If one phrase sums up consumers in 2016 it’s ‘time poor’, and much of the blame for this frantic pace of life has been placed squarely on technology’s shoulders.
The digital revolution has caused attention spans to shorten, multi-tasking to explode, and created an always-on atmosphere in which many of us are permanently distracted by what’s going on in the virtual world.
How digital distraction has impacted the store has been well documented, and retailers are constantly under pressure not only to unite the online and offline worlds, but to surprise and delight supposedly fickle shoppers. We’ve created a world in which speed and convenience are consumers’ most valuable currencies, and stores must bring technology into the physical retail environment to deliver instant gratification at the same time as reducing transaction times.
But what if technology actually helped to slow shoppers down when they visit the store?
I read an interesting article recently in which a luxury brand extolled the virtues of mobile Point of Sale (mPOS), not as a mechanism for processing customers more quickly, but for relaxing the pace of retail encounters.
By giving the store associate richer service capabilities, the retailer could slow down interactions and create deeper brand engagement, which led to increased conversions.
Of course, the nature of luxury retail means that front-line staff can afford to spend extended periods of time with potential customers, as clienteling and personalisation are a core part of the designer brand experience. But is there potential to use mPOS to deepen shopper engagement in other retail sectors?
Yes, is the short answer – but only at the right moment. There are always going to be peak trading periods in which the key aim is to serve as many customers as possible as quickly as possible, to avoid long waiting times or difficult getting hold of personnel impacting conversion rates. Here, mPOS will be most effective as a queue busting tool.
However, retail is increasingly heading towards a world in which the sales associate is highly valued for their knowledge and capabilities, rather than just being a generic face at the checkout. They are becoming brand gurus, problem solvers and experience curators; it’s no mistake that Apple calls its personnel geniuses!
This shift is being felt across Europe, with the industry increasingly seeking to integrate technology seamlessly into the retail experience, thereby empowering store associates to become true brand ambassadors.
At some not-too-distant point, high touch customer interactions will not just be reserved for the luxury sector; it will be the premise for all bricks-and-mortar encounters. And technology, combined with the skill and personality of the store associate, will drive these deep engagements.
So, in conclusion, technology does potentially give shoppers time to stop and think – and to buy as a result. The challenge for retailers is to identify those ‘thinking’ moments, and have the right resources in place to change the pace down a gear.