A customer in your store sees an item, picks it up, turns it over, and either puts it back down on the shelf or pops it into her basket. Why did she buy it? The product placement? The promotion? Or why not? Was it the price?
Online, a customer searches for a particular item, clicks on it, locates the size and color desired and either leaves the website without buying it or goes straight to checkout. Why did he not buy it? Or why did he buy that one?
In the past, retailers were necessarily close to their customers and could more easily sense what he or she desired. Facial expression, tone of voice, or actual comments from the customer provided solid clues to their likes and dislikes.
In an old-fashioned street bazaar, for example, a hawker could see a potential customer looking at an item. He could immediately offer that customer a deal: “For you – five dollars!” If the customer turned away, he could offer more and more aggressive prices or throw in a sweetener (“Free earrings with necklace!”) to keep the customer from leaving empty-handed.
It is a lot more difficult today—when retailers are dealing with large, high street stores with thousands of milling customers, or web-based marketplaces where customers are faceless—to identify that retail moment.
Because the retail moment has become more remote and elusive, omni-channel retailers have to be able to reach out to their customers in a totally different way. They need smart store monitoring so they can tell when customers might have to queue. Smart signage can leverage the Internet of Things to create bespoke content based on real-time analysis of multiple video streams that anonymously monitor facial expressions and factors such as weather or inventory levels. Electronic shelf labels can change prices proactively based on competitors’ offerings, promotions, or whatever the retailer wants to shift out of inventory.
When a customer looking online sees that something is out of stock in his local store, you need to make sure he knows where he can get it—or show him how you can get it to him if necessary. When someone seems about to abandon her electronic shopping basket, you need to be able to shout—in a virtual way—“For you, five dollars!”
The retail moment is short, transient and may not appear again—yet it is an opportunity that is there to be exploited. With the right technology, anticipating the retail moment is achievable, giving you the ability to sense things that can impact the buying decision, such as long lines or bad weather or low inventories, in real time. Predictive analytics combined with real-time analytics can enable this.
Like the market hawker you need to be able to act on the information by offering on-the-spot deals, or give your customers something extra that makes them feel special. Speed is of the essence; your customer must not get away before you have had a chance to woo him or her. Seize the retail moment.