Using AI to Provide Shoppers With Guidance & Personalization

Artificial Intelligence is now being used by B&M retailers for everything from supply chain management to personalized apparel recommendations. Knowing that shoppers want guidance and personalization, smart retailers are using AI engines to create style pairings for shoppers, while also factoring things in like inventory levels and seasons. Then, these pairings can easily be applied to every shopper touchpoint. The result: sales. And, resulting analytics can then be used to refine the strategy and product mix.

TechDMC – February 5, 2018 from TPN on Vimeo.

Digitizing Your Brick and Mortar: Where to Start

If you’re looking to bring digital into your brick and mortar, but don’t know where to start…. don’t worry, you’re not alone. With the ever-changing digital landscape and expectations of today’s always-on connected shoppers, retailers everywhere are facing the same challenge. So, where do you start?

The simplest answer is that in-store digital should be leveraged to solve a current problem. Today’s consumers are more informed than ever before and are mobile focused. They have higher retail experience expectations and demand personalization. Digital technology can come in a variety of forms to meet these needs, but without a clear objective, even the best technology can have low adoption by your staff and customers.

Digital can be a solution when you need to:

  • Reframe your customer’s experience – from neutral or negative to positive
  • Create an immersive environment – make your customer’s aware of their options
  • Empower your staff – reduce turnover and instill trust to your team
  • Integrate the technology systems and channels – connect the in-store experience to the pre and post store visits

Whether you are looking to bring in digital display screens, data capture technologies, mobile order and pay, digital check-in, interactive selling or simply wish to improve your customer’s in-store experience through their mobile device, bringing digital in-store does not have to be daunting. The first step is to determine what problem digital may help solve based on your needs and budget.

There is no digital “silver bullet.” First set your goal, then evaluate various digital technologies to find what’s best for you and your brand. Identify what you can learn from digital and develop a measurement plan.

And remember, “going digital” does not mean your traditional signage should be removed. A balance of the two can create an optimum in-store experience.

 

Written by: Dan Chiado, TPN Account Director

 

 

 

Pinterest: What’s New?

TPN’s Digital Marketing and Commerce team keeps a constant eye on innovation to keep our agency and clients informed. In the latest installment, we dove into new functionalities of Pinterest and how these have helped the platform stay relevant. Watch the TECH DMC minute below.

TechDMC Report 28 August 2017 from TPN on Vimeo.

Connecting With Shoppers In-Aisle Via Mobile

 

How do brands break through the “cluttered” digital and “uncluttered” retail environment?

The concept of a “clean” store has been around for a decade. The idea suggests that consumers, in a desire to have a more pleasurable shopping experience, are a looking for uncluttered, clearly labeled aisles and products. They are looking for promotions and deals in store but not at the sacrifice of a manageable trek through the aisles.

We’ve seen this trend pushed to the brink of virtually no POP by Walmart a few years ago and more recently pulled back to a compromise but still the fact remains that brands have fewer opportunities to connect with the consumer due to a number of macro trends:

1. Clean Store policy – Retail brands are looking to own a branded store environment and keep aisles clean for consumers.

2. Digital disruption in-store – 75% – 90% of shoppers have used their phone while they shop in a retail environment (eMarketer and Internet Retailer)

3. Collapsed purchased funnel – The time from awareness to purchase to advocacy is short and growing shorter due to the dynamic of “always-on shopping” and the pervasive influence of digital shopping tools. In fact, digital tools will influence 90% of in-store retail sales by 2018 and already influence more than 65% of retail shopping decisions.

Given these realities, brands have to get smarter and think differently about how to reach the shopper in-aisle or anywhere where they are in a position to make an instant purchase decision. The rapid proliferation of mobile and in-store retail technologies that have infiltrated and disrupted the traditional shopper journey have forever enhanced, yet clouded the way in which marketers talk with and engage consumers and shoppers. In this type of environment the key question that marketers must consider is one of prioritization in order to reach shoppers at the point of purchase. So how do marketers go about prioritizing these digital opportunities?

In a world that is increasUntitledingly over-messaged, over-advertised, and maybe over-connected, how do you connect with your shopper differently?

