Online shopping may be growing every year, but brick-and-mortar retail still dominates consumer spending. Smart independent and boutique retailers in particular are thriving by embracing new ways to improve customer service in their stores.
So what is it about the experience of walking into a store that makes it special and so different from simply clicking on a ‘buy now’ button on a browser or smartphone?
For the brick-and-mortar stores that are winning (and those that want to win), the answer is offering truly unique in-store experiences to customers. These retailers are incorporating technology and other hot consumer trends into their shops to ensure they never miss the chance to engage with customers and keep them coming back.
Here are some the trends we’re seeing, and ideas for making customer experience the cornerstone of your store’s retail success!
Take your store (and your POS) to the customer
One of the most exciting changes in the world of POS has been the ability to untether the check-out process from a static counter or register. Cashiers are now able to move freely about with mobile POS systems, reducing lines and giving customers the freedom to purchase their items from anywhere in store.
Retail giant H&M is embracing this technology to help combat wait times with their new flagship store in Times Square. With forty-four fitting rooms and twenty-four cash registers, H&M is relying on portable POS capabilities to process the high number of sales that makes its $2,500 per square foot rent feasible.
But big retailers aren’t the only ones making the most of POS mobility. Smaller retailers, such as luxury gift and home ware store, Tessuti, are also taking advantage of the technology to create a more customer-friendly environment – one that puts “less pressure on the customer,” says owner Ali McIntosh. “There’s nothing that lurks and draw focus from the rest of the shop. It’s so much easier to arrange the shop and keep a good flow.”
Vend’s ability to be used on mobile devices (such as iPads) allows retailers to provide a unique and more personal in-store experience for customers. With the rise of showrooming, store aesthetics and customer service is now more important than ever and having a portable POS is an invaluable tool for the in-store experience.
Embrace pop-up stores
Pop-up stores, are growing in number and popularity, largely because mobile POS systems such as Vend make it easy to set up shop practically anywhere.
As the term clearly indicates, these stores can “pop up” in various places like empty art galleries, mall booths, or even parks. Pop-up stores can sell anything from apparel to gadgets, and their unpredictability gives people a unique and exciting shopping experience.
Loyalty builds repeat business
As the retail landscape becomes even more competitive, stores will have to work even harder to retain their customers and keep them engaged. To do this, businesses are finding ways to make their loyalty programs more creative and enticing.
Starbucks, for instance, implements a rewards program that comes with an array of perks such as a free food item or drink after every 12 transactions, free refills, exclusive iTunes offers, birthday treats, and more.
With Vend, retailers will be able to offer similar loyalty programs. The software makes it quick and simple to enrol customers into a program and it’s even easier to earn and redeem points.
Vend’s Loyalty feature lets retailers have complete control over qualifying purchases, special rates, timing, etc., so they can create the perfect loyalty programs for their customers.
Self-directed browsing and purchasing
It’s no secret that customers love to compare products. And with apps such as SelfPay and ShoppinPal, they are now able to scan, read reviews, and find lower prices right when they’re inside a store. Known as “showrooming”, this practice is emerging as a threat to some brick and mortar retailers.
And with 80% of smartphone owners saying they want more mobile-optimized product information while they’re shopping, stores either have to get creative, or get competitive.
To combat showrooming, retailers must recognize that the benefits of technology extends significantly to them as well. For instance, retailers can use mobile to recommend products, provide in-app loyalty coupons, and promote add on purchases and return visits.
The integration of customer driven shopping applications with Vend also creates endless opportunities for improving in-store efficiency with data analytics, personal recommendations, discounts, and in-app social media sharing options. By actually encouraging customers to find out more about the products inside the store, showrooming can become an issue to be embraced rather than feared for retailers.
Automatic check-ins and paying by mobile
The idea of paying for items using a smartphone is not a novel concept. In fact, for quite some time now, PayPal has been offering check-in capabilities that allow customers to pay using their phone, eliminating the need for cash or credit cards.
It gets better. PayPal has gone one step further in making the customer experience even easier thanks to Beacon—a technology that enables customers to pay for their merchandise without even taking out their phone.
Users of the PayPal app can program devices to “check–in” to their favourite stores and even accept payments automatically for specific retailers, without removing their devices from their pockets. In short, they can give themselves a shopping experience that is entirely hands-free.
While it’s still in the testing phase, retailers who are already using Vend will be delighted at the ease of installing Beacon–just plug it into a power supply and they’re done. The technology also lets them personalize each customer’s shopping experience even more. For instance, whenever a customer checks in using their PayPal app, the retailer will be able to view the shopper’s name and purchase history with their store. This paves the way for meaningful interactions and better customer service.
Intelligent foot traffic and sales conversion
Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool for online retailers. Understanding how many anonymous visitors land on a website and how many of those convert into paying customers can give webmasters valuable, real-time feedback on how changes to a website affects conversion rates.
Now, with the integration of Swarm Mobile with Vend, retailers can do the same thing in their brick and mortar stores. Information collected from people passing by is processed into easy-to-read data, allowing businesses to see how much foot traffic there is in the vicinity, how many shoppers came in, and the number of people who actually completed a purchase.
By integrating with Swarm, Vend users are able to translate the data into action steps to increase efficiency and reduce costs. For instance, retailers can use Swarm to determine how many store associates to put on the floor at any given time, when to roster staff breaks, how to allocate tasks, and more.
About Vaughan Fergusson
Vaughan is the Founder of Vend. An entrepreneur and technologist, Vaughan's goal is to make retailers' lives easier. When he's not leading the team, Vaughan is working on his charitable foundation and raising his kids.