So many retailers strive to compete on how much they know their customers at the expense of providing a great service or experience. Simply ‘knowing’ your customer isn’t an automatic assurance that you’ll then convert their visit into a purchase or secure long-lasting brand affinity.
No doubt, retailers need to know who their customers are and what they’re going to respond to. But too much emphasis is often placed on getting under the skin of consumers to know their every move, whether online or offline, so that they can be targeted with offers and incentives before they even know they’re interested in buying that product.
Retailers should be looking at immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) to draw in prospective customers. Using this sort of technology is a less intrusive way of reaching consumers; giving them the option, rather than enforcing, long term engagement and loyalty.
AR has recently become popular with consumers as the technology can bring products to life from the shelves such as seeing a virtual model appear wearing a garment in your size or linking associated products to your recent purchases. In fact, a recent report from Accenture found that 88% of respondents would be more inclined to purchase if they had a virtual dressing room. Alongside the practical applications, AR can bring gamification to stores through digital screens which increases dwell time in-store and social awareness.
Online shopping has added convenience for consumers that have less time to visit a physical store. However, some may prefer to select their shopping by hand, which means customers must be engaged at every point of their journey, through all channels. A 2014 survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that effective customer journeys can increase a customer’s overall satisfaction by 20%. Augmenting your customer experience creates a seamless customer journey which has the potential to increase revenue by up to 15% and lower customer service costs by 20%.
There is a growing need to connect the physical and digital worlds for customers. This can be helped by a much broader adoption of AR by brands globally. With the increase in the power and ability of mobile devices, the experiences will become bigger, bolder and better.
AR can be used by retailers to accompany marketing activities such as providing product demonstrations and personal assistance to customers. However, although there has been an increase in the pressure placed on brands to have technology that engages and holds the interest of consumers, it should not replace the traditional in-store experience, they should work hand in hand.
Store assistants are the face and personality of the brand and must ensure service is seamless, even if a customer is just browsing. This emotional engagement gives the brand the opportunity to upsell, but more importantly build trust and loyalty with the customer.
Innovative businesses like Amazon and Apple have already embraced the importance of providing great experiences to its customers. Businesses should take a leaf out of their book and focus on the consumer experience rather than trying to befriend customers, who most of the time are just interested in what you offer rather than ‘bonding with your brand’.