Business InnovationEmerging Tech

Reinventing the Retail Experience

December 4, 2011

Introducing the Digital Scientists In-store Mobile Customer Engagement System

Retailers have watched Amazon and pure play online retailers take market share across nearly every category. US eCommerce sales are currently 8% of total retail sales and continue to grow.

Custom Mobile App Development Alpharetta - Digital Scientists

Most retailers have invested heavily and added online stores to capture a portion of this continued ecommerce growth.

However, what this graph doesn’t show and what’s most concerning to retailers is the continued challenge of maintaining and growing market share, especially when confronting the “Wal-mart” of ecommerce – Amazon (data source: Booz & Company).

Digital Scientists - Mobile Customer Engagement System - Retail

Amazon will face its most disruptive challenge (or perhaps its greatest opportunity), now that most consumers carry smartphones (smartphones became the most popular phone in Q1 of 2011).

So, what’s a traditional retailer to do to take advantage of the fact that its customers are carrying devices that can search, scan, or even comparison shop. Rest assured, Amazon has every incentive to arm consumers with an array of price comparison tools and it has indeed done so with the Amazon Price Check App

In addition, Amazon’s entry into the tablet market (and its rumored entry into the phone market) will no doubt continue to work to position itself as the alternative shopping option for nearly every product.

The answer for store-based retailers?

Reinvent the in-store shopping experience, using an in-store Customer Engagement System.

Given a retailer’s investment in stores, people, and inventory, the in-store experience must deliver a meaningfully better experience than simply browsing an online site.  A retail experience provides (or should provide) much more than immediate availability of product to take away.

An in-store, mobile Customer Engagement System (“CES”)  provides the transformational infrastructure that a store-based retailer can use to rethink its go to market strategy and leverage the smartphones in the hands of customers.

It’s in every retailer’s interest to have customers “plug in” to a parallel electronic experience the moment they walk in the door (or even park in the parking lot).

Smart mobile devices provide the most compelling reason for retailers to reengineer the shopping experience.  If you’re not experimenting with changing your store layouts, delivering just in time promotions, and amping up service levels – what are you waiting for?

You can walk into nearly any store and see customers looking at their smartphones, searching for information, comparing prices, talking to friends to evaluate options.

Now is the time for every retailer of every stripe to create a compelling, okay, an engaging experience using the devices in their hands.  

It’s the best way to keep your customers coming to your stores and buying.

What is a Customer Engagement System?

A Customer Engagement System helps a retailer manage the in-store experience of its customers. In general, a CES includes capabilities such as:

  • Location-based identification
  • Promotions / Advertising
  • Shopping list management
  • Search (product scanning)
  • Navigation (site plan mapping)
  • Service and support
  • Social sharing
  • Promotion and content management
  • In-store analytics

When I wrote about the importance of managing a brand experience in Enterprise Marketing Management (Wiley: 2003),  I noted the challenge that all brands face when it comes to creating a consistent, high quality brand experience – namely the inability to exercise control.

A Customer Engagement System gives the retailer that control –  a way to guide your customer’s experience, using the smartphone in their hand.  

Existing retailer ecommerce apps are focused on out of store purchases

Until now, most retailers have focused on creating “check the box” mobile sites that are simply smaller and more difficult to manage versions of their ecommerce stores. Put simply, they’re not at all helpful for someone who is standing in a store.

Even worse, because most stores stock more items online than they do in inventory, it’s highly likely to create a negative experience if it’s used in a store.

To be blunt, you should show online options only after you’ve made sure that an in-store customer has had a chance to review what you’re actually carrying in your store.  The bounce rates on non-mobile ecommerce sites is very high, usually over 95% of the people who visit the site are likely to leave without buying anything.

On mobile sites, the bounce rate tends to be even higher because the experience is so much worse.

Contrast that with the in-store conversion rates. How many people walk into a store today and walk out without buying anything.  The conversion rate of in-store visits range from 20 to 90 percent, whereas an online conversion rate of 5% is nothing short of fantastic.

The takeaway here is that a visitor to your store really wants to buy something and is highly likely to do so.  You have a great opportunity to cross-sell, remind, and up-sell because a transaction is likely to happen.

You Customer Engagement System can help you do just that.

Why a CES platform makes sense – Let merchants be merchants

Consumers devices are evolving much faster than the world of enterprise software. It makes sense for retailers to focus on creating and delivering the in-store experience, as opposed to becoming full time custom application developers.

Only the largest retailers have moved forward to date with the custom application development required to put in place elements of a Customer Engagement System. However,  even the biggest retailers aren’t software companies and are likely to look to hosted solutions or platforms that will give them state of the art capabilities, without having to create expensive custom application development capabilities.

Digital Scientists has developed just such a hosted platform that puts the state of the art in Customer Engagement within reach.

Introducing the Digital Scientists Customer Engagement System

The Digital Scientist Customer Engagement System gives any retailer the ability to reinvent the in-store experience . . .  quickly.  Available as a hosted platform or licensed software, it lets a store-based retailer add in-store focused functionality quickly to an existing app, or launch a standalone application (Apple iOS, Android, or HTML5).

The in-store shopping experience is where the magic really must happen for a store-based retailer to be successful.  If you have an investment in inventory, sales people, and real estate, your in-store experience is where you bring your brand to life . . . and win.

Contact us if you would like to see how the Digital Scientists Customer Engagement System can help you use mobile devices to bring your in-store experience into the digital age and compete head on with online only merchants like Amazon.