Why is it that some retailers are really excelling, and others are stuck in a bit of a rut? I’ll tell you this, its not the Facebook page driving all these retailers, it takes a lot more than this to truly delight your customers and deliver an exceptional experience for them. With this in mind, we’re going to explore some unique, and powerful retail technologies that are working to drive new customers either in store or online. In this article, I have aimed to talk about the retail technologies that have had the most impact for the best value, because after all why use something if it doesn’t work? My hope here is you are able to grab some instant takeaways that can be immediately implemented in your own business to further your ability to stay with the times and compete. The last thing I’ll say is this list should be used with an open mind. Some of these retail technologies are going to work better for one type of retail operation than another, which will become apparent as we go through the in-depth application of many of these retail technologies. Without further adieu, here are the technologies having an impact on the way retail is done.
Ok so this is not super new as most of us can’t go to a store now without seeing the NFC payments system added to most classic terminals in store. But, what you may not know is there is a whole host of ways to incorporate the simple payments processing tools out there. In retail, when the customer is making a payment, there is no time to enter all information for billing, shipping, credit card numbers, etc. so we must focus on delivering a quick, efficient checkout designed to get the buyer buying. What can you do? As was mentioned in this article, mobile is the key to this trend, and it needs to be embraced. Whether the shopper wants to use their NFC enabled phone with Apple Pay, buy with a stored card within your application, or use the same account while browsing through their iPad the experience should always be seamless across each of your channels. All of the best modern payments infrastructure (some good examples are Braintree by Paypal, Stripe, Apple Pay, Android Pay and others) is mobile enabled to ensure your customers are able to find items, add to cart, and pay with their information SECURELY (https, SSL, private server, whatever you need, make it happen) stored already so there are no added steps in buying. This sort of experience is something we have all come to expect in buying, so you certainly won’t be up to par if your current setup doesn’t maximize simplicity in buying.
It’s not clear yet whether growth hacking has really made its way into the retail sphere, but since I’m writing about it here, I’m going to introduce it as something new to get everyone on the same page. Growth hacking is a fancy term for innovative marketing that takes a mix of genius marketer and hacker. Some classic examples of growth hacking can be seen by looking at extremely successful startups to understand how they were able to rapidly grow user base and revenue. Airbnb used the famous Craigslist growth hack to increase the number of people buying spaces to stay. What they were able to do is give users the automatic ability to post their Airbnb listing on Craigslist. This put thousands of listings from Airbnb home sharers on the site which already had an incredibly active user base with millions of listings being posted daily. This led to rapid adoption of the platform from people who needed a place to stay and were already using craigslist to find this. It took a bit of (white hat) hacking to automatically enable this functionality, but the effects were profound. In another case, Instagram was able to hack Facebook as a method of instant distribution for thousands of pictures being taken on the platform. When someone took a picture on Instagram, they could automatically share it to Facebook which already had the eyes they needed to get user adoption. As a retail example, Harry’s shaving was able to gain over 100,000 signups in one week with a method of distributing the free product for referring new people to the service. In this case, they were using stuff they already had available in inventory to begin driving traffic and demand for its razors.
I spent extra time writing out examples because it’s easier to understand the difference between classic marketing and growth hacking. Think innovatively about what distribution networks you could take advantage of to drive users to your application or site, encourage the buying of a particular product, or drive new users to the store. One thing that stands out to me is to offer a scaling discount on a popular new product you carry as a way to drive signups and referrals. It would give someone 1% off when they signup, 4% off when they refer 6 people and maybe 10% off when they refer 15. Whatever it may be, you could assume you will get some sign ups. This is not the only way to do this, but if you are having trouble applying it, reach out to me and I would be happy to assist you in developing your hack.
Alright, this is a bit of a niche piece for this article, but it is retail technology and it would be really innovative. As our smartphones take more tasks on themselves, it appears there is a gap in the way we are filling our tanks. Why do we still do it the same way as we have always done it? Here is a new way of providing a technology enhanced way to get gas that I really hope the top executives at some of the major oil companies will adopt. As you drive to a gas station, your phone is already picking up on this with a Bluetooth signal or geolocation point. As you come in, you bring up the gas stations app, it has already brought up the store you are at, and now asks you to enter the pump you are at. You enter the pump number, hit submit, and automatically the pump reaches out via a robotic arm, opens your tank, and begins filling. After it puts your cap back on, recedes into its position, charges your card which is automatically put into the application, and you drive away without ever stepping foot out of your car.
I know I would go to this gas station, and I think a lot of other people would go there also. The technology is already there, it’s just a matter of changing some existing infrastructure. Just an idea, but if you know of any gas stations like this, share it in the comments.
