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Only 3pc of retailers recognize in-store shoppers via mobile: report

While developing the capability to identify customers when they walk in the store via their smartphones is a top priority for retailers, only 3 percent have this ability today, according to a new report from Boston Retail Partners.

Recognizing that this capability is a fundamental requirement for location-based marketing and personalizing the customer experience, 72 percent plan to implement it within five years. The report points to how retailers are looking to create unified commerce initiatives to enhance the shopper experience.

“Consumers want a seamless shopping experience across all channels. Next-generation retailing requires identifying, accessing and processing customer data immediately and in real-time, regardless of which shopping channel the customer chooses to conduct business,” said Brian Brunk, principal at Boston Retail Partners.

“Unlike cross-channel or even omni-channel strategies, the entire buying process needs to be moved into scope, including gathering information, evaluating and comparing products, deciding, completing the purchase, and delivery or taking home.”

Personalizing retail via mobile
Boston Retail Partners first annual 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of top North American retailers defines “Unified Commerce” as the evolution of both multi-channel and omni-channel retailing that provides a seamless experience in the store, on the Web or anywhere customers choose to shop.

The key Unified Commerce initiatives, such as enhancing customer engagement, collecting and analyzing customer behavior, and personalizing the experience, are the top priorities for retailers, as evidenced by the results.

Mobile technology has spawned new standards for retail shopping in a 24/7 environment, where products are available any time.

Consumers crave a personalized digital experience that carries over in-store and allows them to control how and when they interact. Savvy retailers realize that putting tools into customers’ hands is critical. About 95 percent of surveyed respondents indicated customer experience and engagement is one of their top three current initiatives

Offering customer-facing technology and even allowing customers to use their own tools to create shopping and wish lists, look up inventory and shop from a digital catalog all are important pieces of the customer experience.

One-quarter of the retailers surveyed offer customer-facing technology, with another 50 percent planning to offer it within two years.

Of the retailers surveyed, 28 percent have implemented mobile marketing, and another 56 percent plan to implement it within two years.

With mobile marketing and the ubiquitous mobile phone, retailers can reach their customers nearly anywhere. This creates opportunities to fundamentally shift how retailers market to their customers and allows for a more personalized offering.

The overall focus in the next two years is about taking the data that already is being gathered and applying math and science to the data to improve the customer relationship.

Improving marketing and IT unification
In addition to consumer identification, retailers must also focus on attaining new insights on shopper behavior at home or work.

The Internet of Things will further enhance the personalized customer experience, as marketers have added opportunities to interact with the customer after the purchase. Instead of an item being purchased and taken home, never to be seen again, there can be ongoing communication with the item to understand and even enhance its usage for the customer. This helps extend the customer experience beyond the purchase.

The challenge for retailers will be continuing to understand how to encourage and entice customers to opt-in and provide personal information. Retailers that focus on utilizing customer data to enhance the customer experience will be more successful than those retailers who demand customer data without positively enhancing customers’ shopping experience.

Slightly more than half the retailers surveyed currently utilize a combined in-house process between IT and marketing to develop a marketing technology strategy.

Unfortunately, this indicates 44 percent of the retailers surveyed currently are not involving IT in strategy development, which offers opportunities for some organizations to bridge this current gap between marketing and IT.

Retailers certainly seem to be moving in the right direction, however, achieving Unified Commerce can be a monumental project requiring seamless execution of the right strategy, technology and business processes.

“As indicated by the survey, leveraging mobile marketing and developing the capability to identify customers when they walk in the store will become expected by consumers, as more retailers offer these capabilities,” Mr. Brunk said.

“To keep up with the competition, marketers will need to quickly adopt these capabilities and monitor the next new trends that will impact the customer experience, such as the Internet of Things.”

“Marketers that don’t offer the same personalization and customer identification capacities their competitors employ will be at a serious disadvantage,” he said.

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York