Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Using digital on the shop floor

M&S is testing an array of digital goodies in its new Cheshire Oaks store in a move which demonstrates the range of tactics multichannel retailers can use to enhance the shopping experience. 
The new store will use high definition TV screens to showcase products, staff equipped with iPads, virtual counters, lots of QR codes and free wi-fi. 
It's a smart move from M&S, and indicates that the retailer is well aware of the need for the high street to adapt to the challenges posed by the web. 
While there's always the risk that customers will head elsewhere having found a better price, there are several advantages to offering wi-fi:
  • It allows retailers to enhance the in-store experience.  With a reliable wi-fi connection, customers can access reviews and information on the products they are viewing there and then. This could be a very effective sales driver. 
  • Customers can find all of the information they need. If they can see reviews, product information and compare prices, then they have no need to go elsewhere. Of course, if a product is significantly cheaper from a rival retailer, then you may lose the sale. However, the convenience of buying there and then, and the 'want it now' factor shouldn't be underestimated. 
  • Customers may linger longer. If customers are checking out products and reviews on their mobile, and know they can access a decent wi-fi connection, they are likely to spend more time in stores and spend more. 
  • It allows customers to access a wider product range. While many retailers are using kiosks for in-store ordering, they may become obsolete within a few years as customers already have the ability to browse and buy using their own devices. 
  • It allows for efficient customer targeting. This is the exciting bit for retailers. In return for free wi-fi, customers will often login and provide an email address and phone numbers. In the case of Tesco, customers log on with Clubcard details.

This means that, as their customers are shopping, Tesco has lots of information on their purchase history and has the ability to target them there and then with special offers, coupons etc. This combination of location and personalisation could be very powerful. 

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