Do you remember the ubiquitous promise of 20XX being the year of mobile? It felt like we were collectively living the cinematic experience of Phil Connors in Punxsutawney, PA, until one day we woke up and found that in fact it’s been here all along (well, at least progressively since the creation of smart phones).
It didn’t take a kiss to make that reality come true like it did for Bill Murray. It took major advancements in technologies coupled with consumer adoption, expectations and experiences to awaken marketers to the promise of mobile. And that promise? To leverage the data generated through these technologies to create truly meaningful relationships with consumers based on their unique interests, behaviors and experiences, as well as their strong desire to forge a tighter relationship with the brands they love and trust.
“It took major advancements to awaken marketers to the promise of mobile.”
Let’s extend the Groundhog Day metaphor further in the context of data. Think of pre-enlightenment Phil as the retailer prior to adopting data strategies. Phil was a well-known, popular reporter with a strong fan base, though he did very little to get to know his audience. He just figured his popularity would continue to grow; he didn’t have to work for it. Oops!
So now we find Phil stuck in a time loop. Day after day, he interacts with the same people. At first, Phil knew very little of the people he interacted with on a daily basis (nor did he really care). But after 3,600+ consecutive days of engaging with the Punxsutawney community, Phil learns every little detail of each person he interacts with, and creates meaningful, memorable experiences with each one. And in return, they love him.
Fostering Personal Relationship at Scale
Imagine what the individual customer experience would be like if you had the opportunity to interview each customer every day for 10 years. And you were allowed to iterate on that customer’s experience every day. By day 3,600, you would have created the perfect shopping experience for each of your customers.
OK, back to reality. You simply don’t have the time or resources to learn every detail of every customer. No worries, there’s a solution for that.
Beacon technology is potentially the most important and powerful tool for the retail market, combining mobile, digital and physical engagements to produce a better shopping experience.
“Beacon technology is potentially the most important and powerful tool for the retail market.”
According to BI Intelligence, these small devices are the fastest-growing in-store technology since mobile credit card readers. The beacon installed base will see triple-digit growth rates over the next few years … a staggering 4.5m active beacons installed by 2018, with retail representing 78% of those installations.
But beacons alone don’t drive great customer experiences. They are simply the enabling technology. Beacons need to be tied to a native app on the shopper’s device in order to be useful. And to have a chance at success, that app needs to be tied to the broader omni-channel customer engagement strategies for that retailer. Finally, marketers then need to have the systems and analytics tools in place to put consumer data to action.
The Give and Take Compromise
So as you think about deploying beacons, you need to answer this question: “What value-add information can we provide our consumers that make their shopping experience meaningful and memorable?”
Imagine what the experience would look like if you knew the purchase history, behaviors, preferences and interests of every shopper in your store, and you were able to leverage that data to serve the right content to the right consumer at the right time. Organizations like American Eagle and Macy’s have taken a giant step into this space through their Shopkick deployment and are starting to see early results. The challenge for both, and for all retail marketers, will be to use the data that your consumers are willingly providing you in a meaningful way. That’s the unspoken contract that you put in place with your customers when they download your mobile apps and engage with your brand.
“What if you knew the purchase history, behaviors, preferences and interests of every shopper in your store?”
Phil figured this out. He listened and learned. He put his knowledge to action. In doing so, he created a loving, two-way relationship with our heroine Rita, who changed his future. Personalized, meaningful communication with customers can do the exact same thing for retailers. They just need to put in the footwork to collect that data.