Changing Retail: Increase Customer Engagement with Interactive Digital Technology

Retail is changing. In fact, the same can be said for many companies with brick-and-mortar locations in almost all verticals as they are feeling the squeeze from the increasing number of consumers going online to shop. These traditional companies are watching their profits erode. These companies know their future is bleak if they do not follow the advice of one of today’s leading marketers, Seth Godin, in his book “Survival is Not Enough”. Seth states, simply, “evolve or die“. So, retail is changing. It is evolving. And, the infusion of interactive digital technology into the traditional brick-and-mortar storefront, is one of the evolutionary strategies that these companies are investing in. Heavily, I might add…

increase customer engagement

Evolutionary Strategy: Increase Customer Engagement In-Store

Companies are looking to increase customer engagement in-store, as they feel this will move consumers off their couches into stores, increasing sales. Over the past few years there has been an explosion in the development of interactive digital technologies designed for use in-store. From beacons to interactive digital product displays, companies are experimenting with different in-store customer engagement technologies in order to find the right technology, or mix of technologies, for their brand and target audience. Every day a new article is released detailing some large retailer launching a pilot program designed to test a new interactive digital technology in a few of their stores.

Whether it’s customer service robots greeting customers as they walk through the door or augmented reality for gamers, we are going to see a huge shift, over the next few years, as pilots end and technologies are selected and implemented, across the board.

The Shopping Paradigm is Changing… Again

paradigm shift retailIt wasn’t until recently that all shopping took place at brick-and-mortar stores. Any time a consumer needed to purchase a product or service the consumer would head out to a local store. Consumers would navigate the store in search of a product that met their needs, stopping to enrich their senses by either touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and/or listening to the products in order to find the perfect fit. In the traditional shopping paradigm companies still needed to occasionally increase customer engagement in-store in order to stay ahead of competitors, but not at the level we are seeing today.

Today, shopping has changed once again. With the modern availability of the internet a new type of company began to take shape, one without borders or boundaries, without walls and aisles, a company that was open 24/7, 365. It was the rise of the e-Tailer. It was slow at first, and traditional companies didn’t think the majority of consumers would trust their sensitive credit card data being “out there” on the internet. They were wrong. With each passing day, week, month, and year online retailers like Amazon.com and eBay continued to build out their e-Commerce platforms and consumers became more and more comfortable with the idea of buying something online and receiving it in the mail a few days later. The value propositions for traditional retailers vs. e-Tailers became more balanced, to the point where the scales are tipping more quickly towards online shopping than traditional shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

Other than socializing and being able to touch, try-on, and test products before buying, in-store shopping varies very little from online shopping these days. Even the instant gratification of going to a store and getting the product on-demand, instead of waiting for it to be shipped, is changing with some of the new tactics Amazon is launching, like drone delivery and the recent launch of an uber-like model of product delivery.  For most consumers, they are putting a greater value on their time than on anything that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are providing, and so they shop from their couches. They shop on the go from their phones. They shop online to save time. Retail must adapt.

Retail can change the shopping paradigm once again and drive consumers back to stores, but they have to figure out a way to increase their value proposition. They have to find a way to tilt the value scales back to traditional shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. They have to create more value than the value consumers place on their time. At first glance, you might be thinking that this is a very difficult task for retailers as many people feel like time is their most valuable resource, and you would be correct. That said, there are strategies that companies can implement whereby consumers will, on occasion (such as any time they want to purchase a new item), place a higher value on something other than their time. That “something” is entertainment. Human beings want to be entertained. They want to be engaged by their favorite people, places, and things. Companies can take advantage of this human desire by implementing in-store tactics built around entertainment and engagement in their brand.

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Online Shopping vs Traditional Retal

How Increasing Customer Engagement Leads to an Increase in Sales

In order for consumers to spend money on products from traditional retailers they have to be AT those traditional retailers’ stores.  Companies have to get consumers off of their couch and back into the retail store in order to increase sales. By reshaping the retail experience with interactive digital technologies retailers can educate and entertain consumers throughout the retail store. The goal is to keep consumers in the store longer and create as many brand advocates as possible. Retailers need to leverage these interactive digital technologies to provide more value to consumers than they can receive from shopping online. This will lead to the scales tipping back towards traditional retailers.

Here are a few reasons why an increase in customer engagement leads to an increase in sales:

  • Relationship Building – Consumers want to buy from companies they like, companies they feel share similar principles, companies that work hard to provide them with a different experience than their competitors. By connecting with your customers on this level, which is much easier today through the use of interactive digital technologies, you’re developing a relationship with your customers that will drive sales for years to come.
  • Education – The more engaged consumers are in a company’s brand, products, services, etc. the better educated they become about those things. The more educated a consumer is, the likelier she is to go to that company when she needs a product or service that she knows that company can provide.
  • Social Sharing – When consumers are having fun they tend to want to share that experience with their communities by talking to friends and family about their experience and sharing photos & videos from that experience on their social sites. The more fun consumers have in-store, the longer they’ll stay, the more they are going to come back, the more they are going to share their experiences with friends, and ultimately, the more they will spend.
  • Entertainment is Valuable – Consumers want to be entertained. Consumers will make time to do things or go places where they know that they are going to be entertained. Whether it’s an in-store scavenger hunt, playing games and receiving coupons, or interacting with in-store robots, consumers will make time to visit your retail store if you make it a priority to entertain them while they are there. The more often they come to your store, the more likely they are to spend money on your products and services.
  • In-Store Data Collection -The more you engage with your customers, the more you can learn about them, their habits, their preferences, what makes them tick. One great thing about leveraging interactive digital technologies in-store is that companies can easily collect customer data during these interactions. This data is critical and, if used properly, can be a launch point for a number of other sales-related marketing activities. Omni-Channel marketing is a big buzz term these days. One major channel that is continually left out is in-store, because it’s never been easy to capture customer data in-store and so trigger points were hard to come by. Now, that’s all changed. You can now collect data from a customer while in-store and then use that information to trigger a personalized marketing email or text to that consumer with a unique offer specifically for him/her. This is very powerful stuff when leveraged properly.