It starts by applying the fundamentals of consumer research – understand the mindset of the consumer, the behavior of the shopper, and the surroundings of a person across the modal dialogue. So, in other words, we need to understand how the consumer moves from consumer to shopper to buyer to influencer mode not only behaviorally but in terms of what they think. At TPN, we call this the “Modal Dialogue”. By understanding the consumer you can better determine high-level focus areas around selection, timing and content. By determining these focus ares we know where our message be seen along the shopper journey (in-store, pre-shop, etc), what type content we should be developing (inspirational, instructional, etc) and the timing of our message based on behavior.

With a deep understanding of the consumer, we can reimagine how to effectively communicate with her across channels. As we look across channels at TPN, we look to marry traditional in-store channels with digital and emerging strategies. With more than thirty-five identified digital channels mapped at TPN, this proves to be a challenge to prioritize but offers the best opportunity to market in aisle when retailer based programs are inefficient, aren’t available, or simply aren’t differentiated.

At TPN, the way we do this is to of course, look at the objective of any particular marketing and / or activation campaign, but we also look at the opportunity to effectively reach the shopper in a way that is most relevant to her. As we look to find third-party strategies and tactics to reach a shopper in the aisle, we may find that she is responsive to push notifications that provide timely and relevant content, like recipes or dinner hacks, while she is in shopper mode. We may find that she is responsive to virtual reality experiences at the shelf that immerse her in the brand. We may find that she is browsing the web via apps or her web browser and is responsive to advertising and messaging during those experiences. The power of mapping out her digital preferences, channel reach, and the potential of those channels allow us to more efficiently develop the tactical mix to activate in aisle.

With many, but not all, of the tactics that we look at, we can now reach a level of precision targeting and efficiency in ad spend that really does thread the needle for the campaigns we run. For example, using data management platform partners, media partners, and emerging technologies, marketers can target specific consumer subsets in aisle. More and more we can message the consumer with personalized messages based on a variety of variables right in the aisle.

In essence, as brands look to find ways to better target consumers and shoppers in a crowded digital and increasingly clean store environment, they must look at intelligent, respectful, and calculated use that digital channels can provide the greatest ROI. Thoughtful planning can redefine how shopper marketing interacts with and engages the shopper in-store. The keys to remember are that relevant, efficient, activation-oriented campaigns can succeed but they must enhance, not detract, from the shopping experience.

The Topline: Mobile FirstLook Summit

As mobile devices continue to capture both a greater percentage of sales and consumer’s daily attention, it is critical for brands to continue their investment in mobile.

At last month’s Mobile Firstlook conference, leaders in the digital and mobile space shared their views on mobile strategy, case studies, key learnings, results and their evolving approach within their organizations. The message was clear – mobile is the future – but brands need to continue the journey of defining, implementing and refining their mobile strategies. Here are some of the top take-aways from the day.

 

LET THE PHYSICAL WORLD INFLUENCE THE DIGITAL

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Tom Daly, Global Group Director for Coca Cola, shared his prediction that the companies who are able to optimize and find linkages between mobile advertising + location + beacons + payments, will be the most successful moving forward. The ideal solution is to use the physical world to influence the digital world while creating a path that seamlessly leads to a transaction. For example, a brand can leverage mobile ads that drive to specific retail spaces, then use beacon technology to deliver a contextually relevant and timely message to drive purchase. The growth in mobile payments can then enable a frictionless purchase experience within the retail. The challenge is for brands to leverage their owned and borrowed assets to create this linkage and optimize their own mobile experiences.

 

 

HAVE AN APP + STRATEGY

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According to Julie Ask, VP and Principal Analyst at Forester Research, your app ins’t going to be enough to win in mobile – you need an App + strategy. The average person looks at their mobile devices between 150-200 times a day (better known as mobile moments), and spends about 78% of those moments within apps. However, only 12 categories of apps make up over 72% of those mobile moments. Retail, banking, and travel apps combined only make up approximately 12% of mobile moments. So, in order to increase your count of mobile moments within daily lives, you must incorporate additional solutions to complement your app – an a App + strategy. Some key examples of App + Strategies are :

  • App + Omnichannel – making an app invaluable across multiple use cases, e.g. Delta Airlines app allows you to book flights, contact customer service, and board your flight
  • App + Messaging – using notifications and badges to deliver relevant content to consumers without requiring them open then app is a way to create value and incremental mobile moments.
  • App + Fragments – integrating disparate apps or services to create consumer value, e.g. ordering Domino’s pizza from Twitter or ordering an Uber from the United Airlines app.

