How to get customers back into stores? or the future of brick-and-mortar stores

With the change in customers' buying behaviour due to the coronavirus pandemic and the quarantine measures associated with it, many brick-and-mortar stores are asking themselves how to accommodate their customers and sell again as before the pandemic. Faced with lower sales, some are faced with the decision of whether it is worth keeping brick-and-mortar stores open at all.

But how to get customers back into the stores? People are walking the streets, but they don’t want to go to the shops because of health concerns. Stores have decided to fight this in their own way. For example, they are trying to install smart technology in their windows. Their offerings are thus becoming highly personalised and changing depending on who is looking in the window.

For example, it responds to the age and gender of the customer. Already in the window, a potential customer can get a discount, for example, through interaction. All this with the sole aim of getting the customer into the store. The interactive offer in stores is also complemented by the installation of so-called smart mirrors. You can not only try on clothes in front of them, but also see how you would look in a different colour option. In addition, the mirror is able to offer you other accessories or clothes that would match what you are trying on, based on the assortment in the store.

Thanks to new technological possibilities, this is changing the way stores approach customers. So in the near future, retailers will no longer be primarily concerned with sales, but with building loyalty and a positive customer experience. This also opens up the possibility of connecting with loyalty cards. Smart technology will recognise the customer and offer them tailored products directly through shop windows or screens.

In addition, stores are also thinking about setting up coffee corners (which is already happening in bookstores or boutiques, for example), advice and other additional services so that people spend as much time in them as possible. Of course, the prescribed hygiene conditions must be observed.

Hobby shops are also struggling with the new situation

The large hobby stores are also adapting to the new situation. Their customers have already got used to online shopping. Stores allow them to select goods online, make the purchase remotely and then just pick up the purchase in store. But what troubles hobbymarkets is the lack of necessary and functional systems.

Whereas previously customers used to search for goods themselves around the store, today so-called pickers do it for them. They pick up the goods and prepare them for the customer to pick up. However, pickers lack navigation and a good system for updating stock.

At one point, hobby shops are selling online and offline at the same time. In practice, this often results in pickers running around the store looking for items they don’t know are out of stock. The individual items are not posted to the system in real time, so pickers do not see items that may have been released or sold long ago.

What is the result? Unhappy customers, inaccuracies in inventory, missing items in stock, inefficient pickers, etc.

How to automate and speed up the process?

  • invest in systems that link information and data in real time,
  • use apps that help pickers plan their journey through the warehouse using artificial intelligence – saving time and minimising errors,
  • make it transparent and start collecting information on shelf turnover to have a better overview of goods,
  • monitor customer behaviour.

Investment in real-time system interconnection

In practice, we often find that teams or departments do not share information with each other. Recently, a customer asked us to create a system that would monitor which truck was in which cargo area. In the end, there was no need to create a system, only to share information. In fact, the company had the data on where each truck was located, they just didn’t share it across teams.

For the next customer, they have a planogram in one system, an overview of available goods in another system, and sales data in a third. That in itself is nothing special, but here they transfer data between systems manually! This process increases the risk of errors, whether from inattention or fatigue. In addition, the data from these systems does not flow into production, so goods are produced by a kind of estimation.

So we always ask companies what information they need to gather to work more efficiently, and often find that they already collect most of the information. It’s just that individual departments don’t share information with each other. They are wasting time and money. That’s why:

  • link the data into one system,
  • and create clear reporting that everyone can find in one place.

Real Time Location System (RTLS)

Ideally, there is a road map for each picker/driver and a system that automatically subtracts goods from the warehouse.

In practice, there is a relatively high turnover of staff in warehouses. New workers need to be constantly trained. Moreover, it takes time for them to learn to know the warehouse and know where to find which aisle, which location and which goods. Most of the mistakes that occur in logistics are ultimately due to the human factor. That’s why we recommend implementing systems that:

  • know where the picker/driver is in real-time,
  • know where the goods are in the warehouse and the actual quantity,
  • create an efficient loading route
  • and provides the picker with clear information on what to pick up when and where.

In addition, the collected data can be used to optimize routes and even floor plans of the warehouse or efficient placement of goods.

Goods turnover

Have increased sales been able to pay for your point-of-sale advertising? Do you know which location sells the most merchandise? There are still few companies that can answer these and similar questions in the affirmative.

That’s why we supply them with systems that:

  • have information about the quantity of goods on every shelf,
  • and monitor the turnover of the given goods.

Not only do they know in what store and where the goods need to be replenished; when we know what the interest in the goods is, and when we monitor this information over time and link it with other data on marketing, the weather and the day of the year, we can also predict customers’ needs. Apart from that, we also know whether the advertising campaign was successful.

The trader’s shelves are full, but even more importantly they know their customers’ shopping behaviour, they know how to support it, and they can sell more.

Monitoring customer behaviour

Many stores still determine customer behaviour by questionnaire surveys or on-site observation. Both methods are irregular and costly, and therefore only take place occasionally. What’s more, they suffer from errors caused by the way the data is obtained and recorded.

On the contrary, new technologies can collect information about customer behaviour continuously. We know who the customer is – whether it’s a man, woman, group of people etc. Also their customer path through the store. And we know what goods they’re interested in, and we know all of this comprehensively and in an anonymised manner.

On the basis of the data, the store’s management can modify the opening hours and adapt the number of staff to the footfall, thereby efficiently managing payroll costs. It’s possible to modify the branch layout and the way in which the goods are displayed, thereby maximising customer satisfaction and with it sales and profit.

When we enrich the data with information such as the day of the week or the weather, the information can be linked with behavioural predictions.

Article by Adéla Mikschiková –  IoT Business Developement Manager – was published in the IT Systems monthly, vol. 10/2020, and on the server