We talk and talk and talk (ok, we write and write and write) about Retail Intelligence Solutions and Retail Technology Trends… There are dozens of trends identified at any give time, with dozens more to write about in the coming weeks. Now (thanks to the Guardian Media Network), here are some ways retailers are wrangling this wealth of technology tools to increase customer numbers, sales, loyalty, and profits through content, engagement, real-time action, curation, and increasing their own global commerce savvy.
1. Current tech trends allow retailers to build business content:
Providing helpful information to the customer adds value and warms the relationship. Another name for being content-wise is "brand journalism".
Savvy retailers are giving their customers something of inherent value -- information -- that will help them gain time, save time, appear bright and knowledgeable, avoid embarrassment, be proud, etc. -- all the things that help a customer be what he or she wants to be.
Example: A home improvement retailer can provide a multitude of video how-to guides and expert interviews which give the customer additional value. This not only delivers brand reinforcement; it keeps customers coming back for your content (and then they'll be back when they need to buy your products.
Example: Recipes, cleaning, and timesaving tips are ALWAYS appreciated, and passed around. How to make spiffy zabaglione that new blender, grill that Ostrich steak 9 different ways, or save time, money and energy in making, doing, preparing, repairing and cleaning just about anything.
When you're reaching customers with relevant content that helps them improve their lives, it breeds a comfort and familiarity that will pay off when they turn to you with their business when they're ready to buy.
2. Current tech trends let retailers engage customers in real-time.
a) From the retail competitive pricing side, for example, technology has made it possible to act, react, and re-react in real time regarding pricing and assortment. For pricing, it's knowing, and responding to what is happening minute by minute regarding costs, availability of products and competition in a context of what is the right decision for YOU.
b) Technology allows retailers to keep the customer in the loop and respond to customer interest in real-time. This may be as simple as telling customers how many items are left in stock or how many others are doing the same activity as they are at any given time -- creating a sense of community within the website itself.
If the customer is looking at a suit, the retailer can suggest 3 other styles or colors as well as shoes and accessories. Or help the customer quickly compare online prices, as well as location and availability of the product, provide incentives for ordering immediately, and information on how to order and ship the best way or most economical way.
3. Today's technology helps retailers recognize, from examining their data, what a customer might be thinking or planning.
Retailers should know that when a customer is searching for something particular, they are more likely to be in purchase mode than a casual browser.
The trend toward customer specific interest, designated by what they look at -- and when -- gives retailers really important clues on how to help the customer react positively.
According to the article: If a shopper clicks on the swimwear section of a fashion retailer website in November, there's a good chance they have a holiday planned. Leading the follow-up email with information on swimwear – even just in the subject line – can generate rich returns.
4. Today's technology helps customers become curators.
The word curation takes on new meaning in the Internet world. It's the trend toward customers curating their own collections of products. Any consumer can become an affiliate, and a number of tools have been launched that enable consumers to aggregate their favorite or recommended content to their social contacts. I'd say there's an element of ego, too, as in, here's what I like, and be an opinion leader to your friends.
The people who are curating are bookmarking your site, or building wish lists and Google shortlists. They can even mix results from multiple retailers and refine their own virtual "department store" through which friends can make purchases. Retailers are obliging these brand advocates by providing more social icons and shareable links to products.
5. Today's technical awareness helps retailers make wise decisions about global marketing initiatives.
According to the Guardian article, overseas online sales "are set to soar sevenfold to £28bn ($44.4 Billion US) by 2020".
Retailers need to think carefully before making a major investment in local language websites and content. The data shows that a lot of this international growth is happening through home websites and retailers choosing to ship internationally, so retailers don't necessarily have to move their business to the country in question and present a website in their language and culture.
Another option is to channel sales through partners with a local presence in that market. Or achieve in-store and online placement in local department stores to host international growth.
Bottom Line For Your Bottom Line:
How many times have you heard the expression: "Eighty percent of success is showing up." (Woody Allen). And now, showing up means "being there" in real time, at the moment the customer is searching, and learning, and wondering, about to make decisions, or just gathering information.
If you generate interactive, helpful, supportive experiences for your customers and prospects, you develop a comfortable "familiarity," you keep them interested and connected to you over time, they'll feel comfortable with you, and loyal, and they will reward you with business because they will know exactly where to find you and will have developed the sense that you are trustworthy and dependable when they have a specific need.