January 16th, 2014 by Sarah Sluis

The breathtaking pace of new technology has retailers pulled in many directions. The question on everyone’s mind is how to better connect with and sell to customers by leveraging technological advances. As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said during her keynote, “What’s different right now is we have a number of technological shifts. It’s a convergence happening at once. One might spark a new era, but we have multiples,” she told the audience during a keynote, citing mobile, social and pervasive instrumentation (fitness trackers such as Fitbits) as game-changers. Coming out of the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show, here are five things every retailer should consider as they keep up with the pace of technology.

  1. Have an in-store screens strategy. Cisco’s Director of Global Retail Practice, Jon Stine, sees in-store screens as the next area retailers need to focus on. That means everything from having wi-fi in the store so customers can browse on their own devices, terminals optimized for an in-store experience, or a clienteling app. It could even mean videoconferencing with an expert, even if the associate isn’t available on site. Consumers are already online in stores, so retailers need to meet them there and then guide that experience.
  2. Streamline your mobile path to purchase. 99.5 percent of mobile web sessions do not result in a purchase, according to data presented by SeeWhy Founder Charles Nicholls. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many of those sessions are preliminary research, but there’s a reason why many of those sessions do not ultimately end in purchase. It’s really tough to buy online. To get customers to hit “submit order” on mobile devices, it helps if they  are using a big screen, but retailers also need to declutter their mobile pages, have them load faster, and implement smart data entry. A Zip code can automatically populate the city and state field, for example. Gilt allows users to take a picture of their credit card, which will read the numbers for the user. Those little tweaks will add up to a much faster, more intuitive experience for users.
  3. Abandon consistency, embrace personalization. When ecommerce first came into being, the most important priority for retailers was brand consistency. It was all about offering the same experiences online and in person. Now that most retailers have mastered that, the pendulum is swinging the other way. “We have dozens of experiences we serve up to our customers, if they have our Red Card or a wedding registry or Target Ticket,” explained Melissa Flicek, Target.com’s Director of Project Delivery. In store, Target is also pursuing ways to make their guests happier by targeting specific niches.  “The guest is at the center of every decision we make,” Flicek explained. In their pursuit of new moms, they developed “Baby 360,” which pulls together everything from diapers to clothing to strollers into one section of the store, creating a more guest-focused experience.
  4. Keep your eye on mobile payments. Quick-service retailers like Starbucks have tested many ideas to keep lines moving faster while making the experience special for customers. Square founder Jack Dorsey (who also co-founded Twitter), which has a partnership with Starbucks, offered one example of how that works. A customer with a Square app running can walk into a store, which will trigger a ping at the register. He can order and walk out without taking out his phone or wallet. The cashier will know their favorite orders, name, and be able to provide a quick, personalized, one-to-one experience, all because of the payment system used by the merchant and customer.
  5. Know that cutting-edge retailers don’t segment, they micro-segment. The old way of having five to seven fleshed-out customer segments is the way of the past, according to Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture Retail. Big data and marketing automation has enabled more complex segmentation than ever before. Add in testing, even machine learning to the equation, and marketers end up closer to that one-to-one relationship described two decades ago by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers in The One to One Future.

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