Knowing what we don’t know (yet)
How much do retailers really know about their customers, visitors and those loyal clients who are prepared to spend more and more frequently? Only very few retailers in the UK use retail analytics and monitor customers inside the stores. Even fewer monitor and analyse the behaviour of their loyal customers.
How often do the customers return to the shop just to browse around? How often do they return to make a purchase? What influences their behaviour? Is there anything the retailers can do to influence these buying patterns? Do they know how to offer a timely, personalised and much desired discount for an additional item? Do they know how to increase average spend per customer?
If we were talking about ecommerce, the answer to all of these questions would have been a resounding ‘yes’. In brick-and-mortar retailing there are still many unknowns but thanks to technology, they no longer need to remain a mystery to us.
That crucial moment of recognition
To date, the only way of identifying a loyal customer in a physical realm has been at a point-of-sale.
But isn’t it too late already? Your loyal customer has already enjoyed the brand experience and made up their mind. Happy with a purchase, they are standing at the till. Even though they have been signed up for your loyalty program for years and volunteered to share valuable personal data and preferences with you, there is very little your staff can do at this point to influence their shopping experience or indeed the purchasing decision itself.
What if your loyal customer came in, browsed around and left without buying anything? It’s a shame, but the majority of retailers would not even be aware of such a visit.
The good news is that modern technology can enable retailers to discover, monitor and analyse the behaviour of their loyal customers as they enter the location. Retailers will be recognising loyal customers (those, who willingly announced their passion for the brand) to engage and influence the brand experience rather than to merely record a purchase on the system or offer a discount on the chosen product or service.
Demographic sensors and facial recognition technology
Most of the loyalty programs contain personal data, including name, age, gender and email address of the person as well as their historic purchasing data, while photographs are normally not stored on the system. So how will we recognise the loyal customers? Demographic sensors installed at the entrance will capture photographs of the visitors and facial recognition technology will be used to match the people visiting a physical store with loyalty program accounts. With almost 100% accuracy and within less than half a second, a retailer will become aware of the presence of a loyal customer on the premises. Such precision and speed will enable retailers to offer a personalised shopping experience immediately.
Enhancing what we know
Apart from being able to match the visitors with loyalty program accounts, we will also enhance what we know about loyal customers with social media data. Email addresses that are stored in the loyalty database will be matched with various social media accounts attributed to the email. A thorough portrait of the loyal customer will be built based on public data shared online, including photographs, brand preferences, interests and spending habits.
Loyalty and brand integrity
Loyalty program will be informed of the customer visiting the store and the retailer will be encouraged to act upon this knowledge with a targeted marketing campaign, which aims to surprise and delight the loyal customer. Essentially, it’s about bringing the online shopping experience into the real world. It may include special offers by push notifications, text messages, emails or an immediate personal service. Relevant suggestions and personalised offers that are received at the right moment in time are aimed to deliver results that enhance brand experience, while maximising sales and conversion rates. Loyal customers who regularly buy certain items or spend a predictable average amount of money in your store will be thrilled with special offers targeted to their needs and desires.
Recognising loyal customers in brick-and-mortar retail, here is how it works:
- Extracting email addresses from the loyalty database
- Matching email addresses with public social media accounts and scraping public data including preferences, interests and photographs
- Cutting faces from the public photographs
- Creating a database with newly found photographs of loyal customers
- Capturing images of visitors’ faces as they enter the location
- Matching the faces of the visitors to the photographs in the database
- Updating the database regularly with new loyal customers’ data and operational data including sales, visit frequency and rewards
- Prompting store management to engage with a loyal customer as they enter the location, offering personalised service, special deals and rewards
In the world where customer sentiment is constantly shifting, we are using technology and data to offer unprecedented capabilities to businesses who want to strengthen their customer loyalty and retention.