Today’s business ecosystem is heavily tech oriented, leaving retailers with little option but to keep track of the latest developments and co-opt it to their business. Technically laggard retailers are unable to seize the moment, and in the process, risk displeasing their customers and losing opportunities. Here are three tech trends every retailer needs to implement now, in their apps and other digital assets, to keep up with the times and take their business to new heights.
1. Offline Capabilities are a Basic Requirement for Apps
While Internet connectivity has grown leap and bounds, and most shoppers now have smart phones, it is still not given everyone will be online all the time. Many areas still experience poor connectivity or slow speeds. Also, while many establishments and even public places offer free wi-fi, and packet data is now cheap, it is not necessary all shoppers can, or will want to remain connected all the time.
Marketers who design their apps assuming full-time internet connectivity shoot themselves in the foot. Deploying apps that do not work, or refuse to store the entered data unless connected, is a sure shot way of annoying and driving away users. The best apps work online, syncing and updating data to the cloud based servers seamlessly in the background, whenever a connection is established. For marketers, it translates to the ability to access customer details in the field and being able to upload information to the CRM or any other enterprise suite, at any point of time, from any location, without having to wait for an internet connection.
In any case, technology has developed to the extent it is no longer a matter of simple online-offline switch. One technology which has attracted a tremendous interest of late is beacons. Beacons, powered by Bluetooth Low Energy technology are now in widespread use in malls and retail establishments, and beacon powered apps issue notifications and other vital information to customers within range. A big success case of this technology is at London bus stops, to notify the waiting commuters about bus arrivals and schedules. Likewise, many movie theatres have successfully deployed the technology to beef up indoor mobile marketing to theater goers and deliver a better experience to them.
Retailers would do well to leverage beacon and geolocation capabilities, and launch location and time sensitive discounts and offers, attuned to changes in weather, cultural, political and other events. Marketers could take inspiration from the success of the Pokemon GO app, which is based on heavy use of beacon and geolocation technology. The Pokemon Go spirit of urgency and playfulness syncs well with today’s customer sentiments.
2. The Fusion of Social and Dynamic Feedback Delivers Rich Rewards
Social commerce is a rage now, but the potential for big disruptions still exist. At one pane, social commerce channels are in a state of continuous churn, with different channels becoming popular and obsolete among customers. At another pane, more ways emerge for consumers to interact with brands, and give feedback. Facebook’s Live and “Buy Now” button represents the evolving paradigm of the social space, making it possible for brands to reach consumers in new ways, and for customers to make purchases without leaving the social platform. Mintel, a market research firm, estimates 59% of consumers prefer being able to contact consumer service through an instant messenger.
Smart marketers approach social channels not as additional avenues to advertise or promote their wares, but as avenues to gain sound and legitimate feedback. They also make it a point to respond to such feedback, and more importantly, act on it.
An application allowing customers to give feedback is a necessity in today’s business environment. Marketers would also do well to integrate the option of giving feedback to all customer facing apps, especially e-commerce e apps, and populate such feedback to different social media channels. An important consideration often overlooked is providing the opportunity to give feedback at any point of time, not just at a specific instance.
At another level, marketers would do well to deploy social listening tools to understand what is being said about the brand by customers. The most honest feedback is often what is said to friends and acquaintances, in informal settings, at different time spans, when customers start using the product or have experienced the service.
With 2017 tipped to be the year people start to speak to brands as easily and informally as they would with their friends, the stakes of capturing feedback and acting on it is at an all-time high.
3. Gamification holds the potential to deliver big efficiency improvements
While technology offers a world of possibilities, it is of little use to implement it if the employees do not use it. The key to success is not just in deploying the latest technology, but ensuring the rank and file use it, and this requires employee engagement. A recent Gallup poll estimates engaged employees to deliver 47% better performance compared to others. However, less than 50% of executives know how to improve it.
Gamification offers the solution. With mobile apps soaring in popularity, and more and more users accessing social media platforms through their mobile devices, gamification becomes a natural fit to boost engagement. Gamification also promotes collaboration, goal achievement, goal achieving, sense of community and comradeship, onboarding, and several other desirable behaviors.
Enterprises seeking to drive employee engagement deploy business-oriented games in employee facing apps, helping users learn new skills, new behaviors, and new ways of solving problems. Backed up by a system of rewards and achievements, and consistent positive feedback, such gamification techniques increase motivation as well.
Use cases for gamification in retail sales and marketing abound. For instance, a system of rewards and recognition of achievements in the internal employee apps encourage employees to help customers, boosting customer support to a great extent. Gamification strategies to enhance collaboration among salespersons boost information sharing, leading to better sales and erosion of data silos for analytics. The possibilities are endless.
The application of the above strategies boosts customer engagement and loyalty, which in turn increases sales volumes, with better ROI for the marketing dollar. It requires mobile apps to leverage such latest tech trends and deliver actionable benefits for the customer. The need of the hour is different apps for different stakeholders and different functions. The mobile app for the customer not just identifies and recommends products, but also suggests other products which may be of interest to the customer, facilitating cross-selling. Apps for shop floor managers keep track of inventory and sales, apps for salespersons offer provision to track tickets and update issues, analytic apps to make exploit customer trends, and more. However, the extent to which the app delivers results for the enterprise depends on solid design customized for the enterprise, and the extent to which the apps co-opt industry best practices in vogue.
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