 

 

APP DESIGN TIPS – A RULE OF THUMB

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Extremely intriguing were the key learnings and approaches to app design shared by HSN and Overstock. Mobile users are task oriented and will leave an app if they are unable to complete their task within :30. Here a few tips and best practices to implement in your mobile strategy:

  • Place the most used features of your app within ergonomic zones of the device. Most people use a single hand to navigate mobile devices and as phones tend to get larger, it’s more important to place the most popular features where they are accessible by a single hand.
  • Don’t forget to make use of swiping gestures to improve the usability and speed. Swiping features can enable a broad list of other features, rather then just “delete”.
  • Make it easy on your user by making tap targets extra large so users don’t need to try multiple times to trigger an in-app object.
  • Lastly, forms are the enemy of mobile; reduce the number of individual form fields to help optimize the user flow or use third-party verification tools such as Facebook Connect or Apple Pay to pre-fill consumer information.

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

There was a lot of discussion on whether “responsive design was dead”. While better than the alternative of “unresponsive design”, responsive cannot be the end to your mobile strategy. Let the creative and marketing idea drive the form. Mobile for mobile’s sake won’t help achieve results; rather look at the insights and mobile behaviors of your audience and develop an intentional mobile strategy.

– Christa and John

Toshiba celebrates women in tech: Inspiring the next generation of retail

At the inaugural Toshiba RISE – Retail Innovation & Shopper Expertise – Symposium, business and industry leaders gathered to celebrate inspirational women in digital and retail technology.

Brands have to evolve from short-term, legacy thinking and take bold steps to bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds to connect with today’s customers.

This was the consensus of the one-day symposium on January 16, 2016, in New York City that focused on the challenges facing the retail industry and the wave of rapid advances across technologies that are changing all aspects of the shopper experience. The research, tips, insights and jokes flew through the air and landed in the ears of marketers and retail experts, as well as Toshiba representatives visiting from Japan. The discussions and noteworthy female keynote speakers were relevant, thought provoking and sharp – it was all one could do not to marvel at the brilliant minds (women and men, of course) gathered together in one room.

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The following panel sessions and fireside chats spanned various topics, and turned into healthy, sometimes lively, conversations, each of which could’ve carried on much longer than the time allowed:

  • Bridging the Gap Between Digital and Physical Worlds for Consumer Connection
  • Inside the C-Suite: A look behind the curtain at current business challenges and decision making processes
  • Post Holiday 2015 Retail Recap, Asia and 2016 Retail Outlook
  • How Data and Communications are the Real Drivers Behind Successful Innovation and Customer Experience
  • At the Intersection of Health, Wellness and Shopper Experience
  • Disruptors and How They Are Shaping the Future of Retail
  • Female Founders Starting Up
  • Good Business is Doing Good

 

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Here’s what we learned and our top key takeaways from the day:

The new currency is data.

  • Collect customer data and preferences and act on customers’ purchase history to tailor shopping experiences over time. Allow shoppers to quickly discover and buy products anywhere they encounter them.
  • There are lots of silos in traditional retailing – share the data and close the loop to include operations to make the retail execution work.
  • Watch out: One person may behave differently depending on mission. We don’t want to get so prescriptive that we’re denying the customer an authentic experience (i.e., don’t put them in a box with predictive analytics).

 

Personalize the retail experience.

  • Smartphones are equalizers for emerging and established brands to disrupt the market. Connect with the customer on an emotional level and add value so it’s more than a superficial offering. But sometimes we get blinded by the shiny tools around us – take a deep breath, stay calm and focus on the customer.
  • Let’s not forget the importance of sales staff, a.k.a. the frontlines of your brand. If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers. Build loyalty and passion within your company by enabling one-on-one relationships between customers and staff and provide selling tools that empower staff to act on the preferences of shoppers to deliver more personalized service and experiences.

