Using Biometrics to Identify Consumers – Key Considerations

As the expectations of Millennial and Gen-Z consumers continue to drive the in-store experience, there is and execution gap between customer expectations and retailer capabilities.  The Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations report, based on research conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise, exposes that many firms are still unprepared to deliver the frictionless encounter consumers expect. This reality has companies examining any technology that might aid in providing the assumed experience, even if some improvements, such as using biometrics (facial, fingerprint, iris) for patron recognition, are cemented in a debate.  For example, Marriot in China is experimenting with facial recognition to reduce the check-in process.  By using the patron’s photo and profile information, a kiosk will issue a room key, once the guest’s identity is confirmed.

Even though the application of this tech is still in the early stages, it could quickly become a crucial component in providing a frictionless experience in the future. Walmart, BurgerFi, KFC, and Caliburger are some of the first brands to experiment with utilizing this technology for purposes such as; to capture customer satisfaction, trigger loyalty programs, infuse guests’ preferences, and accelerate the transaction process.  However, even with the vast number of business applications, the controversy hovering over this technology is something to keep in mind.

Consumers right to data privacy remains a focal point for authorities both domestically, and internationally. The highly publicized cases, within both the private and public sectors, should bring caution to decision makers when examining how to leverage this technology. However, many companies are exploring these technologies as the benefits from the enhanced capabilities may outweigh the possible public pushback. Organizations should consider the following factors when building a strategy for leveraging biometric identification in-store.

Sell the benefits to both your customers (consumers and staff)

With features such as facial, and fingerprint scanning becoming a more mainstream way for users to authenticate purchases, and unlock their smartphones, it’s not surprising that customers are warming to the notion of brands using biometrics to produce a better experience. A recent BRP study revealed that 30% of shoppers are likely to allow retailers to use their biometric data to enhance the shopping experience. However, for those consumers willing to have their biometric identity collected, a substantial payoff will be expected. So, whether it is a more personal experience, timely offers, or simplifying loyalty program participation, the brand must ensure that the patron will notice the payoff.

Similar to customers, employees are cautious about having “big brother” watching over them. As more employers trend towards adopting biometrics as a means for logging onto registers, or clocking out for lunch, they will be easier to sell the benefits for implementing this new technology. Leaders will need to strive towards turning workers into promoters of these new initiatives, by proving how this solution will not only make their jobs easier to perform, but also help deliver a better experience for the customer.

Informed Opt-In, and Easy Opt-Out for Customers

If any lesson can be learned from Facebook’s ongoing battles to allow their facial recognition capabilities to be available within Canada, and the EU, is that informed opt-in, and easy opt-out is a necessity when implementing this technology. Companies must be prepared to comply with the consumer’s demands of having complete control over his/her privacy, but also the evolving regulations that continually changing. For a brand to successfully navigate through these uncertain times, they need to present customers with a well-informed and simple opt-in and opt-out processes.

The opt-in procedure should include full disclosure, with easy to follow documentation. There cannot be any hidden use cases. The company must be completely upfront about the information collected, and how the company uses that knowledge. Business leaders could even go further by using marketing campaigns, and press releases to communicate to consumers details on any changes to how they handle customer data.

The creation of a customer portal or application would also allow the customer to inspect the personal information collected. This portal can also provide customers with a quick way to opt-out, and to have their data wiped. Once a customer has chosen to opt-out, their data should be blacklisted moving forward. Once the new system identifies the person, all data collection should stop for that particular customer.

Preventing Service Drop off for Opt-out Customers

Some states are taking it upon themselves to ensure that business owners do not punish the opt-outs. In California, companies are awaiting clarification on whether they can offer financial incentives to those who opt into a loyalty plan with the passing of the new 2018 Act. Another concern to consider is ensuring that the consumer’s experience does not suffer for those who decide to opt-out.  Customers expect the same level of service without having to sacrifice their privacy, which firms can prevent by putting the right alternatives, staffing, and training in place.

