Making their minds up: How tech enables expert advice

Successful retailing in 2018 comes down to obsessing about your customers’ experience. A big part of this is having the right supporting technology to help them make their minds up at key touchpoints. At Vodat International, we’re ready to help bolster the in-store experience, with robust managed networks, and reliable Wi-Fi that will power expert advice and customer interaction in stores, encouraging more sales, upsells and return visits. So what should be retailers’ priorities around helping progress the customer journey in the coming year?

New Retail is here

Nearly all the big industry ‘predictions’ reports for retail in 2018 point to ‘New Retail’ finally becoming mainstream, offering consumers the opportunity to shop on their own terms. “More retailers will integrate their online and offline propositions with cross-channel formats and services in 2018,” says FGRT’s predictions report.

Meanwhile Forresters’ predictions report states: “Digital and physical touchpoints now must work together flawlessly – yet also do what each touchpoint does best on its own. And organisations must remove silo shackles to unify disparate data to develop deep customer insights.”

Cross-channel integration has been on the agenda for many years now, but the feeling for 2018 is that real progress can be expected. Our view is that the bedrock of this ‘working together of touchpoints’ is in-store IT and telecoms connectivity that is reliable and secure. Once retailers have in place a future-proof network, and customer Wi-Fi that is trusted and secure, the integration of online and offline services can begin to work its magic.

‘Digital assistance’ is in demand

One of the most popular predictions this time around is ‘digital assistance in stores’. Providing in-store devices, customer apps, free Wi-Fi and digital signage certainly ticks the box for integrating online and offline service – allowing customers to shop in a more connected way.

An example that is widely cited is Crate + Barrel, the US homeware retailer, and its recently tested initiative called ‘Mobile Tote’. Shoppers can browse the shelves using store-provided tablets, and use these to scan barcodes and learn additional information about products, to add items to wish lists. They can also enlist the help of sales assistants in gathering those wish list items.

As digitally-engaging in-store experiences become increasingly important to consumers as an aid to purchase decisions, we can expect to see more retailers invest in similar initiatives, say global experts. Certainly in the UK, both Marks & Spencer and John Lewis are rapidly rolling out handheld digital devices so that store staff can help customers access their online accounts, product info, and loyalty details while in store. Again, all of this relies on excellent network connectivity, and Wi-Fi that is fit for purpose.

An appetite for personalisation

Personalisation of marketing in retail is another mega-theme for 2018. Here at Vodat we recently carried out consumer research with 1,000 UK participants and our infographic reveals just how popular in-store devices and access to information is with consumers. Personalised loyalty rewards and targeted deals and discounts get a very big ‘thumbs up’ too.

A massive 52% said they want digital tools, such as free Wi-Fi, instore digital screens, store tablets and self-service checkouts – ‘because they enhance the service and shopper experience’. Nearly three quarters (74%) would like deals sent directly to their smartphone while in store. This audience is very much ready to connect, if you have the connectivity in stores to do so.

Make 2018 a year of progress

It’s clear that integrated mobile platforms in the hands of store associates are essential for a true omnichannel customer experience, that will progress the purchase journey. We know too how Wi-Fi connectivity can drive customer engagement in stores through their own smart phones.

This could be the year that a great many high street retailers begin to see a return on the investment they’ve made in digital and omnichannel capabilities, to react to changing consumer behaviour. But underlying this step forward has to be the supporting technology. Retailers must be confident they have in place the right store network tech, and Wi-Fi connectivity, if they are to successfully power ahead with this exciting stage of omnichannel integration.

Vodat International specialises in private, managed networks, and secure, cloud-based Wi-Fi solutions that make connections with customers possible. If you want to provide a more engaging in-store experience, get in touch to find out more.

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