 

rise3Respect the “New Independents.”

  • Most Americans are single, and they’re changing the economy. For the first time in U.S. history, over 50% of the population is single.
  • Sharon Love, CEO of TPN, enlightened the room, referring to the “single American” demographic as a new opportunity, appealing to an untapped buying power. Being a single consumer means more spending in self-rewarding categories; celebrating, shopping, going out and staying home (think Oprah and less Bridget Jones).
  • Marketing should reflect the changing dynamic of the modern American family; i.e., single parents, same-sex parents and families of friends (e.g., Sprint’s “Framily” campaign).

 

How can we drive future innovation?

  • rise4Don’t let legacy thinking and processes hold you back. Completely rethink the problem to drive real innovation rather than incremental improvements.
  • Create diverse teams. Keynote speaker Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, had an “a-ha” life moment: The power of diversity is diversity. Based on her extensive experience working on Wall Street, Sallie shared the benefits of breaking free frm a group think mentality and building strong teams through diversity of thought, personality, gender, age, etc.
  • The balance between bricks and clicks. Customers want frictionless experiences, from mobile to in-store to online to everything-in-between. Traditionally, the shopper journey to purchase is linear; however, today’s customer no longer goes shopping – they are always shopping.

 

At the end of the day, we left feeling full to the brim with inspiring information and excited by all of the intelligent, insightful female voices we got to hear from. Whether in-store or on-line, retail continues to be an exciting, personal, effective frontier by which we can engage with consumers.

 

For more on the “New Independents,” check out:

http://www.tpnwhitepapers.com

http://crresearch.com/blog/new-independents

 

Is This the Year of the Beacon?

It’s a new year. 2016. All the shopping, all the traveling, all the holiday meals, all the relatives, all the returns, and of course, all the Star Wars. Done. We made it. So let’s look at the year ahead of us. What’s in store for retail technology in 2016? That’s a pretty broad question and one with a million answers and points of view. In fact, check out TPN’s own Manny Alamagro speak on the topic of Technology & Retail at CES on Jan 6. Instead, let’s look at one area of potential for 2016: the mobile beacon.

Since beacons became the buzz in 2013, there has been a perpetual question to follow: will this be the year that the beacon really hits the mark, connecting retailers and brands more closely with their customers? Will this be the year of the beacon? Forbes asked this question of 2015, noting the strides that brands embracing location-based, proximity marketing could expect to see:

The companies who can get closest to the shopper – making her experience as efficient as possible – will boost their brand’s value and, more importantly, drive sales in the digital economy. Conversely, customers who have to do the least amount of work to find what they want for the right price will show their appreciation in dollars.

So how is this expected to come to fruition in 2016? Well, one indicator is that more retailers are signing contracts with beacon providers, which implies that more retailers are becoming equipped with the technology and ramping up to ping their shoppers. According to Ad Age, “global brands including Carrefour, Ikea, Macy’s, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Target signed contracts with beacon providers in the last quarter, according to ABI Research, and Facebook this summer began distributing the trackers for free to small businesses.” Simon Property Group and Macerich have also placed beacons in their shopping centers. As with any emerging technology, as it becomes more prolific, it will also begin to feel more common, more normal to those that engage with it, which is an important tipping point. So it seems that one hurdle, that of beacon availability and placement, is lessening as more large retailers and brands are pushing for adoption, hoping for those key nuggets of data to understand their shoppers better.

Another indicator is going to be reliant on shoppers, who must opt in and download apps to their smartphones in order to receive any notifications from beacons. Just a few years ago, the biggest hurdle seemed to be the relatively low number of shoppers that adopted smartphones; nowadays, that hurdle has vanished, only to be replaced with perhaps a larger one: permission to push alerts to shoppers’ phones. There’s a slippery slope of trust between brands/retailers and their shoppers. I think email is a prime example of this relationship. A shopper opts in to receive a retailer’s emails for a one time discount. From there, any number of scenarios takes place: the shopper continues to receive and look at the emails, sends them to spam or unsubscribes from emails completely. That line of communication can falter at any time, even when a shopper is a diehard fan of a brand/retailer. One email too many in too short of a timeframe, feels pushy. Over the holidays, I had one day where I received 5 emails from the same retailer – it was too much.

