The ‘store of the future’ abounds in headlines as the solution for struggling retailers to turn around their fortunes and keep up with changing customer expectations. However if your ‘store of the future’ is made up of a few TV’s with TVC’s running, I’m sorry to tell you this isn’t going to cut the mustard. Technology won’t solve retails problems. What will is the intelligent use of technology to solve business problems. eCommerce is succeeding where traditional retailers have failed, delivering what the customer always wanted, service. Nailing in-store customer service through the use of technology is the key to delivering a successful in store shopping experience and it’s not as hard as you may think.

Imagine a store where you enter and are welcomed by name, your personal preferences are known, and once you’ve completed a purchase they will arrange for it to be delivered to your home at a convenient time. Sound like a high street retailer of old… or perhaps a modern online store? Both would be true, but it’s rare to get this level of personalised service in a modern day in-store shopping experience.

But it is not all doom and gloom, for a multitude of reasons in store retail won’t die through the onslaught of ecommerce. A recent Accenture report highlighted that 65% of US customers planned to research online but complete their purchase in-store over the 2013 holiday season[1]. To capitalise on this customer decision journey look to the technology driving your ecommerce site to also deliver personalised service in your physical stores.

As ecommerce has evolved standardized best practice personalisation has emerged, such as customer greeting (e.g. Hi Dean), and product recommendations based on products being browsed coupled with their CRM profile. You can harness the same CRM information that drives your online store to deliver in-store personalisation.

The changes you should make start at the research point for your customer on your ecommerce site. You can simplify your customer’s decision journey by providing the ability to check the in-store stock level for their desired product on the product detail page, thus ensuring a clear pathway to the store. Also keep in mind that 78% of customers have researched a product on their smartphone[2]; customer’s product research isn’t limited to desktop browsing. They may well be giving you the information you need to better service them in multiple ways. These could include: whilst they’re browsing your site, on their way to your store, actually in your store, or better yet in one of your competitors stores.

Now that you have them in the right store, you can ensure your staff is empowered to better service the customer by putting profile information in to the palm of your shop assistants hand. A simple mobile site on touch devices can allow your staff to tap in to the wealth of information that customer has already provided. This allows sales assistants to guide the customer to the products they desire, and use the same intelligence powering product recommendations online to recommend cross and up-sell options. Reviewing the customers online wish lists, last abandoned cart, and previous purchases are now options in order to deliver an exceptional tailored service. Adding to this the emergence of Blue Tooth Low Energy enabled smartphones and beacons can provide your staff with the ability to identify who customers are when they enter your stores, greet them by name, and cut down on unnecessary explanations.

Once you have achieved the above, you can start to feed intelligence from the in-store interaction with your customers. Particular likes and dislikes due to personal customer circumstance could be a focus (e.g. brand or fit preference), to further tailor their CRM and benefit the long term relationship with that customer as you deliver better and better recommendations to them in the future.

This is the start of the store of the future, delivering the service of the past, through the power of your online store, and the potential is very exciting.

__[1] __65% of U.S. shoppers will browse online and buy in store over the holidays http://www.internetretailer.com/2013/10/07/shoppers-will-browse-online-and-buy-store-over-holidays
[2] Google Our Mobile Planet http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/omp-2013-au-en.pdf

This article was originally written for the SoDA Report

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