Guest Blog By Steve Jeffery
Santa gets letters. E-commerce purveyors get clickstream data. What do brick-and mortar retailers want for the holidays? In-store customer behavior intelligence. In store tracking is a hot item this season because understanding behavior in brick and mortar environments will help retailers level the playing field with ecommerce. If last year’s trends are any indication, online channels will continue to compete fiercely for consumer dollars during the holiday shopping rush. With an array of options just a mouse click or screen tap away, it’s more important than ever for brick and mortar retailers to close the deal when customers are in the store—they simply can’t afford to drop the ball when it comes to merchandise in stock, service, selection or price. Here’s how technologies for capturing and analyzing in store behavior data can empower brick and mortar retailers to bring their “A” game this holiday season:
- Staff strategically. The span of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas includes many of the busiest brick and mortar shopping days of the year, including the Big Daddy of them all: Black Friday. Making the most of these high value retail opportunities requires consistent service and product on the shelves. Especially when demand is fluctuating, good service depends on real-time adjustments in staffing. Periods of understaffing can mean missed sales: shoppers who want help finding a size or are interested in asking a few questions about a product may simply leave when a salesperson is unavailable or lines are too long. Overstaffing is problematic too, as it wastes money on headcount that is not needed. This is why continuously tracking store traffic and measuring wait times are critical. Historical traffic data is important to planning schedules, but real-time tracking allows staff to be deployed precisely when and where they are needed, consistently matching service levels with demand. Technologies designed to capture and analyze this vital data can help retailers more effectively manage their workforce and deploy staff strategically, so that service levels stay strong even on the highest volume shopping days, and without incurring unnecessary labor costs.
- Keep lines moving. Customers hate to wait, especially during the busy holiday season when nerves are frayed and people are rushing around trying to get all their “to dos” done. In addition to traffic metrics, capturing accurate data about individual wait times and customer actions while in line can help stores better manage queues and keep shoppers from getting annoyed, or worse yet, dumping their items and leaving when they think the wait will be too long. Real-time queue data, combined with traffic metrics, can be used to predict wait times so in store staff can be deployed to speed check outs when needed. Estimated wait times can even be communicated directly to customers, who are less likely to get frustrated when they know what to expect.
- Identify trouble spots… and recognize success. Retailers can also use traffic data to calculate sales conversions. Analyzed in conjunction with Point-of-Sale (POS) data, people counts help retailers determine the total percentage of store visitors that ended up making a purchase during specific times throughout the day. This is a very important metric, as it provides much more accurate insight into store performance than sales data alone. It’s valuable to understand both how many people came into the store and how many of those people purchased. For example, POS data may show lower than expected sales for a store on Black Friday, but when compared with the traffic figures, a very high conversion percentage is revealed. This means that store staff are doing an excellent job converting shoppers that do come in, and suggests instead that marketing needs to drive more foot traffic to the location. Without the traffic data, a retailer may incorrectly think that store’s service is to blame.
- Optimize marketing, pricing, display and service strategies. Brick-and-mortar stores offer the benefit of immediate access to products that online retailers can’t match. Showrooming —the practice by which shoppers look at products in a store and then price shop for a better deal online—were blamed for hurting sales last year but, this year, more and more retailers are embracing showrooming and offering free WiFi in the store. The WiFi allows the retailer to push a special offer to the customer in the store and counter the online price advantage. Price isn’t, of course, always the main factor. The guy on his way to a party cares more about having the hostess gift in his hand than whether he saved a few dollars. He can even have it beautifully wrapped and ready to go in a matter of a few minutes (so much nicer than those generic colored boxes!) Another shopper may be prompted to buy by a particularly engaging product display or demonstration. Capturing behavior data about how shoppers use and move through the store, what displays they stop at and what items the touch and try can offer a wealth of insight that can be filtered back into more effective marketing, pricing, display and service strategies.
Understanding what makes brick and mortal holiday shoppers inclined to spend demands continuous, real-time analysis of their behavior—analysis that’s just as sophisticated as what’s currently done online. Retailers that take advantage of “behavior intelligence” technologies available for capturing and analyzing this insight will be better prepared to shine this holiday season.
Steve Jeffery is CEO of Brickstream