5 Ideas to Increase Customer Engagement In-Store with Interactive Digital Technology

If you want to increase customer engagement in your store, you have to get creative. You also have to research the available technologies on the market to determine which one(s) provide you with the ability to deliver on the marketing tactic that you want to implement in your store. We’ll get into some of the interactive digital technologies currently available to retailers in another article, which i promise to come back and link to this post so you can easily jump from here to there, after reading the section below.

Need a little help with developing creative marketing ideas for your store? Here are 5 in-store marketing ideas designed to increase customer engagement through the use of interactive digital technology.

  1. iBeacon Scavenger Hunt – Picture having iBeacons strategically places throughout your store, in areas where you have products that you want to showcase. Then picture shoppers using your app on their mobile phone as they walk your store and receive iBeacon alerts each time they enter a hot zone. Each alert can be customized with some sort of digital content about the products in that area with a task that they must complete. As consumers walk the store, they learn about your products, and they compete to win a prize once they complete the scavenger hunt. A tactic like this creates a number of opportunities to educate your customers, engage them in your brand and products, and ultimately sell more “stuff”. Not only that, but it’s fun for the shopper and is definitely share worthy for the consumer. It wouldn’t be long until before shoppers were sharing their experience with friends on social media, driving even more consumers into your store eager for their chance to compete in the scavenger hunt.
  2. In-Store Photo Booth & Social Sharing – Let’s face it, we are a vane species. These days, people love to post pictures of themselves online. Companies need to take advantage of this inherent need as well as the available technology platforms that allow consumers to take pictures of themselves in-store and share them on social media. You can create opportunities around your store where consumers can take pictures of themselves with your products and then share them with friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You’re allowing consumers to create unique content, generating viral brand awareness by making the photos easily shareable, and ultimately getting customers to interact with your products in-store. It’s a fun way to increase customer engagement in your store. There are a number of technologies on the market that you can leverage for a tactic like this, but one of my favorites is the MAGIC MIRROR, which allows consumers to take selfies while standing in front of a mirror. I’ll be writing about this product more in a future article.
  3. Augmented Reality Concierge – Just like we read about earlier in this article where Lowes is using robots in-store to greet consumers as they enter, another way to accomplish something similar is with augmented reality, or holograms. About a year or so ago I read about Tupac, long deceased, performing  at a concert. Obviously I clicked the headline to read more, and when I did, I found out that someone creatively used an augmented reality hologram of Tupac Shakur performing for a crowd on-stage. It was an incredibly genius way to engage fans, but also generate buzz in the social sphere. You can do the same in your store. Use augmented reality technology to broadcast a hologram of a concierge greeting consumers as they enter your store, sharing information about your current sales, or even pitching new products. This technology doesn’t just have to be used at the door to your store. You can have it set up in strategic areas throughout your store where you want to share information with shoppers as they pass by.
  4. In-Store Fashion Shows with mCommerce – Have you considered converting a portion of your store into a runway for a fashion show? Well maybe you should. Even if you don’t sell clothes, you can use it to demo all sorts of products. You can have employees walking the runway with specific products while the audience has your mobile app opened on their phones. As the product is being demoed on stage, you can use technology to pull up that product in your mobile app and make it easy for consumers to purchase right there on the spot. Talk about a tactic that increases customer engagement while leading to increasing sales.
  5. New Product Videos with Feedback Surveys – The other day I was in a large hardware chain and as I was walking the aisles looking for a product I needed I came across a floor to ceiling poster. It caught my eye because it was huge. That said, the entire poster was filled with an image of the YouTube logo and it directed shoppes to go to their YouTube Channel to watch a video about one of their new products. I initially thought that it was great that the company was leveraging their store to promote a video on social media, but then I quickly realized it was actually a missed opportunity and probably wouldn’t lead to many visits to that video page. First, it didn’t have a URL on the poster, but even if it did, how many people are going to pull out their mobile phones and retype the URL? And, if I’m not going to watch it in the store, how likely am I to remember to view it the next time I’m in front of my computer? Probably not likely. The solution? Why not have an iPad displayed in a kiosk next to the new product instead of the floor to ceiling poster? The iPad could have the video pulled up and allow shoppers to watch the video right then and there, while they are in-store, and actually have the potential to purchase the new product if they like what they see. To me, this would be a much more effective and engaging way to drive traffic to their new product video. It would also be a better way to generate sales for their new product.

video marketing increase customer engagement

The ideas above are just a very small sample of the different types of customer engagement tactics that you can leverage for your brick-and-mortar retail store in order to reshape the in-store experience for consumers. The technologies that are available to you today are absolutely incredible in what they can help you accomplish. You simply need to find the right tools for your brand. The other nice thing is that a lot of these technologies will allow you to execute multiple in-store marketing campaigns by tweaking the different features you use or how you use the same features. You can actually create new in-store experiences for each new marketing campaign that you’re running. This will keep consumers interested and always coming back to your store because they never know what new fun things you have “in store” for them. 😉