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5 ways retailers can harness new technology to increase footfall in stores

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Almost 90 per cent of UK retail purchases still take place in physical stores today – and contrary to what many had predicted, online commerce has not signed the death warrant of shops and stores. 

But retail brands are increasingly learning how to leverage digital tools to drive in-store sales, from providing information (store locators, product locators), to preparing a sale by allowing customers to book a product or an appointment online, to paying for their purchase ahead of time with “click & collect.”

Speaking at a conference at Centre Point this week, digital marketing services firm Solocal revealed the top five current trends in “bricks and clicks”. Here is how retailers can seize online opportunities to draw customers into their actual shops:

1. Mobile is a key focus

Mobile is quickly becoming the dominant way to reach customers – nearly one-third of web-based page views in the UK now come from smartphones and tablets. However, too many brands still need to improve the mobile offerings they make to users. 

Revamps need to include multichannel and transactional functionalities, as store locators are merely a starting point. The rise of mobile is clearly opening the door to targeting, promotion push, m-commerce, mobile payment, loyalty and more. These opportunities will only become more crucial as wearable tech becomes more popular in 2014.

2. Leverage online content and social media 

More than ever, consumers are going online as part of their decision making process. Retailers have done a good job understanding this and more often than not, have jumped on the social media bandwagon and created their own content. So what’s next?

For starters, visuals are fast becoming a must-have asset in a brand’s digital arsenal, as proven by Pinterest’s success and higher conversion rate. Brands know they can enhance their image and boost their products’ attractiveness in an unrivalled way through the use of quality visuals.

Store locators are moving from being considered a mere commodity to an essential in-store traffic generator that can help maximize conversion by providing customers with useful content such as product inventory, promotions and other calls-to-action. 

Finally, brands need to scrutinise their e-reputation, both to be aware of customers’ feedback and to ensure they make a good impression on potential new customers. Be it ratings and reviews left on social media or transactional websites, it is crucial for retailers to listen to what their customers say about them, and use any complaints as an opportunity to demonstrate great customer service.

3. Moving from targeting to “hypertargeting” via big data and social

Retailers will be able to leverage increasing quantity of behavioural and attitudinal data on digital users to better target their advertising campaigns. 

Mobile innovations such as geofencing, NFC, in-store wifi, augmented reality and Bluetooth low energy beacons (read more about how the new beacons technology will change how people shop in Mike Crook from Mubaloo’s article here) in will allow brands to push the right message (promotion, product, ad, event, etc.) to the right customer, at the right time and the right place.

Imagine a high street brand organising a flash sale and pushing a mobile message to all 20 to 55 year old high revenue women that are currently present in the neighbourhood. Or a supermarket customising ad display screens to the specific customers that are present in the aisle. Brands could also customise how their websites are displayed to fit customer’s specific tastes and interests.

The earlier brands leverage these opportunities, the better they’ll be able to capture consumers’ attention with the relevant message and get a high ROI for their ad campaigns.

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