Sam Cinquegrani is founder and CEO of ObjectWave Corp., a provider of digital commerce marketing strategies and solutions.
Grocery stores and supermarkets are starting to analyze and understand consumer preferences through select retail touchpoints. Physical or virtual, they could include mobile, physical point-of-sale and online orders. With the information gathered from engagements, transactions and loyalty programs, these retailers are developing more targeted and effective methods of marketing and customer engagement.
However, to further sharpen their efforts, there’s a way in which grocery retailers can take the initiative to a more sophisticated level. Connecting and integrating physical and digital retail touchpoints with which customers interact every day, as well as adding new ones to the mix, is a strategy mostly unexplored by grocers. It offers many advantages when properly executed.
Creating a complete view of customers
“Know your customer” has become the rallying cry of every retail business. But even if a business knows exactly what that entails, gaining a highly nuanced understanding of them is a complex task.
What’s required is increasing functionality and capacity in the way that data is gathered, stored and analyzed. In practical terms, it means that grocers need to integrate their digital and in-store touchpoints to better bring together and study customer data at a level that makes a critical difference.
Better integration also means better omnichannel experiences for customers: Now, customers won’t have issues when trying to use a digital coupon in-store, and vice versa. And with all touchpoints aligned, no matter which device is used for an online order, communicating information will not result in a negative experience.
Integrating touchpoints will yield gains both in terms of more effective marketing campaigns and improved understanding of customer behaviors. This in turn enhances outcomes related to staffing, product choices, stocking and many other day-to-day aspects. Eventually, grocers can take further steps to boost the in-store experience, such as drawing on past purchasing data to suggest recipes and related items to make customers feel recognized and valued.
What touchpoints are grocers currently using?
The fact is, there aren’t many retail touchpoints currently in use by grocers. Outside of online orders and scheduling in-store pickup — something that starts digitally, but ends as a physical activity — few others are in widespread use. It’s a challenge — both in terms of choosing which are the best touchpoints for the job and getting them to be operational. But it’s the job of every forward-thinking grocery chain to figure out what to introduce and when to introduce them, pegged to stores’ knowledge of the customer.
Where can stores start?
Here is a quick overview of the key touchpoints.
Beacons: These can gather location data from customers, but their major value comes from providing customers with suggestions or an entire grocery list based on past visits, items currently in an online cart, current promotions and other factors. This type of convenience is clearly demonstrated to customers and provides a direct value.
Mobile: A strong mobile presence means easy access to coupons and offers, as well as a method of receiving suggestions or a full shopping list offered by a beacon. Shoppers are more engaged when they can seamlessly use their mobile devices in-store and communicate discount information and other details at the point of sale.
RFID: This makes checkout incredibly convenient. With the right framework, customers can have payment data on file and simply walk out with their purchases, while also offering a dedicated channel for gathering real-time, individualized purchasing data. This type of dual benefit boosts satisfaction and provides useful data in an efficient manner.
Centralized repository of customer data: Ultimately, data from each of the aforementioned touchpoints can be added to this central repository. Such a system is vital. CRM platforms and similar data solutions are almost ubiquitous across the business world because of their value in gathering, storing and analyzing customer information in one place. A single source of all customer information makes more targeted marketing possible, while also providing valuable data that can positively influence operations and decision-making. Grocers need to have tools in place to effectively use the data they plan to gather through increased deployment of touchpoints.
Grocery stores and supermarkets are unique in the sense that e-commerce may never fully overtake physical stores. The need for food preparation areas, consumer desire to inspect produce, and other factors mean grocers will need a storefront for the predictable future. But that doesn't preclude figuring out how digital touchpoints could further enhance their game and gain market share. Adding these touchpoints into one broad funnel for gathering and integrating customer data will enable grocers to help their shoppers each time they make a trip to the store, making a faster, easier and more engaging time.
What does success in integrating retail touchpoints look like?
Ultimately, a fully integrated network of touchpoints — one that allows, for example, a partial grocery list assembled online to be shared with the customer or assembled for them as they make other selections in-store —and a combined data repository are clear markers of success. These touchpoints will enhance convenience in all aspects of shopping, as well as the overall shopper experience.