Digital technology drives customer insights for brick-and-mortar retailers

By Will Kelly

| Retail

Retail store shelves in the background, with two hands in the foreground holding up a tablet using a mobile app to provide customer insights into stock on the shelves

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Embracing the digital consumer through technology is a must for retailers in today’s economy. A savvy retailer with a mobile app and voice technology can leverage customer insights to drive new sales and improve loyalty programs to enhance customer engagement.

Shoppers often reach for their mobile phone first, whether it’s to research a product or to make a purchase outright. In fact, App Annie said that in Q1 of 2018, consumer spending on apps jumped 22 percent from a year earlier, reaching $18.4 billion worldwide. This was driven by growth in music and audio, health and fitness and game categories.

Embracing the digital consumer is clearly critical for retailers. Here are some ways to improve the relationship between retail operations and customers:

Mobile apps and the consumer

Mobile retail apps are now beating out mobile websites, according to a recent report by Criteo. It shows that retailers in North America that have both a mobile website and a mobile app generate 67 percent of their sales from mobile apps.

Another fascinating figure from the report is that a click on a mobile device precedes 26 percent of all desktop transactions. While some reports point to customer retention issues on mobile retail apps, Criteo cites a 13 percent increase in transactions completed on smartphones. They also cite a conversion rate that’s more than three times higher on shopping apps compared to the mobile web in North America.

Mobile scan-and-go

When it comes to bringing together mobile retail apps and consumers, Mobile Payments Today reports that some retail industry watchers see mobile scan-and-go shopping as the future because it can enhance the in-store customer experience. Retailers also see it as a technology that can help brick-and-mortar retailers compete against e-commerce juggernauts.

Moving to scan-and-go means a retailer can optimize their floor space by removing cash registers. Reassigning cashiers to jobs on the floor can help retailers offer their customers more of a personalized, high-touch experience.

Promoting the use of such apps also helps collect more customer insights. These can be fed into mobile analytics to support more personalized shopping experiences in retail aisles and more actionable information about customers to assist stores in their forecasting and planning.

Mobile apps for customer loyalty

Brick-and-mortar stores used to make do with customer reward cards and coupon programs to drive customer loyalty. Now grocery stores such as Whole Foods, major department stores such as JC Penney and big-box stores such as Best Buy use mobile apps to deliver coupons and other special offers to consumers. Retailers can update these apps over the air as needed to promote special sales around holidays and other events.

Customer loyalty apps are a wealth of customer insights for retailers, helping them understand shopping trends and target consumers based on their interests. These can be seen in the app data retailers can glean using back-end analytics.

Augmented reality in retail

Augmented reality (AR) is coming to retail in a big way through mobile apps. For example, a furniture retailer with an AR-enabled app can enable their customers to preview how a piece of furniture will appear in their rooms. A cosmetics brand can use AR to show how their product lines will look on a customer. There are many practical applications to this technology.

Voice and the digital consumer

Smart assistants increasingly are becoming differentiators for e-commerce platforms — a fact that isn’t lost on retail industry strategists and executives. As of October 2017, 11 percent of US households owned a wifi-powered speaker linked to a smart assistant — a number that increased 38 percent since June of the same year, as reported by Digital Commerce 360.

Voice services are coming to brick-and-mortar retail through alliances and partnerships between the retailers and major smart assistant vendors. Keep in mind that the major smart assistants include mobile client apps, so shoppers always have their voice assistant with them, so to speak.

An example of one of these alliances would be a retailer or brand using voice for personalized customer experiences. Voice data can offer shoppers additional details about an item, updates about future sales and news about upcoming product releases.

Voice interactions in a retail store will certainly feed into analytics because the voice assistant logs shopper questions. That data in turn can help forecast potential shopping trends the retail store might see in the near future.

Customer insights fuel retail sales

To best serve its customers with actionable intelligence, retail needs data. Mobile and related emerging technologies have the flexibility to follow the customer both in and out of the retail store — giving the retail enterprise unprecedented data and access to help influence sales across all their stores.

Written By

Will Kelly

Technical Writer & Content Creator

Will Kelly is a technical writer and content creator focusing on cloud computing, software-as-a-service, and enterprise mobility. He started his writing career writing technical documentation for commercial and federal government clients but now focuses on thought leadership content.…

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