Cover all your bases

Just recently, TSA has been voluntarily working with the ACLU to ensure that their new facial recognition, is correctly setup to deliver fair results for all patrons.  By taking the time for outside resources, legal, and advocacy groups to vet the core functionality and architecture of the proposed solution, companies can reduce the possibility of a large-scale pushback by the public. This extra effort will also result in a solution that is agile enough to handle future challenges that might surface.

Conclusion

Leaders will be looking to biometrics to aid in providing the frictionless experience expected by Millennial and Gen-Z consumers, even within a continuous elastic climate. The companies who can balance their creativity with due diligence will be more likely to benefit from utilizing this technology, while better also being better prepared to handle its challenges.

I appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Please share your opinions and comments below.

Joseph

Consumers Choose Retailers that Offer a Personalized Experience

Offering a personalized service requires identification of customers as soon as they walk in the store, but only 37% of retailers are able to identify their customers before checkout.

Customers want to shop wherever and whenever they want with the benefits of both the digital and physical retail environments. As consumers “check-in” on retailers’ e-commerce and mobile sites, they automatically receive personalized offers and recommendations based on their purchase and browsing history. However, most shoppers are still anonymous when shopping in a physical store so they don’t get the same level of personalized service.

We recently conducted our 20thAnnual POS/Customer Engagement Survey and compared our findings on retailer capabilities with consumer expectations from the BRP Consumer Study (report coming soon!) to identify gaps between customer expectations and retailers’ capabilities. BRP’s SPECIAL REPORT: Personalization gives you a closer look at what consumers expect from their shopping experience and what retailers can currently offer.

Our study found that 79% of consumers indicated that personalized service from a sales associate was an important factor in determining at which store they choose to shop. Consumers understand that receiving personalized service requires retailers to identify them. While this has been the normal standard online or via mobile, identifying the customer in the store is a little more difficult and not as common.

Most retailers who identify customers in the store use the customers’ mobile phone as the identification tool paired with a combination of beacons, WiFi, MAC address, etc. While 64% of consumers are comfortable with retailers identifying them via their mobile phone when they enter a store, as long as it means they are offered a personalized experience, only 37% of retailers are able to identify their customers prior to checkout.

Customer identification is a requirement for any type of personalization of the shopping experience and if a retailer can’t identify the customer until she is at the checkout then it’s too late to empower the associate to influence the current purchase decision. Without early identification of the customer, retailers miss critical engagement opportunities to deliver a personalized customer experience and increase sales. And in today’s crowded and highly competitive market, personalization is a critical component for optimizing the customer’s shopping experience.

The customer has spoken and she wants a personalized shopping experience in the store, how are you going to provide her that experience? Download the report now to understand how retailers are measuring up to consumer expectations.

I appreciate your opinions on this topic.  Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Ken

The Future Store is Here

The retail industry is in the midst of a retail renaissance as we move from the ‘olden days’ of a person walking in to a store to simply purchase a commodity, into a new technologically advanced era where artificial intelligence helps customers make informed purchasing decisions leveraging associate or customer facing technology along with augmented reality that enables them to view products on their body or virtually in their homes. Technology is bringing new life to brick-and-mortar stores as the physical and digital worlds collide.

The store is not dead, it’s digitized…

Over the past twenty years, many in the retail industry have predicted the demise of the physical store. That seemed like a reasonable assumption given the accelerated growth of e-commerce and advancements in mobile technology; however, the reality is, the store is still the foundation of retailing. It is where the tactile and sensory experience comes together for the consumer, but the traditional store concept is changing.

Disruption and adaptation are changing the retail model and blurring the lines among retailers, brands and wholesalers. Online pure-plays are opening brick-and-mortar stores and traditional retailers are experimenting with new store models and in some cases, expanded experiential brand strategies that include new revenue sources, such as services or food and beverage options. Retail is theater and with technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), the retail store is no longer the only stage where the theater of retail can take place. New technology will further empower customers as they can dictate their own personal stage and experience.

