Last week, over 30,000 people converged on NYC for NRF to learn the latest retail trends. One of biggest takeaways was that NRF now looks a lot like Shop.org. Digital technology is no longer a side dish, it’s the main entrée, with retailers lining up to hear about mobile marketing technology designed to identify, attract and engage customers before they even enter the store and digital commerce platforms that integrate with their ERP technology infrastructure and their digital marketing technology stack to support the full lifecycle of retail marketing across online and offline channels—store, Web, mobile and social networks.
The biggest takeaway from 2015 NRF was the share of mind (and Expo floor space) that retailers and technology and service providers dedicated to digital technology that bridges the online and offline worlds. It appears retailers have learned that it’s no longer about funneling customer down a particular path, or even failed attempts to predict which path a consumer might follow. Today’s digital commerce experience—and even the in-store experience is becoming a digital commerce experience—is about enabling a customer-led commerce experience with meaningful connections between channels.
3 Ways Retailers are Bridging the Gap
Digitizing the in-store environment. The Rebecca Minkoff store in SoHo and in the eBay booth at the NRF Expo features digital displays in its fitting rooms and RFID tags on all of its merchandise, allowing the display to sense what items shoppers have in the room, show how items pair together and enable shoppers to request additional colors, sizes and pieces and have them brought to the fitting room. No more awkwardly traipsing around the store in your socks or trying to flag a salesperson. In addition to improving the in-store (and in-fitting room) environment, the store also lets shoppers to save their fitting room session by choosing to send themselves an SMS and retrieve the session later on the retailer’s website.
Turning mobile associates into front-line marketers. Integration of CRM and loyalty data and proliferation of clienteling tools on associates’ smartphones and tablets could bring this technique from luxury shoppers to the masses. Retailers can arm associates with customer data from CRM systems and loyalty programs, and info customers provide during their store visit, to tailor in-store interaction and maintain engagement after the visit. To avoid the creepy-factor, customers have to opt-in to this and brand marketing can control what info employees can see, as well as what content they can send. This allows front-line employees to become marketers and ambassadors. It may not work for all retailers due to the level of training and interaction involved, but you don’t have to shop the high-rent district to get a personal touch.
Connecting mobile consumers’ devices to drive traffic and conversion. The bridge between online and offline can be figurative, as well as literal. Major mobile network providers are in a race to turn your car into a mobile device. But this isn’t just about helping you stay connected to friends and family, check your email or update your Facebook status. This is also about using location data to make relevant recommendations—nearby restaurants, stores, and even gas stations based on your location (and the position of your fuel gauge). Seems sort of futuristic, but imagine the ability to drive literal traffic to your store or restaurant by informing nearby customers about your promotions or gas prices.
For more on my takeaways from the 2015 NRF Big Show, take a look at my post, Here’s How Retailers Are Reinventing Themselves to Remain Relevant on the NRF website.