………….The big guys already have
I had an opportunity to speak with a few local small businesses while traveling last weekend. We talked about digital technology, specifically NFC tags, iBeacons, and WiFi. I was rather taken aback with what I heard. The trip home provided two days of deep thought on what is missing in most local communities; mobile tech in mom & pop (independent) shops, up and down the main street.
Digital technology is one of those things that marketing-in-general has adopted to engage consumers in their purchasing decision making better, providing opportunities to improve customer loyalty and a bunch of other benefits. What I didn’t realize, at least in Columbia, South Carolina, was that small business owners felt they were too “intrusive and Orson Wells-like” in nature.
I mentioned retailers like Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, North Face, even Walmart, and how they employ digital tech within their brick and mortar locations, and I received blank stares. That got me thinking even further.
While major retailers have embraced it, it’s like everything in tech.
Early adopters are often the industry leaders, blazing the trails for the little guys to step into the waters slowly. There’s almost always a lag, or what I like to call a technology gap, between introduction and critical mass. Local retailers need more information on the values of digital solutions like Mobile Wallet Loyalty, digital couponing, iBeacons, Near Field Communications, and in-store WiFi.
When I finally returned home, I did some digging to see just how much information is actually out in the marketplace. There’s a lot, but how many local businesses have time to research the what-ifs, and but’s about this shift in consumer contact.
Here are some excerpts from several periodicals that highlight just what the big guys in retail are actively pursuing concerning digital marketing solutions.
The Rise of In-Store Digital Strategies
Just a few years ago, the leading technologies in stores were point-of-sale systems and bar code scanners; now, new digital solutions are popping up everywhere. In-store technologies can increase employees’ effectiveness by providing data at the moment it is needed to execute a task (whether that is interacting with a customer on the sales floor or managing inventory in the back). Employees of companies such as The Container Store and Tesco are carrying or wearing in-store solutions to assist with work flow management, merchandising, and day-to-day tactical management of the sales floor.
This graph clearly reflects the improvement in earnings that the early adopters in retail experience over that of the more timid, slow adopters face.
In Exhibit 2 from the same article on the BCG website, there are a lot of digital approaches to the customer experience that the large chains employ, but the local shop owner can benefit from some of the very same technologies. Digital marketing agencies worth their salt have the digital solutions at the ready.
Four Enablers of In-Store Digital Success
Although many companies have established a digital presence—a website, some digital advertising, a presence in social media—only a small percentage are truly tapping the potential of an omni-channel strategy. To enable maximum digital impact in stores, retailers must first drive organizational change in four key dimensions.
- R&D needs to be taken seriously to drive digital innovation.
- Set up new organizational models to manage innovation.
- Develop an information architecture that provides meaningful insights into customer behavior.
- Construct IT systems with a stable back end and flexible front end for agile development.
What does all that marketing speak translate to for main street.”
To boil it all down in layman’s terms, business owners need to get past fear and atmosphere and move toward digital marketing. You don’t need an R & D department; you are it. What you need is an expert in local marketing that can provide the education, information, and solutions to move you gradually into the digital era.
Beacon Technologies Will Come Into Their Own
Amid the accelerating innovation of in-store mobile technology, beacons — sensors that are embedded throughout a retail store’s digital touch points like shelves, signs and product displays, and can interact with mobile devices using low-energy Bluetooth signals — will continue to gain momentum in the next 12 months.
That’s because retailers are increasingly looking to “personalize the in-store shopping experience to compete with online retailers,” said Ben Pivar, retail leader, North America, for consulting, technology and outsourcing firm Capgemini in his outlook on retail trends for 2015.
This article focused on what the author believed to be the seven megatrends for retail in 2015. While I think entirely with this article from which this excerpt comes, when it comes down to the local small business, it must be taken with a grain of salt. If you take the time to review the link at the top of the excerpt, I think you will understand my position.
Digital Technologies to Take Advantage of Mobile User Capability
“Quick Response” (QR) codes are a response mechanism for mobile users. They can be placed in various places—in a shop window, on point of sale (POS) in store, in print ads, and so on. In store, they can be used to provide more product information at the POS. QR codes offer a quick way to respond to ads, access vouchers, and learn product details simply by scanning quickly.
Smart Phone Coded Tags
A store in Seattle called Hointer allows shoppers to scan a coded tag on an item of clothing with a smart phone, use the phone to select color and size, and find the item ready to try on in a dressing room.
Near Field Communication (NFC) Shopping
Customers use their smart phones to access information on products and pricing, access loyalty programs, and share content on social media via NFC-enabled shelf-edge labels, and scan items added to their basket. When they’re done shopping, they can quickly pay for their items by tapping their phone on a reader attached to the cash register.
“Moore’s Law turns 50 this year. If the theory, predicted by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, that data density will roughly double every year for the foreseeable future, makes your heart sink rather than sing, you’re likely part of an organization facing digital disruption, rather than the one causing it.
Little wonder that the now legendary’ burning platform’ analogy, penned in a panic email to staff by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop as he contemplated the destruction of his company by fast-moving and unforeseen competition from outside the industry, resurfaces regularly. Across sectors from manufacturing to utilities, the tech start-ups just keep on coming.
Not as Difficult as You Think
While trying to wrap your head around what stores like Macy’s and Target might be doing with digital marketing tech, rest assured you don’t have to be a national retailer to benefit from the same technology. All of these solutions can help grow revenues, improve customer loyalty and cross-device promotion.
It is this writer’s contention that all of these digital tech solutions are feasible for the local small business, and in fact, affordable too. As a digital marketing agency offering as many as 15 comprehensive digital solutions, adopting one or two at a time may just be the recommendation that can bring you into the adoption of the digital shift.