The retail experience is about to completely transform. While online shopping has grown – the U.S. saw $49.8 billion in Q2 2013 desktop-based retail e-commerce spending – the end of brick and mortar retail locations is nowhere near close. Two big players in this evolution are machine to machine (M2M) technology, which wirelessly connects devices without the need for human direction or interference, and omni-channel retailing, which focuses on integrating the entire customer experience from multiple channels.
Today’s customers expect a seamless retail experience across all channels, including a combination of TV, mobile devices, catalogues, websites, e-mail, social media and voice. The challenge is for retailers to collect this data and understand it in order to provide a better experience for customers.
I recently caught up with Kelly Robinson, M2M product marketing manager, retail at Sprint (News - Alert), to discuss the future of omni-channel experiences, what some of the challenges have to be overcome and the carrier’s role in delivering the omni-channel experience.
Robinson explains that today’s customers are demanding a “here and now” feel; when they walk into a retailer, they might want a little bit of a feeling of what’s on the website, such as an interactive touchscreen, or retailers can implement mobile advertising based on proximity. The key is being able to deliver solutions on demand. Systems set up in a retail facility to embrace these omni-channel experiences help contribute information to retailers that they didn’t have in the past.
Interaction analytics enable retailers to gather more data and analytics about customer behavior, such as how they use smartphones while shopping, what products they are or are not looking at, which ones they purchase and what kind of similar habits different customers have while shopping. For example, Sprint offers interactive touchscreen kiosks as part of its M2M retail solutions. Retailers using these kiosks can not only pull data such as what information customers looked at and acted on, but integrating other factors, such as whether an advertisement worked. Sprint also offers digital signage, and that can collect other audience information, such as demographics, engagement metrics and viewer impressions.
Sprint recently installed interactive touchscreen kiosks in an unaided sales environment for high dollar electronics within a grocer. A typical way these products are sold today is through cardboard chips hanging on a shelf or something similar – there are no additional pricing or features options. With these kiosks, customers can walk up and interactively select the product, pricing, features and plan that works best for them. Not only does it help customize the customer’s experience, but retailers can now look at what products were most popular and other data analytics that help improve the overall marketing perspective and identify areas where they might need support.
All of these solutions require a wireless component – and that’s where the carriers come in. Carriers have relationships with retailers and partners to enable this technology.
“All of these partners have to go through a carrier to get certified to get a CDMA chip embedded into their solution,” Robinson explained.
The growth of these solutions relates to how organizations manage the cost and complexity of delivering omni-channel solutions in retailers. In addition to investing in these technologies, there are other considerations, such as transferring the content to new formats like HTML5 and making content more seamless. While there are still challenges to overcome, Robinson is very much looking forward to the growth of these solutions and all of the creative ways retailers decide to use them.
Learn more about Sprint’s M2M Retail Solutions.
Edited by Alisen Downey