by Jörn Leogrande
April 13, 2016

The retail sector is in the middle of a revolution. During the Wirecard Exchange Day we discussed how managers can play a part in this change

The retail sector has grown strongly in recent years. Small shops have become large stores and huge shopping malls have appeared. But at the same time, a conflict has arisen: The more companies grow, the more they lose the closeness with their customers. While in former times, retailers in corner stores have spoken personally about the preferred products of the customers, nowadays many of the retailers don’t know anything about the people buying their products.

Especially for consumers that’s a pity because most of them would prefer individual shopping experiences rather than impersonal buying. So, what does the future hold and how can retailers learn from their past mistakes? Well, customers and retailers can learn a lot from the idea of the seamless connected consumer and this idea will be a real game changer for the retail industry.

Today’s customer want to have everything, anytime and anywhere

As Paul Martin, Managing Director Boxwood Insights, a part of KPMG, said at the Wirecard Exchange Day (see video below): “If we look at today’s customer, they want to have everything, anytime and anywhere. Retail organizations need to be able to deliver this experience. Individuals want to be treated in a personalized way and retailors need to understand who the individual is, to be able to customize their offers.”

I truly agree with that statement. The retail sector is in the middle of a revolution: On one side there are huge e-commerce retailers who are taking business from offline stores because they personalize their offers and guarantee short delivery times. But on the other hand there is a big variety of technology available from which these offline stores can benefit to reinvent their businesses. Unfortunately, many retailers are not familiar with this technology yet.

So, how can retailers overcome this problem? It is important that managers understand the different types of customer needs as well as being experts in individual customer targeting. Another solution would be to offer their products online, offline and mobile. Finally, retailers should take advantage of the new seamless connected consumer technology to guide customers to their favorite products. This will help both of them: Consumers feel advised and retailers modernize their business.

The shopping experience has to be individual

The seamless connected consumer immediately gets a coupon on their smartphone when entering a shop for products of interest. As a result, they feel recognized and understood. To summarize this revolutionary development: The retail industry has to follow Amazons lead to fulfill the consumers’ needs in a nutshell. The shopping experience has to be individual and the payment process must be very quick and easy.

Today, there is a lot of technology which can help to optimize the payment process as well as the shopping experience. For example NFC (near field communication), QR-Codes and Bluetooth  connect the merchant with the customer. And there is an easy way to combine the existing cash register with these kinds of technology that enables the use of target-aimed value added services. It is called Connected POS (point of sale) and with simple installations it can use the data that comes from the cash register to create personalized special offers for customers.

Every experience must be seamless and consistent

For example, with omnichannel solutions like connected POS, retailers know: Which products sell well together? Which merchant is present in my store? What kind of loyalty program is he or she likely to use? Did they redeem a cashback or coupon last time they shopped in my store?

By using this data, dynamic advertising can result: If a merchant buys for example balsamic vinegar, why not offer him a coupon for a special bruschetta? This means that no matter how they interact with the business – whether by mobile phone, face-to-face or via your website – every experience must be seamless and consistent so people don’t have to repeat themselves endlessly or end up being passed from pillar to post.

Digital shopping lists could navigate through the store

After a consumer puts a shopping list together on their mobile phone and enters a supermarket they could receive help to navigate through the store to find their purchases quicker, while also having various tailored special offers sent to them. These offers would be based on their usual shopping habits and previous interactions with the store.

There can be alternatives to the smartphone because these kinds of loyalty programs are not tied to a special device. Also possible for the future are wearables like watches, rings or glasses to guide you through the shopping process and allow people to pay with just a tap. So as you see, this topic of the seamless connected consumer is more about learning how to understand the consumer because the technology already exists.