(photo by Sherbet)
The recent launch of Microsoft Surface in Australia last month is a reminder that we are entering the digital era of retail shopping.
While the prospect of building immersive digital retail solutions in malls and stores is exciting, the luster of $50,000 in quarter inch thick screens and multi-touch tables will turn dull if the installation does not increase foot traffic, lift sales and/or enhance the customer service experience.
With this is mind; this post is a first draft in an evolving guidebook for delivering effective digital retail experiences.
At a high level, there are three digital opportunities available in most retail environments.
(1) Product & brand visualization: Sales tools that show shoppers the potential of a boxed up widget, break down complex products, or open up a window to the full product inventory.
(2) Branded entertainment: Installations that draw the attention of foot traffic through an interactive solution and/or provide valuable content on behalf of the brand.
(3) Branded information services: Solutions that add value to people with a form of some kind of practical application (a way finding tool, a calculator, some tips or tricks, etc.)
All of these activities hold the prospect of being interactive, traceable, personalized, integrated, manageable, and innovative digital solutions.
For anyone of these activities to become a success, you must build upon a strategy based on the needs of the users in each scenario. That’s the philosophy the Amnesia Razorfish Emerging Experiences Team is guided by as we begin our journey into these new digital sales & marketing scenarios.
During a shopping experience there are number of players but at the heart of the situation are a) the shopper and b) the sales team. The question becomes: what can we do to amplify the sales experience for both players and not get in the way of the sales process?
One way of avoiding the latter is by understanding what services customers currently value. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) publishes quarterly reports that show which brands are delivering quality customer service across a variety of retail verticals (department store, specialty retail, supermarket, banking, insurance, gas stations, to name a few).
According to ACSI commentator Professor Claes Fornell analysis of Q4 2009 polls, while the harsh post GFC climate in the U.S. forced the overall rating down by 1.4%, each vertical had a strong performer from which key assumptions can be made:
Nordstrom: The Seattle based department store company prides itself in informed and helpful customer service. Customers agreed and gave them a 83% on the scorecard for a satisfying experience.
Small Banks: In a vertical that saw zero overall improvement and was hit hard this year, small banks scored well because they specialize in personalized customer service.
Publix Supermarkets: Although Wal-Mart grocery chains beat Publix on price, Publix scores high in another sector (Grocery & Pharmacy) that customers are generally not thrilled with the current experience. Their secret: in-store demos and organic goods.
These top performers give us three important insights when thinking about digital retail possibilities.
(1) People are not necessarily unhappy with their current human-based shopping experience. This makes sense because humans are not robots and we generally enjoy communicating with one another; even in a sales situation. Therefore, sales personnel are staying put and the goal of what we build should be to help the sales team convert and up-sell, not to erase the sales team.
(2) Grocery & pharmacy environments are filled with so many choices that customers need additional experiences to help them make a purchase. This insight parallels a survey of 5,000 U.S. grocery shoppers in 2008 that found that 65% of shoppers thought they did not have enough information to make an informed purchase (as quoted in Burke, 2008).
(3) Personalized services are greatly appreciated by shoppers; especially during major decisions like selecting a mortgage or investing for retirement.
While these conclusions are the tip of a very complex iceberg and the specific approach will vary from case to case, the major point to be made is that it is important to balance the thrill of amazing new technologies and possibilities with a foundation of strategic thinking. The novelty of new technology should never take backseat to delivering on practical business objectives.
The next chapter in this thread will be about the spatial dimension of out of home and retail digital strategy. Stay tuned
Brett Robinson, Emerging Experiences Program Manager
1. ACSI Quarterly Commentaries Q4 2009.
2.Behavioral Effects of Digital_Signage (2008). University of Indiana Press.