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Savvy Retailers Leverage Technology to Influence the Customer Journey

Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and experiential marketing drive positive customer experiences — and revenue.

March 25, 2018

Retail brands carve out market share by delivering outstanding customer experiences. At the heart of each customer journey is technological innovation that delivers information to educate, delight, and persuade. Because today’s customers want insight and experiences, they expect to actively engage with the brand before buying.

With a technology-driven engagement marketing strategy, retail brands can meet these expectations. Consider these examples:

  • Searching for a new haircut? Need help revamping your space? With augmented reality, you can try on looks or decorate a room virtually — before making a purchase.
  • Need help navigating the grocery store to find a specific item? Download an app that points you to the right shelf spot in moments.
  • Want to receive specific product information at the exact moment you’re in the aisle? Through beacons, you can receive specifics on your smartphone in real time.

To succeed in the digital age, brands must use augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and experiential marketing to influence the customer journey and earn market share.

Enhancing the Experience With Augmented Reality
Within the next year, experts predict there will be 900 million smartphones enabled by augmented reality. This means that the majority of consumers — a projected 69% — will expect retailers to provide an experience that involves this technology.

One company leading the way in augmented reality is cosmetics brand Sephora, which launched its Virtual Artist app in 2017. The app scans an image of the customer’s face, then invites him or her to experiment with the brand’s makeup. With innovative capabilities like these setting the bar, consumers will expect to virtually “try on” or experience the brand before making a purchase. This point-and-see reality means that brands can offer additional content, show relationships between products to increase spend, and provide interesting information to boost brand credibility or authority.

Augmented reality influences all genres of lifestyle goods and services, such as clothing, cosmetics, home decor, and home improvement (think virtual tape measures and virtual room painting).

The Real Deal With Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence enhances the accuracy and efficacy of marketing to make each message resonate in a relevant and more personal way with customers. Amazon is the gold-star example, having long led the way in using artificial intelligence to make relevant product recommendations to customers at the point of sale.

From retargeting banner ads to recommending featured products, artificial intelligence prompts marketing triggers that promote products and services a customer is likely to use. Brands that are best leveraging artificial intelligence are doing so across channels so that the mobile, email, and online experiences are consistent for the consumer.

Experiential Marketing Provides a Pragmatic Approach
What kind of experience will your customers have in your stores? Experiential marketing can be anything from product sampling to special events to in-store kiosks. Because consumers often feel entitled to something extra when they walk into the store — after all, they could just make the purchase online and save time — the brand has to deliver on the experience, engaging the senses to bring about a feeling, attitude, or involvement that the customer wouldn’t otherwise have.

Here are examples of emerging experiential marketing technologies:

Beacons are unobtrusive devices that communicate with smartphone apps to provide real-time, location-specific product information or offers to customers in the moment. For example, if a customer walks by the video game aisle, a beacon can deliver a message about the hottest new title. The technology can be applied to almost any product, from automobiles to skin care.

Freeosks (the combination of free and kiosk) use technology that delivers exactly what the namesake implies: free stuff via a kiosk. Marketers can enhance the in-store experience by placing Freeosks in strategic locations, inviting customers to input a phone number, store member card, etc. to receive a free product sample.

Visible light communications (VLC) is the transmission of data signals through light. The technology works by sending the data through strategically placed light bulbs that then interact with a smartphone app. With VLC, brands can identify where the consumer is precisely located (aisle or section) and then send relevant marketing data through the light to that particular smartphone.

Digimarc Barcodes are digitally printed onto a product-branded thermal label, which is then placed on the product packaging. What makes Digimarc Barcodes so effective is that the printing of the product barcode is repeated across every label’s surface, enabling it to be efficiently and accurately read by a computer, scanner, or other store equipment regardless of the product’s position in the shopping cart. Digimarc technology eliminates the need to unload a product from the cart, enabling a faster checkout.

Technology is blurring the lines between online and in-store experiences, prompting consumers to expect more from their interactions with a brand. Because of this, brands must stay focused on customers and make decisions based on what they say they want. Innovations such as facial recognition, wearables, and content create personal, pertinent experiences in the moment.

About the Author

Austin Wright
SVP, Strategy

Austin helps billion-dollar brands develop holistic strategies to drive customer loyalty.

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