Three quarters of retailers plan on being able to identify customers when they walk into the store within the next five years, according to a new report surveying top North American retailers. The report by Boston Retail Partners indicates that retailers are seeking 'unified commerce' – the seamless integration of multi- and omni-channel retailing approaches to provide the customer with a seamless, personalised experience through every available channel.
To deliver this seamless experience, retailers need to be able to gather, analyse and disseminate data in real-time, so being able to identify customers in-store becomes essential to offering 'unified commerce' in bricks-and-mortar stores. 95 per cent of the survey respondents indicated that improving their customer engagement and experience was in their top three current priorities, while almost a quarter have already implemented real-time analytics, with another 61 per cent planning on doing so within two years.
Other key initiatives for retailers included bringing the real-time retail 'Amazon experience' to physical point-of-sale, with 16 per cent already using this technology and 63 per cent planning on implementing it within five years. There is also an increasing use of mobile marketing, with nine out of ten retailers either already using it or hoping to within five years, and 63 per cent increasing their budget allowance for mobile marketing from 2013 to 2014.
In-store customer identification through phones is still in its infancy, but technologies like Apple's iBeacons are currently being piloted, while using existing facilities like in-store wi-fi and mobile apps can provide a measure of in-store tracking.
The increasing focus on location-based technology and real-time analytics shows a paradigm shift among retailers who are aware that by integrating their physical store experience with the personalisation that online and mobile shopping offers, they can drive traffic back into stores.