The physical store remains the foundation of retail; however, a significant and fundamental transformation of retail is underway and will change the requirements for the store of the future.

We recently conducted our 20thAnnual POS/Customer Engagement Survey and compared our findings on retailer capabilities with consumer expectations from the BRP Consumer Study (report coming soon!) to take a closer look at what the store of the future looks like. BRP’s SPECIAL REPORT: The Future Store gives you a closer look at what consumers expect from the store.

Download the report now because the future store is here, ready or not.

 

What are Retailers’ Top Customer Engagement Priorities for 2019?

As retailers look for ways to differentiate in today’s highly competitive market, customer engagement strategies like personalization, mobile experience and real-time retail are critical components for optimizing the customer’s shopping experience. In fact, according to the recent BRP Consumer Study, 79% said personalized service from a sales associate was an important factor in determining at which store they choose to shop. Retailers understand the importance of personalization as 53% are focused on this for 2019, according to the 20thAnnual POS/Customer Engagement Benchmark Survey.

Retailers understand the imperative for change, as 94% of retailers, up from 81% last year, have indicated that they have or plan to implement a single unified commerce platform within the next three years. “It is time to reimagine the customer engagement model as yesterday’s retail is dead, and agility is paramount as retail continues to rapidly evolve,” said Brian Brunk, principal at BRP. “Key to this agility and transformation is a single commerce platform. Victory belongs to the agile.”

“As customer expectations for an increasingly customized experience increase and evolve, retailers are adopting new ways to identify customers and personalize their shopping journey,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “Retailers continue to offer more mobile services from a consumer-facing and associate-facing perspective that include personalized recommendations, loyalty rewards, coupons, discounts and promotions. It is also interesting to note that 63% of retailers plan on having the ability to use a customer owned mobile device as a POS device within three years.

BRP’s 20thAnnual POS/Customer Engagement Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current priorities and initiatives as digital and physical retail environments converge to facilitate a seamless experience across channels.

The key customer experience trends driving today’s initiatives are:

PERSONAL – Engaging the customer with personalized and relevant messaging is the key to customer loyalty

  • 79% of consumers said personalized service from a sales associate is an important factor in determining at which store they choose to shop
  • 53% of retailers indicate that personalization is one of their top customer engagement priorities

MOBILE – The pervasiveness and ease-of-use of mobile devices offers tremendous opportunities for retailers

  • 63% of consumers use their mobile phone while shopping in a store to compare prices, look for offers/coupons, check inventory availability, etc.
  • 49% of retailers indicate that the customer mobile experience is one of their top customer engagement priorities

SEAMLESS – Today’s customer journey crisscrosses channels, requiring the retailer to provide a seamless, personalized experience

  • 56% of consumers indicate they are more likely to shop at a retailer that allows them to have a shared cart across channels
  • 94% of retailers have or plan to implement a single unified commerce platform within three years, up from 81% last year

SECURE – Today’s retail environment requires security beyond retailers’ current focus on payments and networks

  • 50% of consumers are likely to allow retailers to save purchase history, personal preferences and personal details if it eases the checkout process and allows for more personalized offers
  • 61% of retailers have implemented end-to-end encryption to offer customers greater security of their personal and payment data

I encourage you to download the complete 20thAnnual POS/CustomerEngagement Benchmarking Survey:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2019-pos-survey/

A special thanks goes to our POS/Customer Engagement Survey sponsors:  TSYS is the platinum sponsor, the gold sponsors are AptosDiebold Nixdorf, ECRS and Fujitsu, and the silver sponsor is STORIS.

As always, I appreciate your feedback on this report. Please share your comments and opinions below.

David

Why Should Retailers use Augmented or Virtual Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual (VR) offer new and enhanced ways for customers to experience products, like visualizing how a product would look in their home or even on their body.

