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Comment: Ed Armishaw of Walkbase on why physical space will be the next retail battleground

The retail landscape has seen significant changes over the last few years, with digitalisation transforming the industry into a sector that is leading the way when it comes to the personalised experience.

This has given consumers more options than ever before – meaning their expectations have risen further. Retailers now need to meet that demand and think of new, innovative ways to reach them.

Experience is everything

While mobile devices are said to be the key drivers of consumer spend in retail according to IAB, it is actually the customer experience and fulfilment that is the real retail influencer. Due to fierce competition and the rise of ecommerce, customer experience is one of the few ways retailers can differentiate themselves. One bad experience with a retailer could mean a customer shops with a competitor who is only another click away, so it is vital that they get this right.

One company that is brilliant at the customer experience is Amazon, which leads the way with personalised product recommendations and targeted ads to create a truly unique shopping experience. To take its retail monopoly one step further, it also recently announced a move into the physical store.

This is a mammoth shift from the very successful online model that has defined Amazon over the last 20 years and transformed the way we shop online. It is clear that Amazon realised the vital role the high-street plays during the shopping journey, and we can expect the company to have a very successful physical offering given its massive reservoirs of experience in using consumer data to optimise and personalise the shopping experience.

Will modern in-store analytics be the game changer?

As consumers continue to hunt for a more compelling shopping experience, the high-street has a tough job on its hands to stand out from online competitors. While there are different digital tools retailers can take advantage of, it is actually in-store customer behaviour analytics that can truly transform the in-store experience. Gathering rich data, optimising everything in real time, and personalising the shopping journey have been the early on advantages of Amazon and other online retailers.

One of the strongest sources of real-time and accurate enough data is in-store Wi-Fi analytics. Through the anonymous detection of Wi-Fi signals emitted from smartphones, retailers now have the ability to far better understand shopper behaviour in-store. Everything from where they go, what they look at, how long they engage with a product and whether all this ultimately results in a sale, can all be anonymously monitored and used to make each experience more personal.

By analysing this data in real time, retailers can improve the shopping experience, understand how the in-store experience impacts conversion and tailor in-store advertising – creating the ultimate personal experience for the customer. Devices are now an important ally for retailers.

Physical is the new digital

With the amount of channels now available for consumers to shop, it is no surprise that the most successful retailers are those that combine these channels seamlessly to create a unified shopping experience. Amazon’s move to the high-street demonstrates the value of bricks-and-mortar stores and highlights how the sector is transforming like online once did.

The high street is clearly not dead, and instead is evolving at a rapid pace. As such, retailers need to rethink how they can take advantage of Wi-Fi technologies to provide consumers with the shopping experience they have been looking for. 

Ed Armishaw is head of customer ccquisition at Walkbase