The shopper has to feel like the benefits outweigh any twinge of annoyance be it with emails, or ultimately push notifications. If the notifications are personal (but not creepy), timely and helpful, then shoppers will be drawn in, engage and feel rewarded if they score a deal. Such is the approach with ShopAdvisor, which presents its app as a shopper’s personal concierge. As discussed in the New York Times:

With the aim of driving shoppers into stores, ShopAdvisor incorporates data analytics that filter a shopper’s preferences and provide a way for retailers to send personalized alerts to consumers who have downloaded a brand’s app, offering discounts, highlighting sales and providing content such as product reviews that might instantly sway a buying decision.

“We’ve had at least three years of heavy-duty location-based marketing under retailers’ belts,” said JiYoung Kim, senior vice president for Ansible, the mobile division of the Interpublic Group, the global marketing company. “Everybody has the same tool, and targeting alone can only take you so far.”

What makes the ShopAdvisor approach enticing, Ms. Kim said, is that it not only precisely locates a shopper in a store but provides personalized creative content from that retailer to that shopper on the spot. Offer that shopper a 20 percent discount on some new black pumps she has been eyeing, along with a positive review from a popular fashion magazine, and a purchase is far more likely.

Through this route, ShopAdvisor doesn’t feel overly pushy and by engaging shoppers so they feel like they are “in the know,” the app has jumped that hurdle of permission and created portal of connection between beacons and shoppers, thereby connecting shoppers and brands. ShopAdvisor is just one of many shopping apps, but it seems to have made good on connecting beacons with shoppers in a promising fashion.

I also anticipate that as retailer-specific apps become more sophisticated and the use of them becomes a more integrated step in the shopper journey, additional progress with beacon notifications will happen. I think the Target Cartwheel app, is doing just that: getting shoppers used to seeing the signs in store and then getting the deal by checking the app. It’s a bit of a training wheels approach to making Cartwheel a natural part of the Target shopping experience. And with Target making beacons available in store, I would be willing to bet that beacon notifications will eventually substitute those Cartwheel signs in store and in order to keep shopping with the benefits of Cartwheel, shoppers must allow the alerts. While this approach too relies on shoppers feeling like they are getting special deals, it has the added benefit of building on their newly-ingrained shopping process tied directly to the retailer and in fact, could build on to the loyalty.

So, with all that said, is this the year of the beacon? Since my magic eight ball says try again later, I think we will have to wait and see. It’s certainly a year for beacons to gain momentum, but the extent of it remains to be seen.

Image: Getty

Targeted Marketing takes Aim

That time West Elm advertised to me with a photo of my living room:

Last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across a photo of my living room. This wasn’t something I had posted on Facebook, it was a West Elm ad. I snapped it on my iPhone when my new couch finally arrived and uploaded it to Instagram with the hashtag #mywestelm.

In April 2015, Facebook began testing a new product ad with Olapic that pulls in user-generated content for ad imagery. This is the first true test of user-generated content in a Facebook ad.

In the past, consumers didn’t want to interact with brand content on their social platforms. But with the rise of image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, a shift happened. Consumers now want to share how they engage and interact with their favorite brands and products. Because of this and consumers’ need and desire to have everything hyper-personalized, we are seeing the rise of user-generated content, from staged food photos on Instagram to product hacks on Pinterest. When consumers started seeing products friends and influencers were showing interest in, they found a desire to buy, right from social. They became shoppers.

Facebook is taking the Instagram and Pinterest user experience that motivates shoppers to make a purchase, and applying it to their ad units. West Elm didn’t know they were showing me my own photo (why would they sell me a product I already own?). What they do know is that consumers are more responsive to user-generated photos than branded content and I was the type of consumer likely to shop at West Elm (which is very accurate). My photo could have sold someone a coffee table. I should probably take a new picture now that I have a new West Elm rug.

Imitation Game

This morning I hopped out of an Uber, almost jogged into my office building while texting one of my colleagues, and realized I needed coffee. Luckily I am not a coffee snob, so my caffeine need was solved by hitting the Kuerig button on my way through the office kitchen.

