How do you use the big data mined from online shopping to create a personalised in-store experience?
The topic of creating a personalised in-store shopping experience was raised a number of times at the RBTE (Retail Business Technology Expo) in London on the 9th & 10th March. It in fact dominated the open panel discussion around “Innovation in Retail”at which a number of experienced retail titans expressed their opinions on the direction of innovation in the industry.
When I sign in to my online shopping, all my “favourites”, “regulars” and “promotional offers” are just one click away. This concept, a shop-of-one, a unique online shop customized just for me, has been around nearly since the birth of online retail but how do you reproduce this unique experience when shopping in a physical store? If we take this one step further: a vegan or vegetarian have little interest in seeing a 500g steak on the shelves; in the same way that person without pets has little interest in accidentally finding themselves in the middle of the dog food isle.
The overall consensus from the panel discussion was that all retailers need to adapt and tailor their in-store shopping experience to fit their customer’s needs. A number of technologies are beginning to make headway in enabling this personalised experience. Beacons, pushing offers to us via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), allow our smartphones to interact with sensors embedded throughout the store. Whilst the idea of beacons has been around for a number of years, the wide scale uptake has (to date) been limited as a result of the challenges associated with the technology: customer privacy, maintenance, connectivity, etc.
But what is the best way to create a customized experience for each shopper? Targeted marketing? Customer specific promotions? Intelligent digital shelving? Automated smart shelving? Product introduction stations? Dynamic merchandising? Mobile PoS? Smart shopping trolleys?
Most of these and a number of other interesting innovations were on display, including: watermarked barcodes, holograms, smart devices, smart cash drawers and software and products to offer an improved omnichannel shopping experience.
It is difficult to predict which of the plethora of new technologies will become an integral part of our shopping experience in the future and which will fizzle spectacularly. One thing that does seem certain is that this is an exciting space in an industry where retailers need to be increasingly innovative in order to retain customers, increase sales and stay competitive.
In our experience across many industry areas we often find that the most commercially successfully concepts require a blend of insight, innovation and technology transfer, such as our recent project in warehouse automation with Ocado.