By Vinod Kashyap, Director-Product Management, IoT and indoor positioning solutions with Acuity Brands
As retailers continue to embrace the convergence of their online and offline channels, they are faced with the enormous challenge of creating a single shopping experience for their customers, regardless of the channel they use. This is leading to increasingly hard choices in allocating resources between a retailer’s legacy brick-and-mortar (B&M) stores and their online storefronts.
While every retailer knows that optimizing and harmonizing online and offline channels will drive sales and customer loyalty, they’re unsure which technologies will make for a marriage that works. That’s why retailers are looking for innovations that build on the instant gratification of an in-store purchase by attaching it to an online shopping experience. A great example of this type of hybrid channel innovation is buy online/pick up in store (BOPIS) – in which retailers use their B&M stores, sometimes with self-serve kiosks, as pick-up locations for online orders.
“Hybrid” shopping innovations like BOPIS are a big step in the right direction, but at the end of the day, BOPIS is essentially an out-of-store experience. So there is still a fairly large gap to fill before the B&M and online shopping experiences truly converge.
Even where retailers use BOPIS, the stark truth is that once a customer enters the B&M store, the experience is not very different from what it’s been for the last century. Merchandisers use limited data for predicting and monitoring sales trends, making in-store merchandising more of an art than the science it is for their e-commerce counterparts. As such, their ability to test how, when and where to place products in a store is limited and sometimes difficult to adapt. Additionally, B&M stores continue to deliver one shopping experience for everyone, unlike an online shopping experience that is full of personal, relevant messages and product recommendations that increase basket size.
B&M retailers seeking to merge their online and offline customer experiences are increasingly turning to new internet of things (IoT) technologies. One promising new retail IoT technology uses the store’s existing LED lighting infrastructure, outfitted with advanced sensing beacons, to enable precise indoor positioning – down to a specific aisle and shelf. With indoor positioning technology deployed throughout a physical store, a retailer can create merchandising “action zones,” which are highly precise geo-fences generated around a product location.
Action zones act like a virtual merchandising box around the product. As a shopper stops to investigate the product, a coupon or other relevant message can be instantly delivered to their mobile device via the store app or a connected shopping cart. When a retailer sees a customer dwelling in front of a product, they can send information or offer to answer questions about the product directly to the customer’s mobile device, similar to the chat feature used by many e-commerce channels. Action zones help eliminate friction in the buying process, which increases the potential for an in-the-moment sale. Action zones can also boost upsells by pushing the same “frequently bought together” and “customers who bought this item also bought…” recommendations shoppers are accustomed to online.
So now, in addition to BOPIS, retailers can take advantage of action zones to drive pure in-store interactions that closely mirror the online experience. This seamless connection between online and in-store channels is the holy grail for most retailers today. And because it is based on existing lighting infrastructure, it’s easier than many retailers realize.
Indoor positioning technology, like Atrius™ Navigator, is helping retailers create a single shopping experience - whether that’s online, on mobile, in-store or some combination of all three - serving customers however and wherever they choose to shop. With all of its channels working harmoniously, a retailer can shift focus and resources towards making its brand the loyalty driver and revenue producer.
Learn more about Atrius IoT solutions or to request to speak with an expert on Retail IoT by visiting Atrius Integrated Solutions now.