Six hours and many meetings later., I realized how a part of the “the convenience effect” I am. (I’m sure someone has come up with a better name for this). Of course, the efficiency of my morning routine is highly dependent on technological shortcuts. Instead of walking down the hall to ask a colleague a question face to face, I pick up the phone or even send a text. My stomach starts growling and I order delivery from my desk. I need to meet with an associate in LA, we Skype instead of flying across the country. All those choices made my day easier and faster… but did they make it better?

Instead of coming up with fresh, new ideas or stimulating conversations, we’re taking short cuts and imitating others. Social sharing, while great for a thousand reasons, has led to imitation and sameness—in dress, décor, behavior and communications. We walk the home goods aisle of TJ Maxx’, to find 10 different incarnations of the once iconic and classic Mason jar. We hear someone use a new phrase, then find ourselves repeating it hours later, even if it’s a made-up word.

Are we all turning into a culture of lemmings without original thoughts and ideas? Are we OK with always taking a page from someone else’s book? Has convenience driven us not to need to think for ourselves? Ok, this might sound a bit dramatic but it is on my mind. Think about the latest “convenience” from Amazon, Dash. You just press a button next to your coffee maker or washing machine and presto! More coffee or laundry detergent is delivered the next day. If you are the coffee or detergent brand on ‘speed dial’, good for you. But it might be there were new, better choices for the shopper but the choice was already made. There are no steps involved. Some in the media are rightfully raising the question—is our need for speed and convenience making us lazier and keeping us from having to think? Is taking steps out of daily tasks going to lead to the futuristic world illustrated in the movie, “WALL-E”?

At TPN, “Reimagine Retail” is the promise we deliver to our clients. That means we have to hold ourselves to thinking uniquely, not just taking a current idea and making it better. (DASH might be one of those unique ideas that changes the face of retail, my jury is still out). We have to innovate thought and process. We create, invent, dissect, and then think again in a new and different way. The outcomes can be surprising and they are always fresh.

Lessons From Target Too

By now, most of you have probably already heard about Target Too. The industry went abuzz for the pop-up design-meets-digital playground that came to the Chelsea Galleries from March 25 – 31. And for good reason – Target Too is a beautiful mixture of experiential, augmented reality, social integration and creative design.  But underneath all the glitz and glamour, there are lessons we can all learn and apply to our own businesses about being intentional with technology.

A reason for mobile

From the moment you step foot in Target Too, your entire experience is guided and enhanced by the Target Too mobile app.

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Their app is not an after thought nor technology for technology’s sake; it is integral to the consumer’s experience. As we consider the role of mobile apps in our own businesses, the best examples provide consumers a unique value and differentiated experience.  In the below examples from Target, consumers can use the app to discover augmented reality experiences or upload and share their own pixelated selfie to social media.

 

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Make mobile commerce feel seamless

Beyond entertainment, the app allowed Target to seamlessly integrate commerce into the consumer’s experience.  As consumers used the app to learn about and interact with each exhibit, they are also given the opportunity to discover and shop the individual components that made it up.

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serveitup1 serveitup2

My favorite example of this mobile commerce integration was Get Framed (seen below).  Leveraging the same form of visual search technology that powers Target’s In a Snap mobile app, consumers could shop the components of each piece simply by “framing it” inside the app with their camera.  Far more convenient and natural than QR codes, this type of visual search will continue to grow in retail.  Retailers like JC Penny and Macy’s are leveraging visual search through their mobile apps and earlier in March, Shazam announced plans to enter the visual search market as well.

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Make it personal

The benefits of personalized marketing are far reaching.  From creating shareable content to building loyalty and increasing conversion – personalization helps move the conversation from “you and me” to “us”.  Target Too offered a variety of ways to personalize the experience.  The Play My Jam module of the app allowed consumers to play DJ, setting the mood for the exhibit through select playlists.  The exhibit also leveraged touch screen kiosks to allow consumers to build their own t-shirts, tote bags, or iPhone cases to take home.

playmyjam playmyjam2

 

Target Too is a grand work of art.  It brilliantly blurs the lines between “consumer” and “shopper”.  But if creating a pop-up art gallery isn’t in the budget, we can still look at the execution and apply the strategic principles it was built on to our everyday business.

JSE