Companies brand themselves to differentiate from their competition. Their brand's purpose is to carve out a company's portion of this world where their ideal customers can congregate and spend. By definition then, brands are unique. Walmart and Barneys both sell clothes, but their brands share nothing in common.Or do they?
Despite the wildly divergent characteristics that separate their brands, all consumers want some of the same things from any brand: authenticity, transparency, enticement, and empowerment. Smart, effective use of retail technologies can heighten a brand's image in these categories while lacking or poor use of them can damage a brand past recovery.
Authenticity and Transparency: Proving the Brand
The sine qua non of both authenticity and transparency is information: how complete the information is and how easily it can be accessed. For a lot of brands, their supply chain sources are a critical piece of their branding. Their market may be expecting sustainable, fair trade, or local sourcing. For other brands, it may be the novelty or scarcity of products or ingredients that entices them. Either way, their shoppers want to know details about where and how products are made. Scannable merchandising, self-service kiosks, and native apps that are kept accurate and updated can all provide this information to in-store shoppers.
On a more practical level, various retail technologies improve the brand by providing pro-active customer service experiences. Pushing out relevant information about purchase deliveries or when a favorite is due to be restocked keeps shoppers connected and feeling positive about a brand.
Empowerment: Living the Brand
Information is power, but empowerment is the ability to act on the information provided. That's why more shoppers are beginning to expect seamless fulfillment and return policies that don't distinguish among purchase channels.
Brands can also empower shoppers by providing multiples means and points of purchase. Implementing retail mobile solutions such as in-aisle purchasing, self-purchase kiosks, and sales associates who can checkout shoppers through their handheld POS, all let shoppers buy at the moment they're ready without standing in last century checkout lines.
As for how shoppers are paying, brands that rely on having a tech-savvy image or cater to Millennials must provide a variety of mobile payment options. This could be through bar codes embedded in virtual loyalty cards backed by a traditional credit card, as in Starbuck's app. Brands also need to consider installing contactless payment terminals that let people pay quickly with both EMV credit cards and mobile wallet apps.
With more smartphones shipping already enabled with near-field communications (NFC) technology, the global mobile payment market is predicted to hit $780 billion by the end of 2017. Banks are developing their own mobile payment apps to compete with apps like Apple Pay and Mastercard's Masterpass. As more people, particularly Millennials, begin leaving their wallets at home in favor of their phones, brands dependent on a mobile-first target market will lose out if they don't empower their shoppers to pay the way they want.
One interesting, and potentially risky, means of empowering customers is through artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. Done well, a chatbot can direct a customer to find information or take care of a task for themselves with ease. Done poorly, the customer gets mired jumping through hoops as the chatbot struggles to figure out what the customer is trying to accomplish. AI chatbots, through their visual design and function, have great potential to strengthen a brand's relationship with shoppers, but require the technological expertise and infrastructure to execute well.
Enticement: Growing the Brand
At its core, the brand is designed to attract and entice a certain group of people. Everyone focuses on "maintaining the brand" because retailers understand they have to continue earning shoppers' time and money. Combining retail technologies such as personalization, or retargeting and loyalty programs, keep consumers engaged with relevant upsell, cross-sell, and second sales opportunities. In fact, brands that fail to provide functions such as favorites, shopping lists, restock reminders, and personalized product recommendations in their mobile apps, may lose customers and dollars to brands with higher-value apps.
In-store retail mobile solutions can provide shoppers with real-time personalized offers and recommendations either via an app or through text messaging. So someone who just filled their basket with ingredients for tonight's dinner, for example, can get customized wine recommendations. Through mobile POS devices, sales associates can provide the same added value – with the personal touch – to the shopping experience.
Retail mobility is changing the entire face of clienteling, which grows the opportunities for a brand to give consumers a human face to bond with over the brand. As sales associates get notified when a repeat customer is in-store, they have a chance to review the customers' past purchases and browsing history. They can also see what the customer is looking at right now. Now those sales associates can create a first-class shopping experience because the information they need most to make the decisions necessary for delivering that experience, is being delivered right into their hands, literally.
And great branding is all about the positive experience consumers have with a retailer. Ask yourself if each shopper's retail experience in your stores strengthens their attachment to your brand or are you pushing them away? The increasing sophistication of a custom retail mobile solutions can power your brand to provide consumers a positive shopping experience on demand. Or not. It's your call. Where are you headed? We will change your business forever with our mobile enterprise solutions. Let Decision Point help guide your way.