Consumer behavior and expectations have changed the way brick-and-mortar managers view their store. Shoppers can choose from online, offline, mobile, and confusing mixtures like physical Amazon stores or online delivery for nearby, local stores--it gets exhausting. As Esri’s Gary Sankary notes,
“Consumer behavior and expectations have changed drastically and stores simply haven’t kept up.”
Shoppers know that modern shops are not yet super-connected smart stores with automated purchasing, smart carts and aisles. However, the snowballing success of efforts like Amazon Go shows that such technology is becoming available and shoppers want it. Consumer behavior can’t be studied or viewed in the same way it has for decades, because shoppers have much higher expectations. As a result, shop owners will also have to be much more resourceful, adaptable, and fast moving.
Given the opportunity of technology to change retail, future winners in the space won’t just be those with long-standing audiences and large bank accounts. They will be the companies who can leverage technology correctly and jump in front of the line, and this has already begun to happen. Many small companies have gained initial traction through smarter advertising and analyzing, and it will only grow increasingly common as consumer expectations soar.
Despite the influx of technology into the physical retail sphere, much of it has simply come and gone. This has only added to the confusion managers face about retail technology. What technology do customers want? What will add to the actual bottom line? As has been pointed out by our product manager, technology is useless...when leveraged incorrectly.
Thus, retailers must seek out not just any technological solutions but solutions that offer sustainable, incremental returns.
The first ingredient in a healthy consumer behavior analysis solution is data, but even data has its downsides. As retailers quickly learned since “big data” first got popular a few years ago, data must be useful. It must be analyzed in order to have any meaning. Retailers need not just any data but also a proper method for data analysis in place.
For brick-and-mortar stores, the perhaps easiest type of data to make use of is location data. Understanding shopper movements in a physical store can offer layer after layer of insight. Beginning with where bottlenecks occur or how to best allot staff and even leading to more complicated solutions to keep consumers in the area longer.
For solution providers, this means building apps and infrastructures that are easy to manage and derive value from.
Generating data will require some form of infrastructure to track shoppers' in-store movements. Here’s where Bluetooth makes a difference. For years, Bluetooth beacons have been touted as the next generation of on-site ad delivery. When a customer comes close to a beacon, their phone receives a relevant ad. However useful this singular use case is, it’s not exactly the long-term incremental gains retailers will require to succeed over time.
Bluetooth, however, is affordable and ubiquitous enough that retail owners can invest in an infrastructure at a relatively low associated cost and risk.
Interestingly, there are also many ways to use beacons to understand consumer behavior. While shopper data can be generated through interaction with ads or wayfinding it can also be generated through more complex solutions like smart shopping carts.
Most commonly talked about these days is the beacon-powered app. In this scenario, a downloadable app tracks shopper behavior using both the app and beacon-powered location data.
One incredible example is the Les Terasses Du Port shopping app. Downloaded over 69,650 times. With a whopping 18 minutes average view time, this app is so useful that shoppers are happy to download and connect. Of course, while delivering directions, ads, and info to shoppers, the app also collects data about dwell times and movements. By aggregating this data, the mall was able to identify their biggest blocker to more purchases and higher dwell times: the food court.
The mall's current food court was too small, and by adding more options the mall increased dwell times of all customers who visited an anchor store by 42%.
(It's a great story. Read more here.)
The beauty of these solutions is their flexibility. Whether you’re one store, a strip mall, or a whole downtown area, you can better visualize and understand shopper behavior. All you may need is more beacons.
Other stores go all-in, and the result is a solution reminiscent of Amazon Go. Here, solution providers are creating complete infrastructures to connect customers to the cloud for the entirety of their in-store journey.
For example, Finnish SmartCart uses technology to make the traditional shopping cart even better. Their carts allowed shoppers to find recipes, view the retailer’s complete list of offerings, make lists, and--in the future--check out fast. 70% of purchasing decisions are made in-store. What might seem like a routine shop for customers is actually an opportunity for store owners to sell more, better, and think about the long term.
The results? 6% of shoppers who viewed a targeted message purchased the advertised product. More importantly, 84% of their users planned to use SmartCart again. That means businesses can easily create and track this data over time. It’s not simply about getting users to click and buy. It’s about driving a long-term system where the customer is happy to engage and generate data.
Beacon-powered apps offer incredible possibilities when customers are willing to opt in. So how do you get shoppers to opt in? What makes a visitor happy to share data? Unfortunately, brands are data-hungry and willing to do almost anything to get their hands on visitor data. The problem is, customers need to also be on board.
An increase in connected solutions also means an increase in the number and stringency of data laws. Consumer behavior must be tracked in a way that makes users feel safe or there will be backlash. This is one of the biggest advantages of beacons for the long haul. Neither businesses nor consumers should be left wondering whether a data collection method is ethical or socially acceptable. As data becomes currency, customers will be increasingly ready to hand over their behavior information in exchange for useful, reliable solutions that aid in their shopper journey. The onus falls on the business and solution provider to make sure they meet expectations.