The retail industry has become an extremely competitive place – not just for retailers themselves, but also for ISVs developing solutions for this vertical. Rob Anson, CEO of Vancouver, BC-based ISV Loop Insights, says there is an excellent opportunity for ISVs to provide solutions to the retail industry, but, perhaps in an unexpected place: brick and mortar.
Anson says to keep these four things front of mind so the applications you develop will capture retailers’ attention and deliver optimal value:
1. Brick and mortar retailers need to provide in-store experiences that are more like online experiences.
Consumers have grown accustomed to the convenience, ease, and personalization of online shopping. Anson points out, however, “The biggest challenge in retail today is bridging offline and online customer experiences. There are few technologies that tie it all together.”
He says shoppers encounter disconnects, for example, when they ask an in-store sales associate about an item they saw or purchased online or when they want real-time access to their loyalty accounts. All of the information shoppers can access online, tailored to their shopping preferences and histories, should also be accessible when they shop in a physical store.
Anson says part of the problem is that brick and mortar retail has been reactionary when it comes to competition from e-commerce. Instead of strategically creating experiences for their customers and understanding the ROI they could have from new technologies, they are using them because that’s what e-commerce giants do. “They’re just trying to keep up with the Joneses – and now with Amazon and Google. There’s not much thought leadership,” Anson comments.
2. Brick and mortar retail is collecting massive amounts of data but needs to find ways to get value from it.
“Everyone is drowning in data, but data is useless unless merchants can use it to gain actionable insights,” Anson says. The challenge for ISVs is to make data consumable, actionable – and monetized.
One way is with predictive analytics or “predictalytics,” that can upsell or cross-sell based on the shopper’s history, demographics, or even time of day. A tired parent shopping for clothing before picking up kids from school and heading off to extracurricular activities will appreciate help finding what she needs at the best price – and maybe even receiving a suggestion for what to pick up for dinner. “You can’t influence purchase decision unless you understand purchase history,” Anson says. He comments that a lot of merchants are spending a lot of money on marketing campaigns with limited return. “I’m a big believer in ROI and return on experience,” Anson says. “Redemption from generic offers is minimal. But if I know what you buy, I can make personalized offers you’ll respond to.”
3. Keep it simple.
Anson also advises ISVs to remember that less is more. He had a client, for example, that had multiple systems – point of sale, mobile, e-commerce, Wi-Fi, loyalty application, etc.— but none of the data sets connected in real time. He says retailers need to remove silos and access all data through one, seamless and simple user interface.
Transforming a brick and mortar retail operation with a “bricks and clicks” solution will help your clients operate more efficiently and deliver the experiences their customers want. “From an operational standpoint, it gives them the same tools that Amazon has taken over the world with,” he adds.
4. Brick and mortar retailers need to engage customers in a way that makes the most sense.
It’s easy to put information in front of a consumer shopping on a PC or a smartphone, but how do you deliver personalized offers to customers in-store? Loop Insights’ solution leverages the receipt. Anson says once his technology uses unique identifiers to determine offers that will resonate with the customer, Loop Insights’ partnership with Epson enables the retailer to print the personalized offer on the receipt at checkout.
Step Back and Look at the Big Picture
Anson says consumers will continue to want in-store customer service and interaction with sales associates. “Brick and mortar isn’t going anywhere. It’s just going to improve,” he comments. And with many ISV focused on e-commerce, “there are trillions of dollars on the table in brick and mortar.”
Your success in this market, however, requires more than the technology you develop. It also requires the right approach. “I don’t sell technology,” Anson says. “I sell partnerships.”
“We give retailers the ability to market based on data, not assumptions or history, we give marketing departments agility by analyzing campaign performance in real time, and we help them learn from their successes and failures,” he says. “We create that bridge between online and brick and mortar retail.”