How Mobile Personalization is Shaping the In-Store Customer Experience

Personalizing the retail experience is the single most important innovation retailers must embrace to thrive in the new omni-channel world. The essence of retail is the relationship between the brand and the individual. Every person is different and personalization technology has finally given us the tools to celebrate that individuality at every touchpoint. When an individual walks into a store, brands should recognize and create a tailored experience for them that leverage the variety of data points available. To encourage engagement, they must capture the context of the moment. What are they looking at? Where are they located? What is the goal of the shopping trip? If the moment is about browsing, exploring, or information gathering, how do you influence that moment in time to become a purchase decision moment?

The Mobile Consumer

Mobile devices have reached critical mass, with the majority of consumers in developed countries owning a smartphone. These individuals are using their mobile devices to browse, if not purchase products, conduct price comparisons and read product reviews. According to a study by WorldPay, mobile payments for online purchases will increase six-fold from $18 billion worldwide in 2012 to an estimated $117 billion in 2017. With the dramatic growth in mobile around the world, brands and advertisers are increasingly seeking out new ways to create value for their content and get their messages in front of the right audience. This is why mobile integration is an essential part of the in-store shopping experience. While this concept is still fairly new, the technology to create a strong and meaningful customer connection already exists. This technology allows retailers to understand how consumer behavior shifts across channels (desktop, mobile, in-store). For instance, shoppers may like to browse online but prefer to buy in-person, and vice versa. Individual data insights will inform brands how to best target shoppers in-store via their mobile devices. Retailers can then leverage this data to deliver personalized product offers, deals and recommendations, regardless of channel while shoppers browse in a physical location. Personalization is the glue fusing all these channels together and is a strong component to increasing engagement in-store and through mobile.

Emerging Technologies   

All in-store interactive experiences must be connected to personal devices because mobile is retailers’ most pervasive point of contact and their best resource. Further, rapid developments in technologies such as Wi-Fi, geofencing, RFID, indoor mapping, UPC  scanning or augmented reality can create a more interactive and compelling experience for shoppers. Any of these technologies can become ‘smarter’ when we enable them to  recognize the individual and respond seamlessly in real-time.

There are many ways of personalizing the in-store experience, all of which can look quite different.  Retailers can begin to personalize the experience based on the very first interaction. Or, if there is no unique identifier and a history of an individual, the retailer can still use dynamic engines to present offers and recommendations. What follows are a couple of scenarios in which a personalization engine is used to power in-store mobile digital experiences.

Scenario 1: Digital engagement

A frequent shopper enters an apparel store that triggers a personalized text message to appear on his mobile device. The message encourages the shopper to log into the store’s Wi-Fi or open up the brand’s mobile app to receive a customized offer that is based on his personal tastes and preferences. As the customer walks through the store, he is welcomed by a digital touch screen sign that welcomes him by name and highlights a few products that may be of interest. If the customer interacts with the product on the digital signage, he is presented with additional product information and  recommendations. Upon selecting the product, a wayfinding system guides him to the item within the store. This experience is seamlessly passed on to the shopper’s personal device where he can choose to add the item to a wish list, share the item on social networks or see ratings and reviews.

As the shopper browses through the store, he comes across a product he is interested in and scans the bar code with his smartphone to learn more about it. Immediately, he is presented with detailed product information including available sizes in-store, online or in another location. At that moment, alternative products are suggested to go with the first item, such as matching accessories or a style guide. All this is driven through dynamic personalization engines that harness the power of the data to engage shoppers as they shop.

Scenario 2: Arming associates with mobile and data

A shopper enters his local hardware store looking for a fuse for an AC unit. An employee’s tablet detects the shopper’s data by either swiping his loyalty card, through a cellular signal or Wi-Fi to learn what kind of fuse the shopper will need for the unit that he purchased last year from the same location. The employee puts this information into the store’s mapping software that shows exactly where the right part is and advises what other products the customer may need for maintenance. This information comes up automatically on the associate’s tablet. The system also sees that the shopper is due for more water softener salt based on his historical purchase data. This information empowers the store associate to provide a more personalized shopping experience and address the shopper’s needs right then and there.

The tablet can also act as a mobile POS unit to close the sale and streamline the checkout purchase. An emailed receipt may include additional instructions for the shopper on how to install the new fuse or do any maintenance work on the AC unit. Relevant incentives on items that he may like and messages with local and community information are included too. The associate tablet concept will work in any type of store.  While we’ve seen a few retailers begin to incorporate this into the in-store environment, few have realized its full potential for personalization.

Creating Compelling Experiences  

The facts are in – mobile is here and will continue to grow exponentially. Providing consumers with a seamless, consistent experience in-store is about connecting profile data and delivering personalized offers and content at their convenience, anytime, anywhere.

To personalize an in-store experience, the retailer needs to be able to:

  • Understand the shopper from real-time and location-based profiling
  • Leverage data from other channels to enhance the level of individualization
  • Capitalize mobile commerce with features and engagement specific to mobile devices

Relevant messaging helps brands establish a lasting emotional connection with their customers. There are so many messages that come at us every moment of every day, with so many choices for mindshare.  Brands that take the time and care to understand their customers and create personalized experiences at all touchpoints will not only survive, but also thrive.

Contributed by Meyar Sheik, CEO of Certona. Connect with Sheik via LinkedIn here and learn more about Certona at 

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