The idea of "conversational commerce" has gained traction in recent retail conversations, particularly emphasizing the rise of online technology like chatbots and how retailers are using them to engage customers. The term, coined by ex-Uber, ex-Google product and UX designer Chris Messina in 2015, continues to grow in popularity in many retailers’ strategies, but a crucial component is missing: in-store conversations.
The concept of conversational commerce is a great one, but why is it pigeon-holed to online marketing? A majority of the dialogue focuses on e-commerce and mobile strategies, but fails to account for in-store, where over 90 percent of retail purchases still occur. This missing component ignores the brick-and-mortar spaces that are imperative to the shopper journey. So where do retailers go from here?
Mix the Physical With the Digital — its About Technology and People
The effective use of connecting in-store retail technology, such as beacons, Wi-Fi, digital signage and mobile point of sale makes possible offline what’s being done online. Retailers must engage their customers at all stages of the shopper journey — pre-store, in-store and post-store — to create compelling, interactive and engaging shopper and customer experiences.
However, a great experience doesn’t stop when a customer leaves the store. Leveraging in-store interactions with pre- and post-store conversations is at the core of conversational commerce. This holistic, physical with digital approach is what makes a successful interaction with a customer — observing their in-store behaviors, listening to their out-of-store needs, and using retail technology and mobile marketing to deliver relevant and personalized messages and offers.
This mix of physical and digital engagement means retailers must collect data on a consumer at every touchpoint throughout their journey to have a complete view of that shopper. Once they understand a customer’s wants and needs, they can effectively personalize the customer’s experience. However, this can only work if retailers step back and understand the importance of in-store engagement and embrace the technology solutions that can connect shoppers’ pre-store, in-store and post-store experiences.
Marketing in the new retail world cannot be successful from a content base alone; it must be developed from a foundation of data with content.
Use Data to Drive Personal Customer Conversations
Using customer data, retailers can deliver a personalized in-store experience that ranges from having a conversation with store associates to sending tailored messages, offers and coupons to a customer’s inbox that will drive footfall, frequency, loyalty and spending.
Retail influencers acknowledge that so-called millennial shoppers want to feel wanted and valued. These shoppers want to know that their purchasing isn't going unnoticed — i.e., they want to be rewarded for being loyal to brands. Retailers should continue asking themselves, what makes these shoppers feel valued and how do I grow a continued relationship with them?
The good news is that young Americans are the most likely to share their personal data in exchange for benefits or rewards … alongside China, the most willing in the world. So, it’s as much about what retailers do with the data that counts. The other good news is that the majority of retailers recognize the need to "find a way to incorporate technology as part of the store experience" and see personalizing the customer experience as a major opportunity to improve the in-store experience.
Aligning what shoppers want with what brick-and-mortar retailers need to do to give it to them is, perhaps, one of the most important conversations in commerce today.
Enda McShane is CEO and founder of Velocity Worldwide, a provider of personalization technology and creative marketing that grows retail business.