Personalization of the customer experience has become a driving factor in promoting engagement and interaction beyond the point of sale. Companies have been adopting digital technologies to help bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping, while also working to improve consumer experience and generate trust. Digital tools have the ability to enhance customer experience via personalized engagement techniques. As society endured the pandemic, companies resorted to enhancing the online experience, and now as we return to normalcy, balancing face-to-face interaction alongside virtual presence has become a focus for companies.
This virtual interface has allowed companies to completely transform customer relationships. With the lack of human interaction, digital tools became a key platform to reach customers. Personalization of the experience is done through creating engaging content, interactive technology, product recommendations, and specific deals based on data received from past transactions and online behavior. This primary data has allowed companies to better understand their target market and deliver the best value and overall experience. As consumers return to in-person shopping, new technologies and engagement strategies continue to emerge as ways to boost service.
In a study done by InMarket in 2016, it was found that less than 10% of shoppers were using retail mobile apps in stores. However, by 2019, Yes Marketing research revealed this number had grown to around 60%. This influx of retail mobile app users is a trend that will continue to increase as we become a more digitalized society. In fact, a concept known as the “mobile mind shift,” termed in Forrester research, states customers expect any desired information can be found online at any moment of need or context. Retailers, such as Target and JC Penny have found that around 30% of their customers have shifted into this mobile mindset. Customer’s expectancy of retailers to have information readily available online is only expected to grow. Hence optimizing digital experience will be necessary in order to increase customer engagement and satisfaction.
Scan-to-learn technology & digital interfaces
One approach that has emerged to improve customer experience is scan-to-learn technology. It gives customers the ability to learn more about certain features and the readiness of products they may be considering. While seemingly a simple tool, it provides incredible data to companies allowing them to provide insightful information and more personalized clienteling.
More Insightful Information for customers
The use of mobile apps provides valuable data to customers, such as product specifications and availability. It is also a platform to deliver more appealing content that can be used to individualize a customer’s experience and encourage engagement. One company that has mastered the mobile experience is IKEA. With their app, IKEA Place, customers can scale the furniture they want based on a room’s dimension and see how products would look in their home. It provides incredibly realistic images, product dimensions, recommendations, and access to custom lists, which ultimately saves customers from buying inadequate furniture and eliminates shopping stress. This is a great example of optimizing the mobile experience, proving to be a great engagement technique and way to foster customer loyalty.
When shoppers scan items, companies receive data on what items they look at as well as viewing times for a range of products. By understanding customer’s past searches, transactions and other Personal Identifiable Information (PII), companies can deliver customized ads, suggestions, and tailored product placement to best fulfill customer needs and optimize overall shopping experience. Target is a brand that has effectively utilized this data in order to deliver a more personalized, satisfactory shopping experience. By tracking past scans and searches, Target can provide suggestions on products for the users. For instance, if you scan a pair of shoes, the Target mobile app may then provide a list of sneakers, prioritizing brands the consumer has bought from in the past. By remembering customer preferences, desirable results are given. This personalized clienteling is a great way to engage with customers, as it caters to preference and gives customers what they want to see.
Optimizing technology services helps personalize and enhance the customer experience; but it can also be incredibly beneficial to employees. This data can help provide employees the ability to recognize customers, and cater their interactions based on preference. Shoppers are seeking human interaction in this post-pandemic transition, and employees can provide that. Utilizing data to make recommendations and provide offers can help employees maximize the impact they have on a potential buyer. Experience is crucial to customer satisfaction, so by catering to preference, you can create a strong customer relationship and foster ongoing loyalty.
It is important to remember that customer engagement does not solely stem from the interaction at checkout but can be fostered throughout the whole experience. Utilizing technology, companies have expanded in-store clienteling opportunities via product experience walls, interactive fitting rooms, smart mirrors, touch screens and mobile apps. Each of these items personalizes a customer’s experience and provides unique value. They can address issues of fitting room environments, such as convenience, timeliness, and an associate’s capacity to properly assist. Having technology can help resolve challenges between customers and employees and smoothen the interaction. For instance, customers often need a new size when trying on clothes, but the time to change and find a better fit can oftentimes be a hassle. This is where technology comes into play—by simply contacting an employee electronically, you can tell them what product and size you need. This improves efficiency and can better employee-customer relationships, as the interaction is positive and mutually beneficial.
Sephora is a company that is effectively leveraging the use of augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and RFID technology in order to transform the retail experience for their customers. Oftentimes, consumers struggle to find the right products, and cannot always test them in-store, leading to frustration and lower satisfaction rates. This is where Sephora’s digital tools excel, as they allow customers to virtually try on makeup and color match foundation, among many other unique functions. Additionally, using purchase history and searches, Sephora can identify relevant products and serve up tailored offers to deliver the best customer experience. Employees can also use this information and data to optimize the in-store service. Sephora’s customer-focused digital strategy has allowed them to excel and deliver the right solutions. The popularity of these innovative personalization tools show how identifying customer pain points can help foster relationships and continuing engagement.
As a takeaway, recognize that personalization (via the institution of digital technologies) increases your employee’s capacity to help and leads to more satisfied customers. When customers continuously leave feeling properly attended to, they are more likely to turn into repeat customers. Overall, augmented hybrid store experiences improve customer relationships with brands and engages them beyond the transaction point.