In my last blog post, Phygital Weaves New Story for Retail Data, we discussed the advent of the new Robocop – phygital, or the combination of physical and digital shopping – and how it ties into retail’s most recent form of commerce, unified commerce. In this post, I’d like to go deeper into that subject and discuss how unified commerce and the associated data changes it requires support the technological advances of real-time marketing.
Let’s start by taking the story from my last post and playing around with it a little bit: A young woman with two children entered a sports retail establishment to purchase sports equipment for the kids’ summer activities. On her way to the appropriate aisle, she stumbled across a longboard much like the one she road as a college student. With a quick online search on her smart phone, she found one exactly like the one she used to own and purchased it from the store’s ecommerce site.
Simple, right? But what if this situation could be even more dynamic, more customer-focused, more responsive? Let’s imagine an augmented version of the scenario:
As the young woman enters the establishment, a salesperson is alerted that she has been searching for kids’ sports equipment online. The salesperson is also aware, before approaching her, that she has two children that might need attending to while she is shopping. The salesperson approaches her, and leads her exactly where she needs to go while also introducing a small game tablet for the kids to play on while mom is shopping.
On the way to the appropriate aisle, the young mother stops to admire the longboard. The salesperson whips out the in-store and online mobile inventory to show the woman all the options and styles in that particular item. In addition, she searches the woman’s shopping history to pull up the exact brand and model she purchased as a college student. Would she like the exact same one? Perfect. Perhaps the young woman also ran a search on her own mobile phone and finds a better price – no problem! The salesperson instigates a price-matching promotion to get her the exact same product at the lowest price without buying elsewhere. The woman collects her purchases and meets the salesperson and her still-occupied children at the check-out counter.
Real-time Phygital Marketing
The altered story described above is a best-case scenario, but the phygital technologies to pull it off are currently available to the marketing-verse. Customers’ in-store movements can now be tracked using sensor technologies developed by Apple, BaySensors, and other similar companies. Geo-marketing technologies can also tell you exactly when and where your customers might be best persuaded to buy a given product. Search engine activities can be tracked and used to not only to offer online promotions, but in-store promotions as well. All sorts of apps and online tracking technologies are being created to enable any given retailer to streamline activities across channels so a customer’s experience online is not lost once they enter a brick-and-mortar store location.
The sky is becoming the limit for marketers in a very real way. However, it is unlikely that you will be able to take advantage of these innovative advances without first switching to an unified commerce model. So let’s talk about what you need to do both from a customer-facing and internal perspective to make the switch and start communicating with your consumers in the moment they need you.
On the Front End
Setting things up on the customer-facing side of things could require a fairly high-tech overhaul. For example, you may already have search engine tracking tools in place, but most retailers still have not yet invested in the love child of phygital marketing: geo-marketing technology. The first step to real-time personalization is, of course, to get the right programs, software, and hardware. And that step, of course, begins with research. You’ll be surprised how many companies are offering cutting edge options to keep you in touch with your customers at the second they require it. Narrowing the list down might be hard, but you can start by answering a few questions:
What kind of offers do I want to create?
Do I want to target customers online only or also in-store (or near-store)?
Do I want to work with a large established company, or a smaller more innovative company?
How important is simplicity in implementation and management?
To get you started, here is a quick list from On Grid Adventures of geo-marketing platforms built for national companies and here is a comprehensive guide from business2community.com on geo-aware ads, geo-fencing, and geo-conquesting.
Once you’ve got your technology in place, follow these guidelines pulled from Five Rules of Real-Time Marketing published by retailcustomerexperience.com (details in the referenced article):
- Know the customer: You likely already have mountains of data on how your customers interact with your brand; considering complementing that with information available from a third-party vendor.
- Propose a relevant offer: Make sure your segmentation is solid so that every offer that comes through to a customer is appealing.
- Consider a variety of channels: We often get so focused on digital marketing these days that we forget that in-store shopping is still very much alive. Of online is your best marketing strategy, go for it. But at least consider your in-store options first.
- Enhance the customer experience: The more you can do to make the marketing experience enjoyable, the more engagement you’ll receive in return. Don’t be afraid to be creative!
- Maintain sophistication: Don’t forget basic marketing principles: control groups, A/B testing, analytics, etc. If you use the tools you know you can count on, you’ll have a much better chance at succeeding in this new arena.
On the Back End
Creating a database system that can receive, store, process, and act on information gained from real-time marketing is a challenge. This is why discussions about unified commerce are so important right now. Without setting your business up to work “phygitally” or smoothly across channels, real-time marketing simply isn’t possible. And anymore, the consequences of ignoring or failing in this arena are far-reaching, at least according to a 2014 Accenture report:
Today’s non-stop shopper wants and expects to move seamlessly across channels in pursuit of that perfect dress, that latest device, that ultimate experience. In today’s fast-moving markets, a seamless retail experience is becoming a prerequisite for any retailer that wants to remain relevant.
If you’re like most retailers, your IT team is stretched thin and your management team is fighting to manage the myriad contractors as well as internal developers, analysts and DBAs currently fighting to keep your systems and databases up and running. Many of our current retail customers have found that their IT staffing suffers from high turnover, while contractors are difficult to manage and are often missing not only vital skill sets but 24×7 coverage that an always-on retail environment needs.
In our most recent white paper, Achieving Unified Commerce in the Data-Drive Retail Industry, we cover several services you need to take advantage of to get your internal operations strengthened and prepared to execute real-time marketing strategies. Here is a summation from the paper:
Overall System Oversight and MDM Consulting
Master Data Management is a major item of discussion across retail IT departments, and for good reason. Getting your processes, policies, data rules, and guidelines laid out across the enterprise is essential to even beginning the effort to switch to unified commerce. MDM isn’t simple so bringing in outside experts is crucial to enabling your business to reap the benefits.
Assessment of Existing Database Systems
You may be closer to a unified commerce approach than you think; the only way to know is to gain an accurate overview of how your systems are laid out, and build a road map of how to make the necessary changes. This can include a solid evaluation of what systems you’re currently using, and a comprehensive report containing key insights, short- and long-term database recommendations, optimization opportunities, and information on alternative database approaches to your environment.
Transference of Database Assets to the Cloud
If you’ve been avoiding this one, it’s time to break down and get moving! Remember when that thing called the “internet” came out and promised to consolidate mountains of information into one globally-accessible source? The promise of the Cloud is very similar, making it an essential step towards the kind of collaboration necessary for unified commerce.
24×7 Execution of Remedial Day-to-Day Tasks
Um, wait, how do we accomplish all this when our DBAs are already bogged down with their daily routine? One strategy that can enable you to tackle the challenges of real-time marketing is to let a contractor take care of the small stuff so your valuable on-staff employees can tackle the projects that will make a greater impact.
Now that you have a comprehensive list of what you need to do, it’s time to start doing! Download your complete roadmap to unified commerce and real-time marketing by clicking here for a copy of our whitepaper, Achieving Unified Commerce in the Data-Driven Retail Industry.
Or contact us today! Datavail offers all of the above services with the added benefit of years of consistent database management experience. With more than 600 database administrators worldwide, Datavail is the largest database services provider in North America.
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