A customer walks into your grocery store after a long, hard day at work. Let’s call her Millennial Melanie. Needless to say, she’s already not in the mood to shop. After taking a quick glance at her shopping list, she pushes her cart around briskly, grabs her necessities and tosses them into the cart. As Melanie jostles her way through the crowded aisles, she realizes that she’s unable to locate a couple of things on her list. The store associate, however, is nowhere to be found. That’s enough to make her abandon purchasing those items altogether. She picks up whatever she can find, proceeds to the billing counter and after an agonizingly long wait, makes her payment and leaves.
Bringing Digital to Physical Stores
Well, this is certainly not the kind of experience that savvy grocery retailers want to be offering their customers. Today’s time-crunched, tech-savvy shoppers are increasingly becoming desensitized to traditional methods of shopping, even grocery. With Ubers, Thumbtacks and Amazons of the world, they want all their needs to be fulfilled by the touch of a button. According to Nielsen research, however, physical grocery stores will still rule the roost for quite some time. In fact, nearly two-thirds of respondents in a global survey think going to the grocery store is an enjoyable experience. Nevertheless, to stay relevant, retailers need to interact with shoppers on a completely new level by making digitization an integral part of in-store buying experience.
How To Woo Millennial Melanie?
Melanie needs a quick and painless shopping process that helps her check out the product herself before buying it. To generate superior experiences around such shopping behavior, a successful interaction would need the following elements built into the system:
Customers like to believe that businesses understand them. The incorporation of mobile into the store allows tracking of their previous purchases and search history to target each customer as an individual with customized recommendations and repeatable baskets. Grocery giants like Southeaster Grocers are already providing tailored coupons to their users, based on their purchase history and geographic interests through their mobile app. Furthermore, mobile apps with inbuilt machine learning algorithms can remind users when they are likely to run out of groceries and help them prepare the to-buy list automatically.
No matter how brilliant the in-store experience is, retailers cannot succeed unless they equip their stores to function as cross-channel engagement hubs. To capture the attention of digital natives, physical stores need to optimize the customer interaction at every point in the purchase journey, whether it is pre-store, in-store or post-store. In-store digital enablement enables shoppers to use their personal device on-the-go to do various things.
Wal-Mart, for instance, has instituted the technology to provide BOPIS (Buy Online Pick-up In –Store) to its shoppers.
EMPOWERED STORE ASSOCIATES
According to an RSR Research study, 76 percent of retailers believed that trained in-store staff is crucial to their long-term strategy. Mobile, in particular, can empower store associates to make the shopping experience more enriching and personal. With access to customer information, they can locate customers, provide them intelligent suggestions and speed up their shopping journey.
FLEXIBLE LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Nielsen research revealed that 63% of respondents were ready to use a retailer/loyalty program app when available. Mobile technologies can transfer loyalty, couponing and offers to the shopper’s smartphone. A loyalty program might be used to better understand the customer and drive personalized marketing actions to build a certain connection that makes the customer visit more frequently.
With all said, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that technology is just an enabler to creating superior customer experiences. Amidst all the discussion about technology, retailers cannot afford to leave customer experience as an afterthought. It is only when analog marries digital that customer experience truly wins.
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