Consumers see the benefit of VR and AR, as nearly half of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer utilizing virtual or augmented reality, according to a recent study by Incisiv, sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise.[1]As consumers shop for a new couch or bedroom set, it is very helpful to see what the furniture will look like in their house or browse a virtual array of options like colors and fabrics, rather than just viewing in a catalog or on a website – and VR and AR apps can make it happen.

Many retailers have already introduced AR apps and testing and deployment of VR apps is increasing. VR and AR offer interesting applications and opportunities, as the ability to mix virtual and real elements can be game changing – especially for furniture, home décor and apparel retailers. According to BRP’s 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, retailers understand the impact that VR and AR can have on the customer experience and 32% of retailers plan to use virtual and augmented reality within three years.

Macy’s is a recent example, as they’re currently rolling out a new virtual reality experience across 70 locations, combined with an AR app for home use, to offer an immersive furniture shopping experience that allows browsing and visualization of a much larger assortment of furniture than a typical store. Sephora’s “Virtual Artist” app uses AR to scan your face, figure out where your lips and eyes are, and lets you try different looks on your smartphone. Foot Locker’s “The Hunt” AR scavenger hunt inspired smartphone-toting sneakerheads to venture across Los Angeles to unlock geo-targeted AR clues throughout the city earning the chance to be among the first to acquire new limited-edition LeBron 16 King “Court Purple” sneakers. As more and more retailers adopt VR or AR technology over the next few years, this will increase customers’ expectations for the same from other retailers that they shop.

Immersive technology like VR and AR is redefining the way consumers can experience and buy products, leveraging the advantages of physical space, like the store or the customer’s home, without being constrained by the space. Traditional retail lines continue to blur as retail realities are rapidly evolving and the stage where the theater of retail takes place can be dictated by the customer.

I encourage you to read the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey for more insights:

Download Now

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and opinions on this topic.  Please share your feedback below.

Brian

[1]Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations, July 24, 2018. https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-retail-research-report/

A Personalized Brand Experience Across Digital Channels is Imperative

Consumers now start and stop their shopping journey in different channels, including online marketplaces and social media, and frequently shop for the same product across different retailers, both online and in the store. Consumers don’t think in terms of channels, they think in terms of brands and experiences.

According to the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, 51% of consumers feel it is important to get a personalized experience across all digital channels within a brand.

The good news is that retailers recognize the importance of the cross-channel, personalized customer experience, as their top digital customer experience priorities are creating a consistent brand experience across channels (57%) and improving personalization (38%).

The challenge for retailers is to “keep up” with continually evolving customer expectations. The growth of mobile is driving demand for increased digital capabilities bundled with personalization in the store. The gap between consumer demand for digital experiences and retailers’ current capabilities is what we call the “great digital divide,” and is driving additional changes in the industry.

The new retail model requires retailers to transform their business and reinvent themselves to create a successful blend of the physical and digital worlds to maintain their customers’ loyalty. New and innovative methods of shopping – driven by mobile technology, artificial intelligence and rapidly changing fulfillment methods – are elevating customer expectations. The speed of these changes requires organizational agility to quickly and easily react to increasing customer expectations and changing consumer behavior.

I encourage you to download and read the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey for more insights on the cross channel digital experience:

Download Now

As always, I appreciate your insights on this topic.  Please share your feedback and opinions below.

 

Jeffrey

Turn Anonymous Customers into Loyal Customers

At what point in the shopping journey do you identify your customers? If it is not until they reach the checkout, you might be in the majority, but that is too late to influence their purchase decisions.

Creating a more personalized shopping experience is one of the highest priorities retailers are facing, and the first step towards that personalization is customer identification.  However, an inability to identify customers early means that most in-store shoppers are essentially anonymous until they check out. According to BRP’s 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, only 13% of retailers identify customers when they walk in the store and another 10% identify customers pre-checkout. Retailers fare better online, as 30% identify customers when they enter the website and another 30% identify customers pre-checkout.

