Retail Category Consultants went to the Digital Retail Conference (DTLQC) in Montreal, Canada, where influencers and decision makers from retailers, universities, and technology companies gathered to discuss retail trends in a changing technological environment.
Here are four key takeaways and digital retail trends from the event.
Predictive analytics will help you keep customers satisfied.
Marie Josée Lamothe from Google Canada reinforced the role of data in delivering products and services that customers want—sometimes as soon as the customer wants them.
“Look at data to see what is happening, not what has happened,” Mrs. Lamothe said.
She talked about the role of data in driving L’Oréal Canada’s sales, a company she once worked for as CMO & COO. Instead of developing products based on past trends, L’Oréal turned to predictive analytics to determine what consumers want in the future. Their research revealed a spike in online searches for “ombre hair”, a dip dye look inspired by vloggers and catwalks. L’Oréal acted quickly to manufacture and market their Wild Ombre range, which quickly became a timely bestseller.
Retailers and merchants can no longer remain competitive delivering products and services based on customer profiles and purchasing behaviour. This is backward-looking data, and the onus is now on the retailer to stay up-to-date on forward-looking trends and get assistance with interpreting what these trends mean. A short, mid, and long term strategy aligned with your customers’ values will help you stay on the pulse of change and deliver the results you want.
Always test the landscape before you execute.
Sport Chek’s VP Marketing and E-Commerce Frederick Lecoq supported the launch of a pilot store on Yonge Street in Toronto, Canada prior to the launch of Sport Chek’s innovative flagship store at West Edmonton Mall in Alberta. The pilot store featured digital screens and displays, and gave customers an opportunity to interact with the product to find more information about fit, form, and performance.
“Competition is now one click away, instead of kilometers away,” Mr. Lecoq said.
In order to stand out, Sport Chek needed a bold idea, and fusing entertainment with sporting goods retail was a potential solution. However, they needed to test it before committing to a long-term concept. The Yonge Street pilot store proved to be a success, and Sport Chek used the takeaways gleaned from the trial to build the technology and experience that will become staples at their Alberta location.
Execution without a strategy derived from consumer insights and testing is just plain luck. Consider the use of pop-up stores and mobile trucks for testing in new markets or to capture peak traffic. But don’t neglect the customer experience—as we learned from Sport Chek’s pilot store, no amount of glitzy technology will overcome a poor customer experience.
Start with customer insights. It is imperative to analyze these insights, find trends and develop a customer centric strategy. Don’t forget to consider the impact on your short, mid, and long term goals. Make sure your strategy is implementable at retail. Then test in an appropriate location, appropriately resource, and with KPIs to track the results. This will transform your pilot store into a successful reality.
Optimize your store for mobile and tablet devices NOW.
Following the recent launch of Apple Pay, experts predict that retailers can expect exponential growth in not just the use of smartphones for in-store and online purchases, but the use of tablets, as well.
Georgia Genovezos, Senior Director of E-Commerce at Groupe Dynamite, recently updated their website to be compatible with tablets after seeing an increase in online visits. She also advises retailers to be even more specific and update their websites for compatibility with popular iPhone, tablet, or Android models, if possible, for a more customized experience.
“Customers want a me-centered experience,” explained Mr. Lecoq.
According to Luc Dupont, Professor of Communications at the University of Ottawa, credit cards will be replaced by mobile devices, slowly but surely. Mobile adoption may also be spearheaded by the launch of Apple Pay, since Apple users purchase nearly five times as much as non-Apple device users.
The socio-geographical data that mobile devices provide retailers is invaluable as a marketing tool and allows retailers to segment customers and predict future buying behaviours. Combining this data (which encompasses both customers and non-customers) with loyalty data will give merchants an edge. With technology improving exponentially year after year, retailers that quickly adapt to mobile and tablet devices will triumph over those that don’t.
To stay relevant to your customers across channels, dig deep into your website data to determine your traffic sources. Look at broader based consumer insights data to avoid missing trends. What are the most popular devices being used to navigate your e-commerce store or landing pages? Think digital strategy and omni-channel retailing: get assistance with optimizing these platforms for sales conversions online and in-store. And then refine, refine, and refine. Tablet and mobile user adoption changes over time, and you need to be on the pulse of this change to sustain customer loyalty.
Customer tracking may extend beyond the store.
iBeacons, which have been used by retailers such as HBC to blast department-specific deals and marketing messages to mobile device owners in-store, are just the beginning of the mobile revolution.
Marc Smith, Director of Strategy and E-Commerce Market Development from Canada Post, said that mobile devices can give customers greater flexibility with how they receive their products. Since 35% of Canadian households don’t have anyone present when a product is delivered, this causes a break in the overall customer experience.
“We need to deliver added convenience without sacrificing experience,” Mr. Smith said.
Canada Post is working on a solution to deliver this seamless experience. Hypothetically, each customer touchpoint—from marketing, ordering to delivery—will be consistent with the retailer’s branding. Customers can even choose when, where, and how they receive their products when they’re not home.
Such a development would certainly raise questions about customer privacy and security. However, since 93% of customers would share personal data for more customized offers, consent to participate in such tracking programs may be high. Consider the parallel with in-store customer tracking: in-store tracking platforms will always generate discussions about privacy concerns, so it’s imperative that retailers and their partners address privacy issues early on by asking explicitly for an opt-in.
Understanding how consumers live and work, the pressures on their time and even how they commute, will allow you to develop a range of delivery options that provide convenience and drive loyalty.
How can you stay ahead of the curve?
To stay ahead of the curve, retailers and merchants need to be on the pulse of new technological and digital developments and be unafraid to experiment with bold ideas. Think about the gaps in your overall customer experience and test possible solutions. Remember, execution based on gut instincts rather than an understanding of consumer trends and without testing means that you’re relying solely on luck.