How to reinvent point of sale to provide personalised relationshipsby
30th Aug 2012
Sana Dubarry provides case study examples of how businesses are capitalising on IT developments to build new opportunities for one-to-one real-time relationships with consumers.
Technological developments in recent years, including the rapid growth of the internet and the explosion of smartphones and tablets on to the market, have opened the door to a plethora of opportunities for retailers and brands to interact with their customers. As a result, initiatives to build a one-to-one, real-time relationship with consumers have multiplied too.
Today, retailers are re-inventing the point of sale in order to favour the customer experience and to provide a personalised relationship, in real-time, with their customers. One of the most striking and original examples of this transformation has been around loyalty programmes.
The transformation of loyalty programmes
With the proliferation of smartphones, consumers are no longer required to have a physical loyalty card. Instead, thanks to mobile applications, consumers are able to present digital loyalty cards stored on their handset at a store checkout. The opportunity here is the ability for brands to extend real-time offers that can be immediately deducted from the sales receipt. For example, make-up and skincare company, Sephora enables its customers, in its concept store in New York, to announce their arrival in-store with their mobile loyalty card. The shopper is then able to receive highly personalised deals and Sephora has access to the customer's purchase history and preferences.
The connected outlet
Some brands have also begun to utilise mobile applications to track their customers from entry into the store to the point of sale, creating the connected outlet. Analysis of the data provided via the mobile application has allowed retailers to understand, for example, the proportion of men and women in a particular store. They can also follow the customer journey and thus offer personalised customer service instantaneously. One can imagine, for example, that if there are more men than women in the aisle of a supermarket’s shower gels, the company can then highlight male commercials on strategically placed advertising screens.
Ad screens that we already see in place in some stores are becoming more interactive too. They are allowing consumers to scan and obtain information about products and to share information through their social networks if they wish, while at the same time enjoying targeted offers. Moreover, it is increasingly frequent to find a QR code on products in-store, or to find them on display advertising. Upon scanning the code via a mobile application, the QR code allows customers to access product information and receive real-time offers.
But the ability to offer real-time and interactive experiences for customers is not limited to driving update of promotions. In the US, retail outlet Converse allows its customers to choose the music they want listen in-store. To do this, they stream the customer's request on the social networking pages of the brand. This not only allows the site to generate more traffic, it also keeps the customer in the store longer because they tend to wait until their music is played. Via its mobile application, Converse also allows its customers to tailor the store’s footwear models with a choice of images. The customer then leaves with their own fully customised pair of shoes.
Integrating communication channels
Integration of communication channels and the inclusion of social networks are necessary for brands to ensure continuity and coherence of the relationship between a hyper-connected and hyper-informed customer across all touch points.
For example, fashion retailer C&A has launched an initiative called ‘Fashion Like’ which allows people to 'like' certain items of clothing on the company's Facebook page. These clicks are collated and displayed on the relevant clothes rack in real-time. This sort of example demonstrates the willingness of retailers to multiply the points of contact with customers in real-time.
Adopting a new approach
But issues remain. While these initiatives are exciting and break the marketing mould, they nevertheless remain complex and difficult to implement. Moreover, to gain a long-term return on investment, it is important for organisations to structurally change the way they consider their customer relationships and develop more customer-centric strategies. And not all companies have the same level of maturity or respect around the exploitation of customer data.
Many challenges remain for the implementation and execution strategies:
- Analysis of the customer. Companies need to manage the more complex data via different channels. They must collect this data, classify and analyse it to better understand customer behaviour and define the levers of actions to initiate a relationship with consumers in real-time.
- Role of technology. Some companies now use multiple and sophisticated CRM platforms that require complex skills and technological materials. These solutions are often expensive and difficult to implement. For other companies, the solution is to simply upgrade obsolete technologies.
- Single client vision. Client-centred strategies are not only the concern of marketers. They are the centre of all levels of organisations that must now adapt to serve the customer in real-time. Trade marketers in particular need to become more technical and analytical. Sales staff, too, should be trained to serve and advise customers in real-time, while taking into account interactions at the point of sale. Furthermore, data from social networks should allow the production chain the ability to customise products. The integration of the various company departments to a single customer view is not easy however, and requires the support of top management to drive this metamorphosis.
Some brands have been forerunners in the development of client-centred strategies. Dell for example, proposed a community site, "Direct2Dell", aimed at better understanding the expectations of customers and to increase focus. Customers are able to obtain information on products and the brand, beneficial for customer service, but also submit their ideas to be integrated into the ongoing development of the brand.