A New Era for the In-Store and Omnichannel Experience

By Fabio Sisinni, Chief Product Officer, Shopkick

Fabio Sisinni, Chief Product Officer, Shopkick

The Retailer App is dead; Viva la Shopping Companion!

In retail, technology has traditionally been a second class citizen to merchandising and operations, resulting in a limited amount of innovation when it comes to in-store pilot programs. But there are signs that this is about to change. A perfect storm of technologies, including big data and BLE beacons, is changing the retail experience, and retailers are finally starting to deploy, at scale, technologies that will enable new in-store experiences that will change the way consumers shop!

"The benefits of the shopping companion are numerous, from helping shoppers maximize their shopping budgets to creating a more efficient, and enjoyable, shopping experience no matter where they are"

The rise of the shopping companion

Retailers like Macy’s, Lord and Taylor’s, and Urban Outfitters have or are about to deploy BLE beacon technology across many of their stores. With beacon technology, combined with big data, retailers can provide shoppers with the most contextually relevant information while they’re walking around the store. This allows retailers to build on the unprecedented amount of data that is available to them now, helping personalize the in-store shopping experience for their customers. Additionally, these in-store offerings can complement a retailer’s offerings across multiple channels, providing their customers with a shopping experience that is catered to their needs and desires regardless of whether they are shopping from their couch or browsing the aisles the old-fashioned way.

Yet the in-store innovations and omni-channel innovations aren’t relegated to just helping facilitate transactions. Retailers, such as Target, have already incorporated BLE and Wi-Fi enabled indoor navigation technology into their in-store experience, helping shoppers navigate their aisles, alleviating much of the stress that comes with in-store shopping especially at locations that shoppers are unfamiliar with. As a result of the deployment of these technologies, the utility of a consumer’s mobile platform is vastly enhanced within the context of in-store and omni-channel retail. From this new wave of deployments, a new generation of retail mobile apps will be created that will represent a significant leap forward in delivering contextual, relevant and interactive in-store experiences. At Shopkick, we call this new generation of retailer apps, the shopping companion.

What’s in it for consumers?

The benefits of the shopping companion are numerous, from helping shoppers maximize their shopping budgets to creating a more efficient, and enjoyable, shopping experience no matter where they are.

For instance, imagine that you are walking into your favorite clothing retailer to stock up on a new seasonal wardrobe. With old retailer apps, you may have walked into the store with a broad understanding of the deals taking place or the sorts of special inventory that were available at the time. However, the shopping companion that’s enabled by these new technologies provides you with a holistic experience from start to finish.

As you walk into the store, the app takes the shopping list that you input prior to arriving at the store and maps out the best path through the store, while making sure that you’re completely aware of the best deals possible for the items you want to buy. Coming in just to do some rack-shopping and look around? The shopping companion has you covered-providing you with personalized recommendations based on where you are throughout the store, while also showing what other customers with similar preferences thought of the items being showcased. And if you need some assistance on anything, the shopping companion can ping an in-store employee to come to your location and help you out with your questions. When you’re done? With your preferred payment option linked to the shopping companion, all you need to do is scan the tags on your items and you can be out the door in no time. The possibilities are endless!

What’s in it for retailers?

Where historically online retailers have been able to get a leg-up on brick-and-mortar businesses by virtue of the data they can collect and utilize, The shopping companion will allow the brick and mortar retailer to up level its game by combining the traceability of a consumer’s behavior across different channels (email, web, customer care, catalog, etc.) with a deeper understanding of their actual in-store flow and conversion. In a world where half of offline retail purchases are influenced by online behavior, the ability to test, learn, and optimize the entire path to purchase is vital to the success of retailers of all shapes and sizes.

But the advantages of the shopping companion don’t just lie in the collection and utilization of customer data. The technology that the shopping companion leverages allows for retailers to guide in-store traffic in an optimal manner, such as helping guide shoppers from the entrance to the dressing rooms in order to increase their in-store conversion. At Shopkick, we’ve already seen how this can play out with some of our retail partners. By placing beacons at the entrance and dressing rooms, and providing incentives for customers to visit the dressing rooms, our partners started to see double-digit increases in the amount of shoppers who were visiting the dressing rooms and ultimately making a purchase! Combined with newly interactive signage and displays, as well as friction-less check-out experiences, these are just a few of the ways retailers can leverage the shopping companion into a tool to increase the efficiency of in-store operations and significantly grow store revenues.

Naturally, there is always going to be some skepticism when it comes to new technologies such as those enabling the shopping companion. And retailers won’t be able to do it alone- developers need to continue working on software solutions which will make consumers want to incorporate the shopping companion into their daily routines. But coming out of 2015, we’re already seeing a number of major retail partners embrace the shopping companion with open arms. As increasingly more businesses and consumers recognize the win-win proposition that it poses for both parties, we’re confident that 2016 will mark the beginning of a new era for the in-store and omni-channel experience as enabled by the shopping companion.