Are you an "early adopter" whose retail store is outfitted with the latest technology? You might think your customers are clamoring for tech trends like beacons and text-message marketing, but your efforts may be in vain — your customers may not like or even know about the technologies you've introduced.
A recent survey by design and branding solutions provider First Insight asked 1,085 U.S. consumers how technology has affected their shopping experience, from marketing communications about sales and offers to in-store engagement. The results indicated that retail marketing technology can be effective, but only when it's used strategically and well.
When it comes to smart technology like beacons (devices that send information about sales and coupons to nearby smartphones) and virtual dressing rooms (a projected image of yourself that lets you "try on" items via computer screen) in stores, customers are less than impressed. Sixty percent of respondents said they prefer a traditional dressing room to a virtual one, and 70 percent don't know what a beacon is, indicating that awareness of the technology and its benefits is quite low. The survey also found that in-store facial recognition is a huge turnoff to consumers: Three-quarters indicated that they wouldn't shop at a store that used this technology for marketing purposes, although some changed their mind if they knew they would be offered a discount or other benefit for it.
Although certain consumer groups may be turned off by in-store technology, this isn't the case across the board. Jim Shea, chief commercial officer at First Insight, noted that retailers targeting millennials should be using technology and real-time communications to their advantage. [Why You Shouldn't Market to 'Millennials' As a Single Group]
"Millennials appear to be impulse-driven, perhaps even more than retailers currently think," Shea told Business News Daily in an email interview. "For example, they are nearly three times as likely to learn about retail sales from in-store signage compared to older shopper groups. Social media advertising [also] influences millennials — they are twice as likely to learn about retail promotions through social channels. Retailers looking to reach millennials need to focus on targeting them while they are in the store, with the right products at the right prices."
Based on the survey results, some of the best ways marketers can accomplish this include:
- Email marketing. Respondents ages 18 to 50 said email is their most preferred method of receiving marketing communications. Only 2 percent of millennials want to be contacted by a company via text message.
- Friendly staff members. If customers can't find what they're looking for in-store, 40 percent will turn to a customer service rep to ask for help.
- Competitive pricing. Prices are incredibly important to today's consumers, especially millennials — 40 percent considered it to be the most important factor when purchasing an apparel item. Frequent sales and discount offers — and more importantly, getting the word out to consumers — could be the key to boosting engagement and purchases.
To engage customers, Shea advised small retailers to leverage all technology vehicles, from in-store signage to email and social media. However, it's more important to focus on making your offers more customized and enticing — and therefore, more effective.
"Rather than make the same offer to all customers, [retailers] need to look at individual customer segments and make specific offers to specific customer groups at prices they are willing to pay," Shea said. "The result is higher retail conversion rates, both in-store and online."
Additional reporting by Business News Daily contributor Christian Caminiti.