While most online retailers are able to identify customers early in the browsing process in order to create a more personalized experience, identifying customers in the store continues to be a challenge for most brick-and-mortar retailers. Those online experiences have heightened customer expectations for personalization and they now expect the same level of service while shopping in a store. This is a tremendous opportunity for retailers to improve the customer experience – turning anonymous shoppers into loyal customers.

The logical question is: How can I identify customers before they get to the checkout? As with most challenges in 2018, there are both technology and business process solutions to address this gap.  From a technology perspective, the most effective solution lies with your customers themselves – the fact that nearly all of them will be walking into your stores with mobile devices. Many retailers are taking advantage of this by using in-store WiFi as a way to capture customer sign-on information, while others are using their mobile app log-ins, or identifying customers by their MAC addresses on those devices. From a process perspective, forward-thinking retailers are providing their associates with mobile devices and placing them on the sales floor in order to increase their engagement with customers and to capture information early in the shopping visit to provide suggestive sell recommendations or other purchase incentives.

Without early identification of the customer, retailers miss critical engagement opportunities, such as clienteling and guided selling, which can increase sales and deliver an enhanced customer experience. Even more concerning is that 20% of retailers still have no ability to identify their customers in the store, even at checkout, which eliminates any opportunities for improving the post-purchase experience or customer loyalty.

Are you identifying your customers early and personalizing their shopping experience? What ways have you found most effective for capturing customer information?

As always, I am interested in your opinions on this topic.  Please share your comments below.

Ryan

Why are you Ignoring Current Customers to go after New Ones?

It’s not a secret that returning customers are better for your business than new customers. Studies have shown that a returning customer is less expensive to convert and has a higher average order value than a new customer. Yet, many retailers are focused on utilizing total sales and comp sales to measure company performance instead of measuring customer loyalty and retention.

According to BRP’s soon-to-be-released Digital Commerce Survey, most online retailers have key performance indicators (KPIs) for sales, average order value, comparative sales and conversion rates; however, less than 50% of retailers measure customer loyalty through customer satisfaction (net promoter score), customer retention and post-purchase customer survey results.

After a customer clicks “buy,” they enter a phase of uncertainty, where they are unsure whether their product will arrive on time or whether it will appear in one piece. Retailers who communicate regular updates and reassurances on the order and delivery status to customers can turn this period into a powerful moment of trust for the brand. Customers who shop without a sense of risk will feel more comfortable making repeat purchases in the future. This breeds customer loyalty.

According to the recent Best Practices for Enhancing the Post-Purchase Experience report your customers’ most recent experience with your company impacts the feelings they share with friends and family and the relationship they have with your brand. The satisfaction level during the post-purchase experience has a direct correlation on a customer’s decision to buy again, or not. Retailers that meet or exceed post-purchase customer experience expectations create a unique brand experience that customers will “share” with others personally and on social media. Exceptional post-purchase customer experiences inspire customers to build long-term relationship with brands.

Understanding the value of loyal customers and repeat purchases is critical to fostering higher lifetime customer values. Focus on making your current customers happy with your brand and see how that benefits your business.

As always, I am interested in your opinions on this topic.  Please share your comments below.

Jeffrey

Offering a Digital Dining Experience is Now Table Stakes for Restaurants

It certainly is no secret that people across all demographic categories have transformed their day-to-day activities through the use of digital technologies, especially via the smartphone.  For those of us keeping tabs on the restaurant industry, we have further validation of just how impactful this digitalization, especially the mobile-centric variety, is on the consumer and their overall dining journey.

According to our most recent survey-based research report, Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations, an ever increasing number of restaurant guests, especially Millennials, are using their mobile devices at each and every point of their dining experience.

Similar to our friends in the broader retail industry, restaurant operators are witnessing rapid growth in the digital expectations of their customers, who don’t just want, but expect, a broad range of digital-driven capabilities as part of their guest experience.  As guest expectations for digital-driven dining continue to rise, all those responsible for delivering a successful guest experience – whether they are a restaurant brand, a franchisee, or independent operator – must rapidly adopt new digital technologies to enhance the entire dining journey.

