Retail has forever changed due to technology’s impact on the shopping process. It’s no longer about the in-person experience — it’s about the total experience, from consideration through the point of purchase. Shoppers require more control of the sales process, and brands have a responsibility to respond. Due to the emergence of this new paradigm, retail brands are required to think more strategically about the in-person retail experience and its role in the continuum of brand consideration — especially with less and less control over the message that consumers hear.
At Customer Engagement Technology World 2012, I had the opportunity to co-present alongside Bryan Meszaros, managing partner, OpenEye Global, in a panel session chaired by Stuart Armstrong, president of the Americas, ComQi. Our mission? To discuss how to carry digital out-of-home messaging through the retail purchase process. After all, if a marketing message drives specific traffic to a retail location, the brand has a responsibility to love that shopper for wanting to know more about that message and to customize the rest of the path-to-purchase around it.
Meszaros defines retail’s new reality as a world in which technology must be combined with the brand and the branded environment to ensure the “multiplier effect.” This effect can deliver 15 percent improvement to pre-sales and 12 percent improvement in purchase decisions.
But, technology’s role in this new reality can only come after proper consideration of the traditional retail paradigm consisting of five key factors:
- merchandise authority/brand perception;
- price and value of the products or services;
- store environment and design; and
- customer engagement and service.
To be successful in today’s crowded marketplace, retailers should seek to excel in two of these key areas — and to achieve parity in the rest. Technology doesn’t alleviate our responsibility to abide by this time-tested process. Only when we know why shoppers visit stores can we properly address their needs with the right messaging at the right time.
As said by Armstrong, “We often refer to content as being ‘king’ but don’t attribute principles that define effective content. The five key factors within the retail paradigm guide retailers on the overarching theme of their in-venue content.”
This paradigm also reinforces the decline of the “sofa-to-store” purchase process — and the need for retailers to shift their thinking in kind. According to Meszaros, this method has been replaced by the digitally powered consumer, who is conscious of brand competition, wants personalized information that is always accessible and convenient, and is easily frustrated when these needs are not delivered.