The changing face of Australian retail

The evolution of Wi-Fi and location-based technology provides retailers an edge in the new age of the customer, where low prices just aren't enough.

The proliferation of mobile devices is changing the way traditional bricks and mortar retailers connect with customers to offer a personalised shopping experience.

Smart mobile devices and apps are making it easier for consumers to engage with retail stores. The current trend in retail is that consumers are making the most of omni-channel opportunities whereby online shopping is used in conjunction with bricks and mortar experience throughout the purchasing cycle.

This evolution in how consumers shop nowadays has firmly put them in the driver’s seat when it comes to choice of where they will spend their money.

In-store retailers are increasingly coming to terms with the reality that they can no longer rely solely on low prices to attract consumers through their doors. They now understand that they need to build customer loyalty by anticipating what customers want and deliver when and how they want it

However, many retailers are unaware of the technologies that exist nowadays to help them identify what the shopper is interested in.

Evolution of Wi-Fi

Until recently, wireless applications for retail have largely focused on improving operational and supply chain efficiency. Now, Wi-Fi networks throughout department stores are becoming the hub of customer loyalty programs connecting smart fixtures, displays, environmental tags and other smart infrastructure into the retail experience.

Moreover, Apple’s iBeacon technology, mobile apps and motion sensors are increasingly becoming the key ingredients in a future defined by ‘personalisation’. For example, with the iBeacon technology, retailers can prompt customers as they walk in the store or in specific departments and get asked whether they would like a sales assistant to help them. A simple ‘help’ button in a mobile app can summon a sales assistant.

Wireless monitoring can also help improve and personalise retail services by providing relevant data that empowers retailers to reduce lines and wait times, makes sales assistants more readily available and directs customers to information or specific products.

New age of loyalty

Mobile devices and apps offer the perfect vehicle for delivering targeted product information, discounts, promotions and social engagement opportunities that are relevant to each customer.

Loyalty programs that have been successful in the current retail environment are proving more fruitful with mobile savvy consumers. Traditionally, only online retailers have been able to build up a profile of individual shopper’s habits.

However, coupons and loyalty programs combined with location-based data gathering techniques such as iBeacon are enabling bricks and mortar retailers to gather detailed location and device specific data for analysis.

With the data gathered from loyalty apps and coupons, in-store retailers are able to slice and dice data, which can then be used to achieve tailored marketing campaigns. Additionally, location-based data can be used to prompt customers about a favourite brand on sale as they enter a department and tie specific offers to specific products.

Analytics data also allows retailers’ to track visits and walk-by frequency, to identify top tier customers and develop programs to further increase customer loyalty. Throw social media into the mix, specifically targeting in-store services can increase sales, improve consumer engagement, and turn loyal customers into brand advocates.

It’s worth nothing that these new mobile capabilities place even greater security and compliance demands on wireless networks. Supporting all this new data on a wireless network has become a challenge for retailers, and that’s before considering how to introduce the offering so as not to alienate customers.

Ultimately, the trend is clear: in order to continue to blur the lines between online and traditional shopping modes, retailers need to up the ante when it comes to their in-store technology suite. The partners, hardware and tactics they use to achieve this, however, depends completely on having a holistic, forward-thinking multichannel strategy in place.

Peter Davison is the ANZ country manager at Aerohive Networks

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