Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Harnessing the power of technology to increase sales

The advance of the web and the ubiquity of smart and feature phones are at the forefront of the new trends and shopping patterns swiping over the retail sector.  For Japan and many other Asian/Southeast Asian nations these changes are an indispensable part of the new normal for a long time now, while we in Europe and North America, are still scratching our heads on how to harness these effects. (Just to open a parenthesis, we are so delayed in our response that to bring us on track would require an urgent update of all textbooks now in use in the educational institutions as a minimum. That of course implies new research in the area, new teaching approaches,etc.)
In this blog I want to concentrate on the retail sector and how technology can help spur sales since to me, as a shopper, the need for having my favourite outlet online, updated and mobile optimized or being guided through a mall parking lot to catch an empty spot is so obvious that I am asking myself what is the management thinking about nowadays.
So, here it is, a couple of simple steps to put your shop up there and engage with your most loyal customers in this day and age:
·         Embrace the change and do it FAST! Technology has stolen shoppers from brinks to on-line so use technology to get them back. Google tells us that 79% of smartphone internet user use their devise to help shop so:
o   Create a website(if you don’t have it already …which would be pretty lame)
o   OPTIMIZE your website for mobile. A mobile screen is about 20 times smaller than an average computer screen. On mobile we do 10 other different things while browsing/scrolling, attempting to cross the street and talking to our companions, not forgetting that some of us wear glasses so please OPTIMIZE.
o   Update your website daily. UPDATE-that is what we want, not posts that are one week long: one week-not cool, one day/a couple of hours-cool to very cool!
·         Strategize! For the retail sector I would think information +engagement=footfall=increased sales.
o   Use the on-line platform described above to feed content to your followers/subscribers/army: promotions, events, guides, schedules, interactive,…We`d love to know who will be featuring in your next ad campaign or what is it that the next car model will bring.
o   Engage-this is key!  Internet and mobile phones have been around for some time, but very little has been done to engage with consumers and I am not talking about email notifications...only. Only lately are we realizing this potential.  Think, plan and implement unique ways of making your army of followers ACTIVE. Go where they hang around (facebook, twitter, foursquare,..) and tell them: Hey guys, hey little monsters and loyal fans, hey community-let’s play! Find Willy`s new Gucci sunglasses or his recent something something. Make it fun and interactive and you will have them all. Create mobile clubs with perceived increased value and benefits (coupons, etc). Aren`t we living in an era of democratization of luxury goods and services? There are millions of ways, so analyse the data, learn and do it.
·         Start with local. Local is important: tap into the neighbourhood layout (Are there any coffee shops on your customer`s way? How is the traffic today? etc.) Think of partnerships, deals and synergies, combine resources, think context and join hands with other business to help each other.
·         Collect data intelligently and responsibly to make your offer to the customer personal, fun and useful.
As the mobile/on-line industry is relatively young, there are no wide established success formulas, but there are plenty of singular cases where companies have successful approached technology. So it is a trial and error phase for businesses to figure out how to ride this wave right but on the other hand it also gives them plenty of room to be the first at establishing standards, benchmarks and successful models. 

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