The online divisions of the major supermarkets, however, all increased their business significantly over the holiday period, highlighting the need for bricks and mortar operations to do far more to attract custom through their doors.The shopper’s experience hasn’t really changed significantly for the last 50 years. Stores need urgent and radical change to compete in the new shopping paradigm. They should be deploying a range of new techniques and technologies to improve engagement with their customers. Smartphones are becoming the centre-point for customers’ engagement with many brands and the supermarket chains should address this situation as soon as they can. Smartphones are reshaping the way in which consumers are interacting with retailers, for example, low-energy Bluetooth beacons can be strategically placed around stores, messaging shoppers as they approach special offers. This sort of approach makes the shopping more of an interactive, personalised experience. The technology also has the additional bonus of adding value by retaining valuable data about shopping behaviour. When a staff member serves a customer, the IT systems they are using need to be able to bring up the individual customer’s engagement record and do things like automatically flag if the customer has ordered something online that they could be collecting from the store. The shop worker, even if it’s their first day at work, has all the information they need to assist the customer as far as they possibly can with the opportunity to extend engagement and in any number of ways. This concept, known as clientelling, is one of the ways physical shops can offer something more to the customer. Retailers with national coverage should also be using this to their advantage by offering immediate delivery for online orders. They could use geolocation information about where orders are being placed and contact the customer by text to suggest a visit to the nearest store to their current location to pick up their shopping, or perhaps to suggest delivery in the next half hour. This contact also offers another valuable opportunity for engagement and even up-selling. Smartphone technologies along with clientelling and the use of local stores as delivery/distribution centres, as well as developments in the design and layout of shops, offer more convenience and give a better customer experience that is on a par with what shoppers have come to enjoy from their online outlets. The technology is now available to allow traditional retailers to up their game and start to adopt online techniques. The number of ways that retailers can engage with their customers is increasing but the supermarket chains need to adopt a more technology-led approach to get their customers coming in to the stores and spending more of their precious money there. Dan Wagner is Chief Executive of mobile payment solutions specialist Powa.
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