Differentiating using smarter retail technology
Retailers must do all they can to improve customer service and use every marketing tool available to retain their customers now that recession is turning so many consumers into cost-conscious - and even disloyal - bargain hunters, according to Gregor Rankin, marketing manager for Ingenico.
Technology can help ease the situation, Rankin argues, by adding a new revenue stream to retail business, but the most successful retailers in the near future will use technology to help increase their understanding of customer needs, as well as to integrate that data with loyalty programmes.
Not surprisingly, the retail sector is battening down the hatches in anticipation of a tough time ahead. Indeed, the coming months will be a time when retailers will need to differentiate themselves from the competition if they are to maintain market share. At times like these, it is the most efficient operations that survive - those that use both retail space and customer data to the fullest extent.
For example, in almost every tier of the retail market, Ingenico expects to see the rise of counter-top customer communication through high-quality colour displays on customer-facing chip-and-PIN devices. These are ideal for customer communication because customers are already familiar with them and they always pay close attention to on-screen prompts and messages when they're using these devices.
Such systems can be used in three main ways: for corporate branding and advertising, for timely promotions, and for third party advertising. And, while the device is not being used, a rolling advertisement reel can be run on its screen. During (or at the end of) each customer's transaction, promotional messages about complementary products or services can then be displayed. The point of sale is one of the few places in the retail environment where customers stop and have no distractions, so it is arguably an ideal place to promote the corporate brand and to engage customers, reinforce loyalty, and increase familiarity.
For larger retailers, additional services such as insurance could be advertised, while smaller retailers (which have products to sell from the counter) could find their sales in pharmaceutical products or mobile top-up vouchers increasing as a result. Third-party advertising could also be offered, with the new income stream from advertisers potentially playing a significant role in revenue generation.
Many innovative retailers have already started using the data capture capabilities of POS devices by initiating two-way conversations with customers. For example, in the UK, the Co-op is already using the unused buttons on its chip-and-PIN devices to ask customers a multi-choice question about the service they received in-store, generating invaluable feedback in real-time (estimated at up to 250,000 customer responses per day).
Retailers could also use the concept to survey customers about product ranges on offer, or even to assess customers' support for new or planned product lines. The questions asked do not need to be mandatory, and can be posed in the 'wait time' between the PIN being entered and the transaction being processed (so the payment operation is not impeded or lengthened).