After four years of intense training, athletes from around the world are assembling in Rio for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games – and there’s a thing or two retailers can learn from their commitment to being the best.

In celebration of the world’s biggest sporting event, iVend Retail is going to look at how the retail industry can ensure an elite performance when it comes to engaging with the customer. Here are our 6 strategies for accelerating towards an elite omnichannel retail performance:

  • Understand who your customer is – and how they shop
    An effective customer engagement strategy starts by gaining a granular understanding of who the customer is, and how they behave. Most retailers have this data available, but not enough are using reporting and analytics to convert that information into an actionable strategy. Make sure you are using big data to make better business decisions, not just collecting it for its own sake.
  • Review your current approach from a customer’s point of view
    Once you know who the customer is, spend some time getting into their mindset. Ask for feedback, read the comments you receive, and carry out focus groups to discover what motivates their shopping journeys, not just what the data tells you about their behavior patterns. Then go and shop in your stores and online in this frame of mind, to see how effortless the journey to purchase really is.
  • Make sure you’re connecting online, offline and mobile
    It is likely that a review of your retail operation from a customer point of view will create some challenges around connecting customer experiences across channels. Identify where the biggest weaknesses are in the omnichannel retail experience – is it bringing digital into the store? Or translating your ecommerce platform for mobile? – to prioritize where your business must invest.
  • Take service to the customer, not the other way around
    One of the regular customer experience shortcomings that we see, even among retailers that are successfully blending digital and physical interactions, is making the customer fit around the store – not the other way around. Look at ways to become more flexible with customer service, such as equipping staff with mobile POS systems, to allow them to serve shoppers from anywhere in the store. The harder you make it for consumers to do what they want, the greater impact you will see in terms of basket abandonments and lost sales.
  • Make loyalty rewards meaningful
    Customer engagement runs much deeper than getting a shopper to make a purchase; ultimately, your goal is to increase that shopper’s lifetime value, to drive lucrative repeat business. However, many retailers still expect to achieve this with generic paper vouchers or a meaningless points scheme (which doesn’t always allow customers to collect online and in-store points in the same place).
    Digitizing your loyalty scheme is one way to reward customer loyalty in a single location, in a user-friendly manner. Digital loyalty passes for smartphones are particularly effective, as it enables loyal shoppers to receive incentives through the technology they cannot live without. Additionally, you can send push notifications to them as they shop, to encourage up-spend and provide exclusive offers to your biggest advocates.
  • Continually test and learn
    With all customer engagement initiatives, the number one rule is to never stand still. Shopper behavior (and associated expectations) will continue to evolve, and your strategy needs to move with it. Always question the ROI you are delivering to the customer, and seek to validate the processes and technologies you put in place with measurable results.Not every idea you come up with for engaging customers will be a success, but if you learn something about your audience from it then it has been a valuable exercise. A mentality of testing and refining will help you to identify the initiatives which are working effectively, which you can then put greater investment behind to deliver even better results.

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