better customer engagement. Although there are many other industries that are exploring the possibilities, retailers and shopping malls are still top of the list when it comes to implementing IoT solutions.

“There is only one problem with this ideal future; most retailers are not geared up for building a sustainable and enjoyable customer experience. This is not merely a matter of investing in some hardware and software, it requires deep introspection on how close the company is to understanding their customer’s needs,” warned Prohorchik.

“It is also non-negotiable that a retailer who wants their stores to still be in place on the local high street or in a nearby mall will have to become digitally literate. It is not enough to have a cool website, the stores must be just as inviting.”

Digital transformation is not about “feverishly embracing every new technology”, advised Prohorchik. “These are great devices for customer reach; but there is a fundamental truth that has to be addressed first: do you really know your customer?”

One thing to take away from the big focus on IoT at retail is that the industry clearly believes that physical stores are still important and despite the emphasis that has been put on having an impressive website, the high street is integral to building relationships with customers. As Prohorchik wisely points out: “Bricks and mortar stores are very far from being dead; Amazon would not be moving into physical stores if this were the case.”

Check out the full Iflexion article here to find out more about IoT at retail and look at lots of useful stats and tips about how to get to know your customer.

Tags: Retail , bricks and mortar , Iflexion , IoT , digitally literate , beacons , geofences

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