The ENTIRE digital journey?  Absolutely. The role of digital engagement is now firmly implanted in every single step of that journey, starting well before and ending well after the actual restaurant visit.  Pre-meal research is a habit across all generations and demographics, especially for discovering new restaurant choices and selecting fine dining options. Digital ordering (whether from home, by app or at the restaurant) is a growing expectation while sharing results of dining experiences with friends via social media is a new form of entertainment. These expanded engagement areas shine a light on how restaurant operators need to think about the entire lifecycle of a guest’s dining experience – including how the intersection of restaurant operations, existing processes and legacy IT platforms need to quickly transform to support these new data-driven demands and influence needs.

As we noted (and not unexpectedly), Millennials are leading and driving this charge by using digital devices to enhance their dining experience over half the time (53%).  Specific measures of their digital activities include:

  • 60% research where and what to eat
  • 51% check ratings/reviews while in a restaurant
  • 23% share pictures and content during and after the visit.

It’s not a secret that the dining journey has radically changed, as have guest expectations of what makes a great dining experience. Digital-driven influences are no longer at the periphery of the dining experience, as they influence 40% of all dining visits.

Simply said, they are required tickets to entry.

Therefore, embedding a wide array of full digital dining capabilities – everything from social engagement to guest WiFi to flexible ordering options, and real-time and personalized guest promotions – should be part of every restaurant’s strategic DNA.

To download the complete Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectationsreport, visit:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-restaurant-research-report/.

As always, I appreciate your opinions – both on the insight from the report and across the broader restaurant and hospitality space.  Please share your thoughts and opinions below.

Scott

 

AGILE IN ACTION: Achieving 50% Faster Implementation Times

With traditional IT projects, requirements are typically defined up front (sometimes 12-18 months before go-live), and are rarely revisited during the project implementation. However, by adopting an Agile mindset, organizations can quickly respond to changing customer demands, which is essential for today’s retailers.   An Agile approach allows organizations to easily revisit their requirements during the entire project implementation in order to keep up with a dynamic set of business drivers. In addition, by employing an Agile methodology, retailers are able to greatly reduce the disconnect between business unit expectations and project delivery, as there are constant iterations of incremental delivery which can be reviewed and accepted by project sponsors. As retailers are pressured to do more with less and quickly adapt to new retail realities, and an agile approach makes this possible.

I recently participated in a large and complex point of sale (POS) software implementation project using BRP’s Agile Approach for Retail, and the benefits of this approach really are remarkable. Our team successfully launched the POS solution in a pilot store in less than six months, which is about 50% faster than a standard implementation. The successful launch of this minimally viable product (MVP) approach was instrumental in not only obtaining store feedback as quickly as possible, but also in building credibility for the project team around the overall approach and efforts.

This retailer was now able to recognize the many business benefits of this POS solution much quicker than they would have with a traditional waterfall project approach. For example, the retailer can now offer personalized customer service by providing its associates easy access to information required to satisfy shopper expectations, from product and promotion data to customer purchase history. The store managers and sales associates now have instant, on-the-go access to the tools they need to enhance service and productivity by completing end-to-end POS transactions, looking up items, locating stock and much more, without ever leaving the customer’s side.

And we were able to help deliver these benefits in less than six months.

With the swift pace of disruption occurring in the industry, retailers need to accelerate the transformation of their organization, business processes and technology to align with customer demands, and an Agile approach to technology and operations can mean the difference between successful operations and bankruptcy.

If you have not already explored an Agile Approach for your implementation projects, I suggest you consider this option – the benefits are too great to ignore.  BRP’s Agile Approach for Retail offers forward-thinking retailers an accelerated and flexible method for tackling enterprise projects, and if you would like some help understanding and implementing an Agile Approach, BRP can help assess your Agile readiness and accelerate your implementation time.

I welcome your thoughts on Agile and any insights from projects where you had success with an Agile Approach.  Please share your comments below.

Ryan