3 Ways to Use Digital Customer Data to Create Great In-Store Experiences

More than 30% of consumers around the world would rather do the dishes or the laundry than go shopping in a physical store. And 40% consider going to the store a chore that must be done. Yet off they go, giving in-store transactions credit for over 80% of global retail sales.

Clearly, brick-and-mortar stores are not obsolete. But their traditional role in the customer journey is.

Spoiled by the ease, speed and intimacy of the digital shopping experience, customers have come to expect the same from their real-world retail engagements. And if dirty socks and last night’s lasagna pan are more appealing than visiting a store, evidently many brands aren’t keeping up.

Topping the list of frustrations with in-store experiences for over two-thirds of global consumers are difficulties in locating or comparing products, promotions that aren’t personalized and a lack of sales associate guidance. No wonder they are underwhelmed by the in-store retail experience – these are issues that digital commerce addresses with a simple a click, swipe or ping.

For the physical store to remain relevant with today’s consumers, it must be more than a place to buy goods. It must be an extension of the overall brand experience. Which means brands must not pit their bricks against their clicks. But, rather, they should use all of their customer data – web and app activity, email interactions, in-store purchase history, chatbox queries, etc. – to create authentic in-store experiences that are easy, helpful or just plain fun. That’s how you develop brand loyalty that brings customers back in the door.

Doing so, however, requires a technology and data strategy that is focused on resolving customer identity. After all, if you can’t connect all the dots to understand a customer’s wants, needs and where he is in the buyer journey, you can’t possibly recognize and relate to him with meaningful and contextually relevant brand experiences.

Today, customer identity solutions exist that continuously integrate and synch online data with offline data. The ability to constantly recognize the customer as he engages via desktop, smartphone, chatbox or store and tie the data back to a holistic profile powers the insights needed to engage him with genuine and consistent interactions across digital, physical and human touchpoints.

Here are three ways retailers can use their digital data to make the real-world experience more valuable to customers and, as a result, add more value to the brand.

1. Drive shoppers to the store.

The first step is getting people in the door. If a customer is having a good experience with a brand online, w­­­hy would he take the time to come into the store? Because he wants the immediate gratification of seeing and buying the merchandise.

Some retailers already offer an option to buy online and pick up in store. But think about the possibilities if a marketer is able to leverage all of a customer’s previous digital brand activity to make that physical store visit even more rewarding in the moment–and beyond.

For instance, once the shopper makes the purchase online, the brand could send digital messages to remind him to pick up the item, suggest he take a look at some complementary products while in the store and offer personal promotions or discounts.

When his in-store purchase history is connected to a profile that also contains a history of his digital engagements, the brand now has a record of what and when this person purchased and, perhaps more importantly, why they bought it. The brand can suppress ads for this product, reducing wasted ad spend and brand fatigue, as well as use this attribute to inform future messaging that plays on his desire for immediate gratification.

2. Make the visit worth it.

Even in the physical store, consumers are still connected to the digital world: 82% of smartphone users turn to their devices to make a product decision. And this opens up endless opportunities to improve the shopping experience.

By understanding a customer’s digital experience with a brand, such as what sections they browse and the order in which they search, retailers can use these insights to make the physical environment more convenient. They can merchandise products based on shoppers’ online browsing behaviors and place complementary offerings in close proximity.

In addition, brands can equip their stores with kiosks or tablets that allow customers to quickly order a product they’ve been considering. This not only makes the customer happy in the moment, it opens up a means to follow up with offers of additional assistance, related products and upcoming promotions in this same location. Any chance to make a customer’s life easier goes a long way toward winning his heart and building brand affinity.

3. Build upon the digital experience.

Obviously, the in-store experience is going to look very different for every brand. Much of it will have to do with the nature of offerings and the service required. Yet it should also take into consideration how customers are interacting with the brand digitally.

Nearly 60% of consumers worldwide want the physical store to serve a higher function than just selling product, and close to 70% want them to offer lower prices with store membership and loyalty points for in-store visits.

By integrating their online and offline customer data, brands can use a consumer’s digital browsing history, even their chatbox queries, to make the real-world shopping experience more helpful. Retailers can offer in-store buyer guides and FAQ sheets that anticipate and answer questions about their offerings. They can tailor the physical store to act as more of a showroom, where shoppers can view, test or get inspired. In-store messaging can direct shoppers to the online site for additional products or promotions. At checkout, brands can identify loyalty members and instantly reward them with points and coupons, while at the same time capture more data to add to their customer profiles.

Despite the rapid growth in ecommerce, the physical store isn’t going to disappear any time soon. But if the in-store experience doesn’t continue to evolve with the marketplace, a brand’s customers may go elsewhere. To succeed in today’s digital-first marketplace, retailers must make the most of all their first-party data to recognize what a customer wants and needs at each stage of the relationship and rethink how the physical store fits into the overall customer journey.

Originally published February 24, 2017

Jon Padilla

Jon is a data-driven marketer who's passionate about using technology to deliver innovative media strategies and create meaningful digital measurement. He the former Director of Product Strategy at Signal.

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