Having embraced digital shopping channels during the pandemic, Australian consumers have become well used to the personalisation and tailored content offered online. So how can physical retail stores replicate the experience and deliver an equally personalised interface for customers?
“The only way to achieve that is through a digital medium,” says Neal French, director of Chrome Enterprise sales JAPAC at Google. “Retailers need to reflect the tailored and personalised experience of online, but in-store.”
This means adopting new-generation technologies such as digital signage, powered by a robust operating system, enabling remote management, personalisation and interactivity with in-store signage.
“As retail evolves, market-leading brands understand that consumers don’t separate their online shopping experience from their physical shopping experience and that shoppers expect a seamless experience in both,” explains Cameron Hanns, director at Entwined, a digital signage and kiosk solution provider.
Research by Google, published in the company’s Spring/Summer Shopping Behaviours 2021 study, found 50 per cent of consumers say they now shop both in-store and online. This is driving a growing expectation of exceptional customer experiences in-store, says Hanns, including demand for services such as click-and-collect, and endless aisles.
“Delighting and surprising customers during an in-store customer journey, inspiring them to make a purchase, is one thing, but customers want to save time and access solutions that allow them to order ‘out of stock’ or ‘premium limited-edition’ products, as well.”
He says it is essential retailers adopt an omnichannel approach, so that online and offline do not compete with each other but work in a hybrid approach complementing each other and driving customer engagement.
A prime example of an inspiring digital in-store solution can be found inside Rebel’s new flagship at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall: a product customisation service previously available only for online purchases.
“Understanding their customers’ desire to make their sportswear creatively unique is taking customer experience to a whole new level,” says Hanns. “Entwined promoted this service in-store with an LED ticker above the counter so customers can locate it easily and by using directional content through screens located throughout the three-level store.”
French says the goal of digital signage is different for every brand and vertical. “For youth brands like City Beach, the company positions brand imagery of its latest clothing and an offer to draw customers into its stores, while brands like Caltex use digital signage solutions to promote food and promotional bundles to inspire customers to purchase on impulse and consume immediately, driving a purely emotive response.
“Digital signage provides flexibility, and the ability to change the message in real-time, which can dramatically influence sales and increase basket size,” he says.
The power behind the delivery
Hanns and French both emphasise the importance of a robust technology platform behind in-store signage, having seen first-hand a multitude of problems experienced by stores using various legacy systems.
“Traditional operating systems can’t keep up on processes, costs, or implementation,” says Hanns. “Legacy systems being used to run kiosk and signage space often crash, need regular operating system updates, and patches or apps can become corrupted and fail to run. That means a return to the IT management style of 20 years ago: you need to send technicians onsite, connect to on-premise servers, update files or applications and swap out parts, for example. This results in decreased revenue opportunities from malfunctioning and offline kiosks and digital signs while you wait potentially days to have the system rebooted.”
No more these days, explains Hanns. “We work alongside marketers and store-improvement teams from building the vision for in-store digital signage to deploying it.” That process includes ensuring unity across the narratives displayed and creating thoughtful and purposeful digital endpoints that demonstrate stores are utilising simple and innovative technology to drive that customer engagement.
“We offer them a sort of digital canvas: retailers have their own strategy and we give them the digital medium to execute inside their stores.”
Entwined has partnered with Google Enterprise to deploy cloud-powered ChromeOS across physical hardware to power in-store digital executions: ChromeOS makes it simple and scalable, bringing flexibility and agility to store solutions, all in real-time and without the crashes and failures of legacy systems.
Using ChromeOS, Google has been offering strategic and analytics-based support to drive sales growth to extract the most from the flexibility and instantaneous implementation the operating system offers.
“The simplicity and easy deployment of these devices means once the screens are connected, there is never any manual updating and whether your fleet contains 100 or 100,000 devices, you will remotely manage and deploy product updates or campaign activations in seconds,” says Hanns.
Personalisation is a key to engagement
He says many brands Entwined works with see personalisation as a key part of their loyalty program and local connection strategy.
“Rebel, for example, uses its RCX experiential stores as part of its digital strategy to create a destination environment and connect with the local community. This does not require complex content and time-consuming upkeep. Collaboration in design and implementation between Rebel and Entwined means that smart “tagging” rules allow the content to be published and correct content ends up on the correctly tagged places in the correct stores.”
Hanns says deeper personalisation can occur around loyalty and rewards programs, especially in retail categories such as QSR chains and fashion retailers. “When a customer identifies themselves via a loyalty/membership program by using an app to check in or scan a membership card at a kiosk, the in-store digital signage can acknowledge that customer and try to build a brand connection, even suggesting trade-ups based on prior purchasing history, or promote specials before a customer heads to the cashier.”
Hanns says this strategy has been proven to improve the customer experience and engagement in-store, increase brand loyalty and increase basket size.
Touch kiosks are an obvious extension enabling these outcomes, making it easy and convenient for people to check in and alerting staff to their profile or past purchasing behaviour who can then be better prepared to engage.
Kiosks can also enhance product sales via endless aisle models, integrating inventory in-store and online to ensure customers can purchase the size and style of products they want. “Using kiosks, retailers can offer a customer their entire range via their web catalogue even if the item is not in the store, and allow the customer to complete their sale in store and have the product delivered to them.”
Kiosks core to QSR growth strategy
Kiosks are also an “incredibly important part” of QSR strategy moving forward, he says. “As space becomes harder to find and it is increasingly important to make the best use of it, kiosks are helping open doors for productivity that didn’t previously exist.”
Collins Food Group, Australia’s largest KFC franchise, was looking for a new space in Brisbane’s Queen St Mall. The company found a great location but with a not-so-great layout – a small mall entry and a large downstairs area which meant the main serving area and kitchen were downstairs, out of sight of mall traffic. Collins Foods solved the problem by using digital menu boards upstairs to encourage customer engagement and offer direct exposure to mall foot traffic, with self-service ordering and payment kiosks located below the menus.
Enhancing in-store efficiency and convenience, customers order in the mall zone, then move downstairs to an expansive, funky dining area. Their order is already being assembled with the status displayed on further digital signage boards and while they wait, the brand engages them with a series of brand messaging encouraging them to ‘take five and enjoy their meal’.
Research from Tillster in 2019 published as the Self-Service Kiosk Index, shows 30 per cent of customers would prefer to order from a self-service kiosk if queues were equal, and more than 50 per cent should the line exceed four people.
Further research – the 2022 Kiosk Marketplace Census – shows businesses can increase the average check size by 15 to 20 per cent if they replace in-person counter service with kiosks, simply by optimising technology to draw customers and sell to them.
Whether through kiosks or signage, digital engagement in stores is key to helping successful retailers deliver in-store experiences and convenience that match consumers’ online shopping expectations.
If you’d like to learn more about digital signage and kiosk solutions and how you can incorporate them into your in-store customer experience strategy, sign up for the in-person Future of Retail event being held at Google HQ in Melbourne on the November 22, at 3pm. Sign up here.