The Customer Experience is about managing brand perception across various customer touch points. A brand needs to understand the customer’s context and push relevant and personalized offers at the right time. It also needs to ensure that customers receive innovative services and conveniences as they move through the journey. The objective is to guarantee customer loyalty and increase ROI for the business.
In recent years, customer convenience needs and interactions have been influenced by the growth of mobile devices and innovative apps. For example, customers are increasingly using a variety of mobile payment technologies that offer seamless and faster payment transaction. A recent study by Juniper Research estimates that mobile payment volumes will reach nearly $507 billion by this year’s end, and Gartner also predicts a volume of $720 billion by 2017. Technologies supported by Near Field Communication (NFC) such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay or Google Wallet provide convenient “tap-to-pay” like functions for retail customers. This, however, requires a contactless NFC terminal in stores for customers to tap smartphones at checkout. While the checkout process is greatly improved, NFC terminals do not, however, provide assistance or convenience throughout the “check-in” to “check-out” customer journey.
An end-to-end customer journey starts with the customer’s search for relevant and contextual products. But understanding the customer’s needs and interests while showing relevant product information online is easy. Today, we can track various customer engagement touch points and personalize an online experience. Delivering a similar experience in the offline physical world, however, requires that solutions track customer engagement in stores. To personalize a physical retail experience, the brand needs to understand the customer’s requirement, interest, previous buying history and a compelling reason for him to buy – and deliver all of that information to the customer in the physical space.
Fire up the Beacons
Brands are using beacons to engage customers in the offline retail space. Beacons are small hardware devices which, when installed in retail stores, communicate with smart applications in the physical proximity. They repeatedly emit low-energy discovery signals to customers’ Bluetooth-enabled applications and deliver packets for further execution of business rules. Packets provide contextual information such as location, type, motion, ownership or other information for processing the next action. The application may use information to assess the customer’s interest area, create various personalized offerings, or facilitate a seamless checkout service via the customer’s mobile wallet. The customer can also store or redeem seamlessly delivered incentives such as coupons or loyalty bonuses.
Used well, beacons can fill the gap between online and offline physical retail spaces.
This evolving technology is supported by technology majors like Apple and Google with their own specifications. (Apple supports iBeacon and Google supports open specification Eddystone.) While this technology is in early adoption stage, the possibilities are endless due to its wide range of applicability in transforming the offline retail store into a digitally connected store.
The true disruptor will be delivering the full online to on-site experience with contact-less payment at checkout. Imagine a full customer journey that incorporates the customer’s online footprint. It starts with a customer browsing for a product online or via the mobile device, getting directions to the nearest physical store on the map, and deciding to check-in to the store with an intention to buy. As the customer checks in at the retail store, the brand pushes product offers via the customer’s mobile. The customer can also use the mobile to locate the product in the store’s aisles, while receiving product details: price and performance comparison against competitors and recommendations from social networks. The customer decides to buy the product, and proceeds to check out using a mobile payment app (no NFC terminal needed.) The customer walks out of the store with the purchase – fully satisfied and informed about his buying choice, pleased about cost-savings, and looking forward to shopping in the store again, especially since the experience was so convenient and hassle-free.
This entire experience is made possible by the beacon’s capacity to integrate the physical retail outlet with the web for a complete view of the physical space, customer and product: price and performance comparisons, recommendations from social networks which reinforce trust, savings due to contextually relevant offers, and ease of payment with no waiting in line or dependence on support staff.
Unlike any customer experience today – offline or online – the beacon-guided customer will feel well taken of, in ways that brilliantly meet and exceed expectations.