Let's Get Personal: Using Technology to Improve In-Store Customer Experience

Technology and data can play an invaluable role in enhancing your business, and the benefits are there for the taking, but don't lose sight of the folks behind the numbers.

learn more about Norm Merritt

By Norm Merritt


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There's comfort in knowing your regular barista will start making your go-to beverage as soon as you step foot into your neighborhood coffee shop. You drop by every morning to order the same thing and your loyalty pays off in the form of enhanced service, friendly smiles and the confidence that you'll be getting a consistently high-quality product. In turn, you keep coming back day after day.

This type of customer interaction is ideal: delivering benefits for both merchant (repeat business, loyalty) and customer (a seamless experience, a sense of value and familiarity). While the unique dynamic between a barista and an everyday customer may seem difficult to replicate in other types of retail businesses, the reality is that business owners now have the tools and technology at their disposal to foster personal rapport across almost any industry and create an in-store customer experience that's worth returning to time and time again.

Here are a few tips to help you integrate technology into the customer experience:

Related: 3 Ways to Retain Loyal Customers By Going Above and Beyond

Empower employees with information to close the sale

Merchants must keep a close eye on customer trends and find a way to infuse specific shopping behaviors into their overall marketing strategy.

In the last few years, mobile has played an important role in the purchasing cycle. For the first time, shoppers have the ability to compare competitors' prices on the spot while in-store. To seal timely sales, employees must be able to access equally valuable information, such a customer data and product availability in real time. Tablets are a relatively inexpensive way to empower an employee's ability to personalize interactions in the moments that matters most, converting weary shoppers into confident buyers. Device in hand, employees have the ability to match prices, order products that are out of stock and even make offers based shoppers' unique proclivity.

While this is the direction retail stores are moving, it is still vital to keep your ear to the ground on other technology innovations.

Related: Tweak Your Company Survey to Find Out What the Customer Actually Experiences

Enhance operations with customer analytics

Merchants looking for deeper insights into key business trends should identify a technology partner with advanced analytics capabilities. By adopting a cloud-based POS system, merchants can keep close tabs on top-selling items as well as peaks and lulls in sales activity. Through hourly reports, delivered in real-time, merchants can pinpoint shifts with low-foot traffic and introduce timely specials to drive customers in-store and boost sales.

Powerful backend analytics also allow merchants to determine their most popular products and shift sales accordingly. And at the checkout, merchants can bring up a customer's purchase history and suggest similar products either at register or through digital coupons.

Ultimately, these detailed insights provided by technology partners further personalize the shopper experience.

Engage on social media

Back in the day, customers depended on newsletters and impersonal email blasts to learn about merchants' latest offerings. Today, business owners can share timely news, tailored offers and build a brand profile via their social media platforms, allowing them to connect with their customers at all times.

From Facebook to Instagram, social media not only lets merchants share information but also engage with customers on a personal level, continuing interactions outside of their regular business hours. Merchants can now open the conversation to a larger audience and have the capability to poll customers, hear direct feedback and encourage user-generated content. These capabilities give small businesses greater access to their customers that fosters stronger, more meaningful bonds.

Technology and data can play an invaluable role in enhancing your business, and the benefits are there for the taking, but don't lose sight of the folks behind the numbers.

Related: 4 Ways Tech Leaders Can Focus on Customer Success

Norm Merritt

President and CEO of ShopKeep

Norm Merritt is the president and CEO of ShopKeep, a point-of-sale platform for the iPad. 

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