Five Steps to Modernize the Shopping Experience

Customers today are different than they were even a couple of years ago. For retailers, that means adjusting tactics to meet evolving demands. While these five steps aren’t the only actions that retailers can take, they’ll make a good start in helping retailers become the destination of choice for today’s consumers.

  1. Know your customers. This may seem like a no-brainer, but all too often retailers cling to their old perceptions of what customers want, and don’t—or won’t—accommodate changing needs. Learning what customers want doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. Just get your staff to talk to them,and then listen to what front-line staff tell you. And pay attention to website social media comments. One good way to engage customers is with a loyalty program that offers perks like discounts on frequently purchased products or advance notification of sales. And watch what successful competitors are doing; there may be lessons to learn.
  2. Use data to drive promotions. With today’s point of sale (POS) systems, it’s easy to collect information about purchasing patterns. There may be a loyalty program (see step 1 above) to harvest as well. And these days, with so many as-a-service offerings available, analyzing purchasing pattern data to glean insights and determine how best to structure promotions is within almost every retailer’s reach. The big guys have been doing it for years, using analytics to determine what to put on sale, and even how to price it.
  3. Use beacons to personalize the customer experience. With beacons technology, a retailer can determine when known customers walk into the store, and track their progress, allowing targeted promotions and sales assistance. For example, if a customer in a hardware store moves from toilets to sinks, there’s a good chance a bathroom renovation is in the works, so sales staff can approach to assist in choosing faucets and accessories. That in turn can lead to upselling, especially if the pot is sweetened with a personalized promotion.
  4. Use mobile point of sale systems. Why make people line up at the cash register when there are so many easy and inexpensive ways to accept payment on the floor? There’s an unexpected advantage to this approach: several smaller transactions don’t have the ‘ouch’ factor that a monster bill at checkout does. It can be as simple as a Square card reader and a smartphone, or a tablet connected to the POS system. Just be sure that wireless connections are properly secured, to avoid making headlines as the next major retailer to suffer a data breach.
  5. Follow up. Retailers who grab significant share-of-wallet don’t end the relationship when the customer leaves the store or ecommerce site. They say thank you. They send relevant offers from time to time (but don’t spam). They sometimes send customer satisfaction surveys to make sure purchases and the purchasing experience are satisfactory. And if the ratings are poor, they fix the problem—and make sure that the customer knows the feedback was appreciated and acted on. Addressing your customers’ concerns will earn you major bonus points.

These five relatively small efforts can have a huge effect on business success, and the great thing is, you don’t need to spend big bucks to get big results.