How One Technology Is Leveling the Playing Field Between Online & Physical Stores

Contributed By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

Engaging customers is a key dynamic to consider in our always evolving and consistently crowded marketplace. Yet retailers still struggle with engagement in physical stores– particularly when you consider the advantages online retailers have when it comes to collecting data and delivering personalization, and the disadvantages physical merchants have historically had when it comes to gathering insights and matching the same level of understanding for their customers and their needs.

“Brick-and-mortar retailers typically don’t gain insights into shopper behavior until consumers actually complete a purchase in-store,” says Sarah Nesland, general manager of retail, transportation and logistics at Extreme Networks. “Though on the flip side, online retailers have access to a bunch of information the moment a consumer clicks on a retailer’s site and starts browsing. As a result, these merchants are able to target individual consumers and understand their customer behavior at large.”

But does it have to be this way?

In short, no.

This is where technology comes into play and can help connect the dots between a consumer, their behavior, a store associate and the product at hand.

Consumer Engagement… Thanks to Data

At Extreme, Nesland helped launch ExtremeLocation, a retail solution that uses Wi-Fi, contextual analytics and BLE beacon technology to assist brick-and-mortar retailers in identifying guests in-store based on demographics, online shopping behavior and location. This solution allows retailers to start gathering data on shoppers as soon as they walk into the store. For example, with ExtremeLocation deployed, retailers are armed with information on how much time customers spend in the store to what department they are located in down to 1 to 2 meters. These details – aka data touchpoints – help retailers optimize their total operations, including how they engage with consumers one-on-one. For instance, retailers can make stronger, more strategic store planning decisions – from improving store layout and product placement to merchandising and display set up to employee staffing and more.

Say a customer walks into a store and begins to browse women’s outerwear. A retailer could gather data and see that this particular customer visited the store just two days prior and spent a few minutes browsing the women’s outerwear section. The retailer could then walk over and ask if the customer needs help. If eventually the customer leaves the store without making a purchase, an email could be sent to the customer’s mobile device with a coupon providing a new offer for outerwear. In the past, this level of personalization was only possible online. Today, location-based technology is allowing brick-and-mortar retailers to take advantage of real-time data to create a more personalized shopping experience and compete with online.

Using Mobile as an Advantage

When you consider how consumers engage with brands and businesses, you must also consider how their mobile device plays a role in this. Think about your own interaction and forget the stats. Is your phone within arm distance? Or even in your hand? The reality is mobile devices are a necessity in our day-to-day lives, with as many as 77% of customers reporting that they’d rather look to their phone versus engage with a store associate. Keeping this in mind, consider how your own brick-and-mortar business can use mobile to its advantage.

From enabling personalized push notifications to delivering a more rewarding in-store experience involving the consumer’s phone, the playing field among online retailers and physical storefronts is becoming more and more competitive thanks to data available at nearly all consumer touchpoints. Using in-store technology to gather insights, push customer engagement and strengthen sales along the way is a winning combination that any retailer can appreciate.



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