Retail marketing is now all about selling experiences and subtly guiding consumers to help them make snap purchase decisions.
In the wake of such experiential shopping, there are 4 major trends that seem to have emerged in the digital/AI retail marketing age.
1. Voice Assistance to facilitate purchase at retail stores –
Siri, Alexa and other voice assistants
When Siri was introduced, iPhone users were all but falling over themselves to have a conversation with Siri. But, apart from the usual ‘Tell me a joke’ and ‘Can you sing?’, Siri is actually pretty useful as a way to help consumers make purchase decisions. Since one in 5 consumers use a voice assistant, retail marketing needs to start using more natural sounding long-tail keywords that mimic the way human beings would search.
Voice Assistants and BLE are a power couple in retail marketing
Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa can be hooked up to Bluetooth beacons to transform the retail space. Shoppers can have personalised experiences at the store. Third-party app developers enable voice assistants to learn new ‘skills’ which in turn can help them interact with Bluetooth beacons and tags. This opens up endless possibilities for retail marketing. Voice assistants can also use beacons to notify consumers when their order is ready and let the store know when the customer is close by.
Brands that use Voice Assistants and BLE beacons
An Alexa powered house with beacons allows customers to make voice activated purchases. The Amazon Dash buttons used by companies like Tide is a good example of that. Tide also uses Amazon Alexa to offer step-by-step guides on how to remove all types of stains. This is an absolutely ingenious idea because by serving as a guide rather than pushing people to buy it, they establish themselves as a stain removal expert.
Campbell’s also takes a radical approach and allows Alexa users to prepare and plan dinners by emailing recipes and shopping lists.
Tying the BLE beacons to voice assistants is naturally the next step for the retail marketing ecosystem.
2. Automated retail shops like Amazon Go and Decathlon –
Amazon disrupted the retail ecosystem by introducing Amazon Go negating the need for customers to wait in long lines or even push a trolley. Amazon Go uses a complex web of cameras, sensors and deep learning to accomplish a cashier-free experience. The most interesting part is that they also use beacons to determine when a customer enters or exits a store.
Decathlon has also been dabbling in the same ‘Scan and Go’ technology. It has been piloting this technology in Bengaluru,India. It even offers more products on the ‘Scan and Go’ app.
Automated retail is an emerging trend and we can clearly see that. However, retailers need not invest in systems as sophisticated as these for retail marketing. What matters to consumers more is a personalised experience. And there is a cost-effective to do just that.
Simple and affordable BLE beacons can entice shoppers and give them a similar experience at stores. Beacons can identify when a shopper has entered/exited a store, allow them to pay from anywhere in the store and allow shoppers to place their usual order. Not to mention, retailers can also offer indoor navigation and crucial information about product availability.
3. Cross-channel retail marketing strategies directed to one core experience –
Since the rise of social media, the primary retail marketing strategy has been to flood Facebook and Instagram and opting for a cross-channel strategy. The only problem with that is the user does not get to have a uniform experience. While cross-channel strategies definitely work, it is important to unify them to let shoppers have a constant experience. This is because potential customers do not just use one channel to understand more about the brand. One good way to do this would be to measure the effect of one channel on the other which only 28% of marketers seem to do at the moment.
Tech-driven retail brands
Starbucks effectively used cross- channel retail marketing in their Frappuccino Happy Hour Campaign. They updated their website, released a TV commercial and used the in-app messaging to prompt shoppers to text ‘WOOHOO’ to find out what summer surprises were in store. They used common imagery across all platforms allowing shoppers to have a unified, cross-channel experience. UnderArmour also takes the unified cross-channel approach. Their social media presence, influencer marketing and in-store content are all combined to give fitness lovers a common experience.
Unified Grocers decided to install beacons to mimic the e-commerce websites by offering loyalty points, coupons and a shopping list reminder straight to a consumer’s smartphone. Brick and mortar retail stores can use this as inspiration to gamify the experience. This, of course, can be done by ensuring every in-store marketing tactic leads the user to the beacon. These could include having posters that encourage the customer to switch on their Bluetooth or offering free Wi-Fi that in turn gets them to turn on Bluetooth.
4. Transforming point-of-sale to digital experiences –
The first impression may not be the last impression when it comes to retail point-of-sale or point-of-purchase. Making it easier for consumers to buy products is imperative. Several brands like Sephora have taken to AI chatbots or other messaging platforms as a retail marketing strategy that allows shoppers to buy products and get personalised recommendations quickly. The POS can also be tied to beacons that let consumers pay easily. What the beacons do is essentially allow shoppers to avoid long queues and pay from anywhere in the store. Retailers can also set up unique discount codes using beacons that can be availed of at checkout. Scala uses beacons to replace salespersons by allowing consumers to pick up products and compare two similar items.
It is crystal clear that retail marketing is not shying away from using technology to offer shoppers a unique experience that plays a huge role in retaining customers and exceeding their expectations. Since e-commerce giants like Amazon have posed a challenge to the continued survival of the brick-and-mortar stores, retail marketers should adopt these trends to stay relevant.
Should you wish to implement retail beacons in your store, try the complete end-to-end solution, Beaconstac. Not only do you get beacons, but you also get an intuitive dashboard that allows you to set, monitor and analyse all your campaigns at once.