How IoT will help retailers build customers loyalty over Cyber Monday and beyond

Mark Thomson, director of Retail Industry Solutions at Zebra Technologies offers up his top tips to retailers looking to make the most of Cyber Monday.

How can retailers benefit from using IoT for cyber Monday and other shopping events?
With the Internet of Things, retailers will be empowered with the intelligence to make strategic, informed business decisions that improve customer loyalty and increase effectiveness while creating exciting experiences for their shoppers. A key facilitator of this is the availability of in-store Wi-Fi, which is the foundation upon which the ability to gather insights about customers is based.

The industry benefits are clear: nearly 96 per cent of the retail industry has already started to make the necessary changes to implement IoT solutions in their businesses, and 67 per cent have already begun deploying IoT technology.

What can retailers do to better engage with customers?
Better engagement comes from a clear understanding of your customer demographic. It’s no good telling people what they want, you have ask, listen and action accordingly, in line with their needs. There are certainly some fundamental steps to put in place that will help improve customer engagement and build stronger customer relationships.

Part of the success of building loyalty online comes from the ability to gather data around customers’ online shopping behaviours – from looking at their purchases, to knowing what they looked at but didn’t purchase – and using it to deliver hyper- personalised messages and offers. This kind of customer centricity creates more loyal, engaged customers that ultimately spend more, since they’re being offered products and services that they are actually interested in.

How can retailers bring this level of service back in-store?
The answer is through the Internet of Things (IoT). This new technology, defined as the automated transfer of information over a network between wireless enabled smart devices, is completely changing the in-store shopping experience. In this article, we’ll outline the ways in which the Internet of Things can be used by retailers to build customer loyalty, and deliver a level of in-store service excellence that until recently had not been achievable.

"Part of the success of building loyalty online comes from the ability to gather data around customers’ online shopping behaviours."

How can retailers benefit from having an app?
Mobile apps are not simply for use outside the store. They can have benefits as part of the shopping process in store too. Using a mobile app can ensure a smoother Black Friday experience from both the retailer and customer perspective. With a mobile app, having gained prior permission to communicate with them, retailers can know who is in store and send customers offers and enhanced product information while they shop. With the rise of localisation technologies such as Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi, retailers can even target discounts or information for items that they can see customers are looking at right now; ensuring a smoother more focused Black Friday experience from both the retailer and customer perspective.

Are apps just for big retailers? How can small indies get in on the action?
Deciding which technology or digital channels to build into your business is not one size fits all. This rule is absolutely applied to apps, the use of which should come as the result of careful planning. These days apps are versatile, scalable and relatively easy to build. The crucial element is working our precisely what your customers need is and working backwards from there.

Customers use retail apps because they want an enhanced shopping experience; they want more information on the products, be able to add products to their virtual wish-list know who stocks it and if it’s available near where they are etc. They need to be able to do everything they are currently doing online with the addition of seeing and feeling the products in a physical store; otherwise they’d just stay at home and do all their shopping online.

As such smaller and independent retailers have the same opportunities as the bigger ones and, while they obviously don’t have the same scale of stock and distribution, they have the power to engage with customers easily and effectively.

How can retailers use customer data to sell more?
Data is arguably the most important factor in retail as it pulls together all elements of a successful business – from stock management to customer engagement and sales. The rise of social media also means retailers can be more targeted by capturing bespoke information, the date from which, if used in the right way, can be hugely helpful, allowing retailers to offer the right product to the right person at the right time. With the customer’s permission, they can use technology to present a clear, consistent and personalised experience across digital and physical touchpoints.

"Those who don’t get on board and add incentives will surely be drowned out by the noise of competitors."

Retailers can also use customer flow analytics to see how customers are moving around the store identifying where customers go in store, how long they dwell in certain product locations and how often they try on certain types of clothes.

RFID tagging technology can also be of assistance here tracking the journey of the items all around the store; the technology allows us to track and monitoring stock movements all around the store; from the back room, to the floor, see customers walking around with it, whether they take it to the fitting room, for how long, etc. This also means that if a customer is looking for a particular size of any given item, staff would be able to find it instantly, wherever it may be in store. Furthermore, it allows for monitoring how many times items are taken to the fitting room as a good indicator of potential demand.

How important are shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
Clearly these peak shopping events have a positive potential impact on revenues and the increased flow of in-store and online traffic over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is not to be sniffed at.

Compounded by consumers ramping up their Christmas shopping efforts the financial gain to be had is pretty incredible. Those who don’t get on board and add incentives will surely be drowned out by the noise of competitors. The key is to ensure that all processes work seamlessly. With such a peak, large pressure is put on all retail systems, so they have to be well planned and robust. From in store inventory management to click and collect systems ensuring that the customer experience continues to meet customer expectations.

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