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The opportunity for retail-as-a-service

In-store advertising innovators Smart Media

In recent years, retailers around the world have embraced experiential, personalised shopping environments that deliver bespoke solutions to consumers. In part, this can be attributed to the gathering and analysis of shopper data thanks to the availability of more innovative technology. So, what can local businesses learn from this to differentiate themselves from their competitors?

While many retailers might think that increasing the number of in-store display advertising opportunities and offering more promotional elements are enough, the reality is quite different when it comes to catering for the demands of the connected shopper.

Take experiential retail as an example.

At its most basic, this is where a retailer provides a space for a shopper to interact with products and decide for themselves whether or not they wish to purchase. But in the digital environment for example, a brand (or the retailer) could embed sensors on the product, map behaviour patterns, or introduce a different mechanism for consumers to provide feedback on their experience.

From a technology perspective, the popularity of embedded sensors ties in with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). This speaks directly to how devices connect to the internet and generate invaluable data for organisations around virtually any metric imaginable. For the experiential retailer, this could be something as simplistic as which products customers ‘experiment’ with and which ones they ignore. In turn, this data can better enable the brand or retailer to create customised campaigns for specific stores and target markets.

While much attention has been placed on the importance of online shopping, the retail-as-a-service concept is likely to gain significant traction in South Africa with its diverse economic customer segments.

Using this approach, brands can work with shopping centres and strip malls to create a neutral environment (think pop-up store) where customers can test products for themselves. These stores offer all the similarities of a traditional retail environment and can include a point-of-sale.

These ‘as-a-service’ offerings do not have the same pressures when it comes to branding and displays. Instead, the focus is on experiential while also capturing quality data to inform advertising campaigns and product development cycles in target areas.

The ecosystem of retailing is changing thanks to how technology (and data) is used. And while online shopping through mobile devices have made the experience more accessible to a range of consumers, people still want a tactile offering they can feel and touch – especially when it comes to new products. There also remains a large segment who is not comfortable with online shopping or digital payment solutions.

Of course, brands and retailers need to be open to a more innovative customer environment if this is to gain traction. Fortunately, the rewards associated with this can give significant impetus for and edge on customer growth in a highly competitive industry.

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