In the world with high consumers expectations, tight competition, and short attention span it’s even more important that your infrastructure and retail technology is holding up to the demands. Consumer’s don’t want to wait 10 minutes for something, let alone 10 days for something. This is where you have to look at your backend operations to identify what if anything you can do to streamline and simplify your distribution of products from the manufacturer, wholesaler, distributors, and retail locations. Retail technology should certainly be helping you here. If you haven’t already look into offering buy online, pick up in-store options for your customers who will most likely use these to their advantage (as I mentioned in this post), and bring in more sales. There are many such solutions out there to do this. We have made a simple solution for front-end distribution of inventory via the web, mobile, and other points of customer contact like eBay/Amazon to reach customers wherever and whenever they choose to shop. When you are considering updating this infrastructure, its important your system can integrate with your supply chain how you need it to. Having customization of the software you are running will ultimately work better with your brand and your customers who are getting a better experience from it. Additionally if this retail technology is at the forefront, it should be automatically updated to reflect best practices, so you won’t be left in the dust as new products and technologies become available. One example of this to be on the lookout for: drone delivery. While it may seem like a long way out, it will be here sooner than you think. Being ready for this transition will be the difference in retailers that truly excel and the ones that flounder. At Orkiv we are already planning the right approach to incorporating drones into our hyper-local marketing system so once an order is placed via a retailer’s app, if this person would like it delivered in minutes the system will automatically tell the drone to get the package at the store, or distribution point, track the users phone with GPS, and all the sudden appear in front of the person to drop the package off. This is not something that only Amazon can do, any individual retailer will be able to take advantage of this system, and to survive you will need to.
How are these technologies switching things up in an age of globalization? We have gone from a time where everyone was super local and friendly, which was before most of the internet stuff, to a time where we can buy anything at any time behind a computer screen and people order Caviar from Australia just because they can. Now, an interesting trend has been and continues to strengthen, hyper-local. This is the trend of buying from local shops, targeting local people, and getting people from the area to more frequently come to your store for your offerings. The incredible effects of hyper-local marketing include boosted engagement, higher sales, increased awareness and an amazing customer experience. Why is it so effective? When you are using GPS to target buyers, you already know they are able to come to your store given the proximity range you have set. From there it’s about delivering your offering in ways that encourage this person to order products right there and come in store to pick them up or to simply navigate their way to the store. Even more important here is targeting this customer on their mobile device. Think of the power available to a retailer if you know you have access to customers as they are walking by your store, on their mobile device. Now you can start to see why we have been able to help multiple retailers take advantage of this retail technology.
Just to set the record straight, the major difference between GPS and Bluetooth is the range (behind the scenes technology running it) at which they can target someone, and the need to connect with outside services. Bluetooth has a range of up to 100 yards (though I was able to get straight line range of approximately 200 yards in my own tests) in a normal setting depending on obstructions in the way. GPS is able to target someone really anywhere at any range, but we work within the citywide range as well as a local range of about 1 mile. GPS is better for bringing new and existing customers to your door, while Bluetooth is meant more for in-store advertising and individual product announcements while someone is shopping in the store. Combine the two and you’ve got a winner. (Hint: the Friendly platform uses both of these technologies to complete the cycle)
This is becoming more and more important as you consider your customers lifetime value with your brand and the frequency they shop with you. If you think about the cost of acquiring the customer, which for an average retailer lies around $10-$15 depending on your main channels and where you are spending the money on marketing. With this being said, you need that customer to come back 2–3 times to recover the cost, again depending on products bought, margins etc. Given this data, it’s so important in today’s environment to keep the customers you have coming back. Thankfully there are some ingenious ways to keep customers coming back to your brand. Here you need to think simplicity, value, and retail innovation. If you look at the way Amazon has gone about this problem, they invented an entirely new focus on getting customers to stay with them by introducing Prime. This service offers a whole host of things on the side of free shipping to keep people paying the $79 per year, and it’s working cause customers feel the need to get their value worth, so they order more stuff. Customers need to have your brand in their mind effortlessly, meaning you are coming up in their email, phone book, Facebook, Twitter, or on a billboard on a major highway. Again, because of the many options and consumer preferences, you need to reach them wherever they are.
Some other clever ways exist to get customers boosting your brand in order to either lower CAC or increase lifetime value. One is offering incentives for sharing products in a store. So, the customer takes a picture of your product, tags your company in the post, and shares it to her network to receive 5% off her next purchase. In another way, you could offer customers a “free” event once a month at the store, which is really just a way to get people into your store. You can create Facebook offers for your business and boost them to the desired area. The point here is you can use and test all of the current technologies out there, to not only get new customers but to keep the current one’s coming back.
This is only the beginning of the list, but I think this is a start for now. Retail technology has come a long way but has a wildly long way to go before customers are consistently experiencing true multi-channel across the board. The technologies that exist today are only temporary, it moves like lightning and you need someone in your corner to keep your brand ahead. The goal here is to move the whole industry forward, expand the mind what is possible in the world of commerce with the use of new and great retail technologies available. I hope you enjoy the read (love to hear comments/suggestions), if you are interested in learning more, maybe we should have a conversation. As I’ve said before I’m an entrepreneur who set out to create innovative retail technologies to help retailers compete and delight customers in the new world of mobile, local, social, and rapid change always a constant. Visit us at Orkiv.com for more information.