With so many of our transactions happening online, it sometimes seems like we’ll never have to step into a store again. But statistics show
that even with the convenience of online shopping, most people still want to go into a store to purchase, craving experiences only offered in-store.
There are obvious advantages to shopping in person: You can experience the product, touching or smelling it for yourself. But people now expect personalized experiences—even offline—to the point that they don’t want something that feels generic. So how can you create an in-store experience that feels personalized while still catering to the broad audience that walks through your doors daily?
Using technology to enhance the real world
Though it may seem counterintuitive, businesses benefit greatly by leveraging technology to customize their in-person experiences. Start with the following four tactics:
1. Data analytics
The first step in elevating customization is gathering rich consumer insights and advanced data analytics to help create a personalized experience. Consumers don’t differentiate between online and offline experiences—they want and need the same products, customer experience, and brand familiarity both in-store and online. The right data, strengthened by analytics, will let you capture those preferences to inform your store layout, sales associate training, decor, and more.
Physical layout and traditional signage are important for ease of navigation, but cutting-edge technology will take the in-store experience to the next level. Geofencing enables you to personalize experiences for customers—letting them know which aisle has their favorite item, alerting them to whether their wishlist items are in stock, and even suggesting new in-store products similar to what they’ve purchased or favorited in the past. Nike is great at this. Each sales associate has their own tablet to access a customer’s loyalty data so that they can assist with sizing, product suggestions, and personalized questions. That kind of service requires extra training, so prepare for added investment if you want to boost your own in-store CX.
3. Digital signage
Digital signage is eye-catching and easily updated. In fact, AI automation provides you with an opportunity to change content not just according to the season, but to the time of day, weather, product availability, location-specific customer trends, and more. For example, if it starts raining, your sign can change to highlight umbrellas, raincoats, or rain boots—which feels personalized to the customers coming in for shelter but is actually generalized for the whole public.
4. Driving in-store traffic
While these approaches are ideal for enhancing the in-store experience, how can we use technology to bring people to your store in the first place? Tech-driven communications can inform consumers about when a product is going out of stock or returning to the store, encourage the increasingly popular “buy online, pick up in-store,” promote relevant in-store events, and more.
These updates may seem futuristic and overwhelming, but embracing increasing personalization is not an all-or-nothing decision. Easing into this strategy in waves as budget and training allow will improve your brand image and customer experience—and build on your increasing data without overwhelming your employees or marketing teams.
All of these technologies require data. From basic preferences like communications to specific points like shoe size or favorite day to shop, data and analytics need to be at the foundation of your experiential strategy from the beginning. One potential problem with using customer data offline is that it can come across too strongly to some customers. The disappearance of cookies will help with this. All of your company’s data will soon need to be zero- and first-party data, which is only collected when customers voluntarily provide it or when it’s inferred from purchases and engagement behaviors.
If your brand only asks for necessary information and is open and honest about what you’re asking for and why, customers are generally receptive and will provide data that will lead to a better, more personalized experience for them.
Dos and Don’ts for embracing the future
As you begin to invest more in data and in-person customer experiences, there are some best practices to follow:
Do measure the impact of each investment you make. Choose the KPIs, decide what success looks like, and define success metrics for implementing a given action. Give comprehensive thought to each investment you want to make and contemplate how it will fit into your customer journey.
Don’t ask your customers for too much information. Just because it’s standard practice to ask for a mailing address, age, and more, doesn’t necessarily mean you need that information. People are willing to give personal data only if it leads to a better experience for them. If your plan begins with low-level personalization and needs more data to build something more customized over time, you can always ask for it later.
Do invest in the right tech. You may have the most brilliant ideas for your store, but without the right technology, you won’t be able to execute on them. From a CRM to house data to analytics that help you understand and segment that data to a computer system that can automate your dream hologram window display, your ideas need the right technical support to bring them to life.
Don’t treat online and offline experiences as separate instances. For your customer, any interaction with your brand is weighted the same, and it all melds together into one experience. Keeping your brand seamless and consistent across all touchpoints of the customer's journey will improve their overall experience.
Bringing in-store experiences to the next level is often overwhelming, especially when it comes to implementing new analytics and technology. Seek out a partner with a wide array of capabilities that will innovate alongside you—furthering your goals and helping bring your vision to life without weighing down internal teams. The right partner will help you understand the “why” behind an undertaking—whether it’s the right project, investment, strategy, or approach—based on your target audience, current technology capabilities, and competition. This holistic view keeps the focus on your customers and puts their needs first—ultimately driving success for your customers as their experience drives success for you.