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Online and social media: 2012 retail saviours

Friday January 13 2012

Last year we saw the start of a High Street upheaval based on the digital revolution. We’re all becoming socially connected shoppers who use our mobile devices to find products, use reviews and ratings, and find the lowest prices of goods and services. However retail technology expert, Ian Pratley, argues that the way we shop will be transformed even further over the next couple of years

Last year we saw the start of a High Street upheaval based on the digital revolution. We’re all becoming socially connected shoppers who use our mobile devices to find products, use reviews and ratings, and find the lowest prices of goods and services. However retail technology expert, Ian Pratley, argues that the way we shop will be transformed even further over the next couple of years

 

Ian Pratley, who is retail line of business director for business and technology services company Logica, said the big retailers are already starting to get the revolution underway. Amazon.com and Tesco, for example, both offer mobile-optimised websites with Facebook communities and apps that offer services like store locators and price checks. And that’s not all: Amazon and its advocates are developing a number of services that use barcode reading and image recognition technology to find products and then provide the ability to buy them in a few taps.

 

Making ‘intelligent’ use of customer data

 

He also highlighted the growth of ‘customer intelligent’ organisations that mine data for insights into the current and future needs of their customers. To be successful in this new environment, Pratley said companies need to invest in four key areas:

 

• Real-time customer data and insights

• Multi-channel experiences and customer service

• Channels that deliver customer intelligence

• Engaging, entertaining or useful content and interactive marketing

 

“These come together in what we’ve termed Applied Customer Insight (ACI),” he explained. “Retailers have to use data to create and develop better customer experiences across multiple channels. It’s about monitoring conversations and understanding opinions, creating engaging and intuitive shopper journeys, creating multiple touch points and understanding the ever-increasing importance of the smartphone to the mobile consumer.”

 

The wheels are in motion to develop an instore physical tagging system that alerts a user’s Facebook account in real-time when they ‘like’ something inside the store, for example he said. If a shopper goes to a store and sees something they like, they can turn on the smart tag and immediately instore followers can see what they are recommending. Family members can also get gift ideas, revolutionising wedding list services and Christmas shopping. The user also doesn’t need to be connected to a network.

 

“Technology like this can allow retailers to foster greater relationships with fans, creating an innovative bridge between the physical world and the virtual world. It also helps to monetise social media, as retailers are more likely to convert a ‘like’ into an actual purchase this way,” he added.

 

Looking ahead to a multichannel future

 

The trends, which Pratley said Logica thinks are going to be big in 2012 in the multichannel world, are:

 

  • More relevant personalised communications. Messages and promotions to customers based on previous purchases and social behaviour that are triggered by time and location and delivered to mobile devices.
  • Real time multi-screen interactive experiences. Brands will engage with customers using mobile, tablet, in-store and social channels and the unique interactive properties of each medium to give exceptional customer experiences.
  • Mobile shopping becomes the norm. It will become normal for shoppers to be scanning barcodes in shops and making more informed and financially savvy choices deciding where to buy certain products.
  • Image recognition. Augmented reality engines that identify clothes will revolutionise the fashion industry and make fast fashion even faster as the supply chain will turn around high-end fashion into High Street fashion in days.
  • Mobile wallets start to establish themselves. The battle for wallet ownership and customer relationship management gets really interesting between the traditional financial providers, telecoms providers, Google and high-tech intermediaries offering brands the ability to own digital brand relationships and customer loyalty operators.
  • London 2012. This will be the most successful multichannel, 3D, personalised, digital experiential entertainment event the UK has ever seen.

 

“Businesses that don’t have real insight into their customers, that don’t know who and where they are, what they do and when and why they do it, will struggle to survive in 2012,” warned Pratley. “Organisations that do possess that level of understanding, on the other hand, are the only ones who will prosper and delight customers,” he concluded.