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Generating authentic holiday customer insights in the store

Nihal Advani
Nihal Advani, CEO, Qualsights

Across the country, retailers are experiencing an influx of holiday foot traffic.

Retail executives should consider this as an opportunity to capture meaningful insights from their consumers. In gathering more data on consumer behavior as it relates to the shopper experience, retailers can develop a greater understanding of not only who their target consumer is and how their needs are changing, but also gain perspective on their individual experiences with their store and identify areas of strength and opportunities.

The way in which businesses collect consumer insights has evolved over the past decade, thanks to innovative technologies and AI-powered tools for the analysis of collected consumer insights. For example, printed receipts featuring QR codes or links for online surveys is a method that many retailers have employed to gather consumer feedback.

However, emerging technology now allows more innovative and efficient ways of gathering the same kind of feedback. “Feedback kiosks” can be placed throughout brick-and-mortar stores, allowing consumers to quickly share their feedback on-sight.

Regardless of how retailers collect their customer’s feedback, this holiday season provides a unique opportunity to use consumer insights to address specific areas that are critical to success in our post-pandemic environment: loyalty programs, in-store technology, and physical interactions for picking up merchandise or other goods.

As COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted for most of the country, this holiday shopping season provides a valuable moment to understand customer’s reactions to these newly implemented retail programs and features.

Build upon customer loyalty & awards programs
Consumer insights can easily be tied to retailers’ awards programs and bolster activity by linking the two. The more feedback consumers share, the more loyalty points retailers can offer consumers. This mutually beneficial process will undoubtedly increase the amount of consumer insights retailers generate as well as grow the customer base through the rewards they earn.

Efficiency is key when combining both programs, therefore retailers need to consider how to make the process as seamless and quick as possible for customers. The kind of insights that retailers can capture during this process can span across several topics like store signage, merchandising techniques, pricing and customer service.

Assess newly deployed tech in stores
As retailers integrate innovative technology within their stores, it is important that they gauge their consumer’s receptivity to these new additions. Increased foot traffic from holiday shoppers, who are in-store and engaging with these new technology installments, can offer the timely insights needed to gauge how helpful the technology was during a visit or how impactful it was with purchase intent and retention.

Consider Ulta’s investment in GlamLab, an installment that features QR codes across store shelves to direct shoppers to the try-on app to virtually test and share products they’re considering purchasing. The hi-tech investment merges a digital offering with its physical store locations. Conducting a research study is key to assessing its success in store as well as how customers responded to it.

Gauge experiences of pick-up & drive-thru operations
The pandemic forced retailers to get creative in how they can offer in-person shopping experiences more safely. The SafeX (safe experience) strategies retailers put in place for consumers during the height of the pandemic, in addition to the nationwide social distancing measures, have now become standard practice.

With the increase of buy-online paired with curbside pick-up, as well as delivery aggregator services, customers' experiences with brick-and-mortar store locations have changed. As consumer behaviors shift again as restrictions lift and vaccines become more widely available, tapping customers for insights on how satisfied they are with these processes moving forward will give retail executives the opportunity to make adjustments as needed.

Consider the change Michaels was able to implement to its own pick-up options early on in the pandemic. While many retailers simply designate parking spots and list phone numbers for pick-up, Michael’s leaned on their mobile app for the process, using it as a more convenient way for customers to alert staffers to their arrival and get updates on next-steps for pick-up. Consumer insights and feedback can point to where frustrations may lurk and give retail leaders ample opportunity to adjust to meet consumer preferences.

As retailers return to pre-pandemic practices, and arguably see the highest foot traffic since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to collect consumer insights are not to be missed. Over the past two years, retailers have invested in loyalty programs to build retention, invested in innovative technology to attract consumers back to in-store shopping, and altered their traditional customer journeys to meet shoppers where they feel most comfortable.

Consumer insights present an invaluable opportunity to build upon the monumental efforts brick and mortar retailers have put forth, and continue to adapt to the evolving consumer behaviors and preferences.

Nihal Advani is CEO of Qualsights.

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