Dawn of ‘PHY-GITAL’: Moving towards a fluid and immersive retail experience

A mix of technology and physical presence in the retail sector allows customers to optimize their shopping experience

The Internet of Things (IoT) today has highlighted the potential for growth in a variety of sectors, and key among those is the retail sector. Digital transformation helps improve consumer experience and operational efficiencies. Some of the trends on this front include personalization, augmented and virtual reality solutions, in-store analytics, which help provide timely assistance and relevant information to a consumer at the right time. Businesses have tons of digital data, waiting to be harnessed to drive meaningful and actionable insights for businesses. This, coupled with evolving new regulations for data privacy and concerns of digital users across the globe, it becomes imperative for new-age solutions to respect and protect the data privacy of the users.

To address the challenges of this fast-paced digital world, some of the largest companies are striving to provide the right solutions for a better understanding of consumer behavior and providing a unique experience to the clients. These solutions can combine indoor positioning, behavioral analytics, and Artificial Intelligence to provide improved customer experience at a physical location.

Personalization is an important factor to continuously enhance consumer experience and hence investing in digital technology has become imperative for a consumer-facing industry. It helps in understanding the consumer’s profile better to deliver better recommendations and in turn, helps in improving the overall customer experience in content personalization, targeted ad delivery in digital marketing and to focus on aspects revolving around loyalty.

  • The major driver behind these personalization efforts are:
  • The proliferation of IoT, analytics, indoor positioning systems, and connected sensors
  • Consumer demand for personalized customer experience
  • Growth of smartphones adoption, affordable internet, online shopping, and social media
  • Customization as a practice has already been initiated across several industries
  • Current personalization capability is at the population, segment, micro-segment level

Innovative technologies such as smart shopping lists, shopping reminders, online payment options, real-time context-based offers and home delivery services provide to improve customer’s in-store shopping experience. This mix of technology and physical presence allows customers to optimize their shopping experience, irrespective of location.

While organizations are currently working towards making these advantages a reality, the solutions must also be cost-effective for retailers. Proximity Marketing, an oft-heard term in the retail industry in conjunction with IoT, is one of the major avenues being pursued in the process of developing these solutions. It can be achieved using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or light-based technology that detects the location of the customer and adapts the advertisement/offer to reflect the customer’s preference.

Coupling proximity marketing with Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence (AI) represents the next step towards personalizing marketing efforts. Termed as “context-aware personalization”, the solution utilizes Wi-Fi-based technology to provide indoor position detection, which enables personalized offers to be made visible to customers based on a digital persona that is created from the data received.

Unbeatable advantages for retailers

The cost-effectiveness of the solution makes it an ideal choice for retailers as it requires only minimal changes to be made to the existing framework of the retail space. In addition to this, the solution also provides them with several useful options, such as:

  • The number and type of offers/advertisements shown can be configured to change at various checkpoints within stores in real-time.
  • The success rate of the ads in terms of converting offers can also be tracked to provide appropriate insights.
  • A variety of analytical reports can also be generated:
  1. Heat maps to locate low/medium/high-density zones within a specified time range
  2. Dwell times to analyze how much time people are spending in each section of the store
  3. Footfalls to analyze the number of people entering, exiting and the population within a store at any point of time

Retailers can make use of all the information obtained to manage and optimize all in-store operations such as the number of support staff required on the shop floor, the placement of products and the minimization of checkout queue lengths.

Unique advantages for customers

For customers, on the other hand, the solution creates a unique and smooth in-store experience by providing useful insights into the location of the products they require. This is achieved with minimal invasion of their privacy while maintaining security at all times. Certain additional features also help smoothen the shopping experience:

  • Creating the WOW Moment by enjoying the personal touch and attention
  • A smart shopping list that is created even before a customer visits the store
  • A store map that displays the store layout in detail
  • Online payment options that reduce long waiting times at checkout counters
  • Quick assist that enables retail floor assistance as and when needed
  • Shopping reminders to help schedule trips to the store
  • Real-time personalized discounts and offers at the right time and relevant information at the right time

As we move from physical (retail stores) and digital-only (e-commerce websites) environments to the realm of the ‘Phy-gital’, shopping experiences are steadily changing, and creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved. Let’s all embrace this change!

By Hemanth Sheelvant, Business Head – AI Personalization Technologies (IERO), RBEI

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