Retailers Finally Using 21st Century Technology to Catch Up With 21st Century Shoppers
Despite the fact that technology has been zooming along, retailers have been slower to adopt than most other industries. Smartphones have become the norm, and a new value-conscious and customer service-driven consumer has emerged from the recession. This new consumer effortlessly moves between channels, from print to mobile and broadcast to digital, leaving retailers unable ignore technology any longer.
Many retailers have been playing catch up with 21st century technology by increasing their presence in the social and mobile spaces and using it to drive their visual content where shoppers may want it. A recent study ranked the digital footprint of 64 specialty retail brands, evaluating them across 350 different data touchpoints and categorizing them into groups based on their “digital IQ.” Only Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Nordstrom earned a “genius” distinction. How are these retailers and others finally catching up with shoppers by using 21st century technology? Let’s take a look:
Social media: It's no doubt that retail giants like Nordstrom are winning through social. Nordstrom has a strong social media presence with its Facebook page, Twitter account and blog, and in some cases multiple pages or accounts by business unit or special interest. The retailer has at least six Facebook pages for departments like Nordstrom Weddings and Nordstrom Rack, 20 known Twitter accounts for individual stores, and a YouTube channel. Many retailers have wisely begun using social media as an opportunity to identify their brand advocates to continue positive interaction with them beyond their brick-and-mortar stores.
But it's not the number of social media accounts that helps Nordstrom win over the hearts of consumers, even though it may be impressive. It's the realization that social media is a tool that can be used to meet business objectives as long as there’s a well-defined content strategy. Nordstrom is known for its first-class customer service; providing that customer service is at the top of its business objectives.
Nordstrom uses social media as another platform beyond its in-store service to help customers. Any time a customer complains on one of its social media outlets, for example, the retailer is quick to respond and repair. Nordstrom has made social media an integral part of its customer service offering and brand.
Mobile: More and more people are making the switch to browsing and purchasing on their mobile device over their desktop PC. Retailers are responding to this shifting trend to m-commerce by creating apps or optimizing their site for mobile viewing. Some are even venturing into QR codes, using technology to blur channels by combining in-store, print and other marketing elements together to provide consumers with relevant content in real time while they're making purchasing decisions on their mobile device.
Macy’s recently unveiled a plan to release technology-based innovations in its stores and website, giving the retailer a unique and competitive position in the marketplace. One of these features includes replacing the signature pads at all 50,000 point-of-sale terminals in Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s with new customer response units developed by Verifone that will allow customers to use Google Wallet, a smartphone application currently being tested in 219 stores. Customers will be able to "tap, pay and save" when they use their phone as their wallet.
Visual content: The rise of e-commerce and m-commerce has required retailers to amplify their technology offerings, including how they plan, develop, manage and deploy visual content. Online shoppers now expect to be able to zoom in on a product or see it in a full 360-degree view. Interactive elements like 360-degree product rotations are what sell a product because they allow the consumer to feel as if they’re experiencing the product the same way they would in-store. They have more control over their online shopping experience. Additionally, they're likely to spend more time on site exploring product offerings. The more time you get a shopper to spend interacting with a product online, the more likely they are to purchase it.
Retailers are increasingly using video to improve their visual content. Zappos has seen a return on its investment in video in the form of a sales increase ranging from 30 percent to 60 percent on products that have an accompanying video. When integrating video on their websites, retailers have the ability to add share buttons to the content which allows it to live digitally via social media, completing the 21st century tech cycle.
After exploring all these elements, what's your brand's digital IQ? While many are testing the technology waters, retail giants like Nordstrom and Macy’s are excelling at it. But before you jump into any of these modern technologies, make sure you have a solid and flexible content strategy and business objectives in place to help guide you through the process. From social to mobile to visual content, retailers are now able to put their customers first by integrating 21st century technology. Those that do it best will not only keep their current customers, they'll win new ones from those that aren’t.