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Guest Column: Digital engagement needed to increase physical footfall in retail: Shantanu Paknikar

07-February-2015
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Guest Column: Digital engagement needed to increase physical footfall in retail: Shantanu Paknikar

The combination of social, mobility, analytics and cloud technologies over the past few years is fuelling what we call the digital age. Technology is no longer just an enabler for business, but is transforming the way it is done. The retail sector is a prime example with the advent of ‘digital retail’.

Tablet-based store associate applications for productivity improvement, smartphone-based consumer shopping applications and consumer insights using market basket analytics are all examples of how the sector is adapting to technology in a big way.

Customer engagement

Customer engagement has always been a key business need in retail. The digital age amplifies this business need and the voice of customers as they can now present their views on any brand easily on the social media, which can have a positive or negative impact.

A common problem for most retail stores and related establishments like shopping malls has been a dip in footfall from weekend to weekdays, with Wednesdays often being the lowest point of the week.

Could there be a connection between the levels of engagement with customers and footfalls to a store? In other words, could we look at increased engagement with customers to drive additional footfalls to a store, especially during a weekday? The answer is ‘yes’.

Retailers today are trying to address this problem by running special promotions for weekdays, especially Wednesdays. However, the question is – how much impact do such promotions have and are these enough for customer engagement?

In our opinion, just a ‘promotion’ or one-way communication-based approach will not work.

We would recommend three things to retailers:

Two-way dialogue: Retailers should engage with customers in a two-way dialogue. This can be done by complementing promotions with the ability to capture structured customer feedback and opinions.

Sense the pulse of the customer: By analysing the data received and deriving insights such as sentiment towards retailers’ brand.

Leverage digital engagements to increase physical footfall: For example, by combining online and digital contests conducted during a week to a prize distribution ceremony at a store or mall on a Wednesday evening.

The benefits of an approach like this are obvious. Besides the possibility of increased weekday footfall, the focus on customer engagement rather than just promotions gives a retailer the ability to know his customers better. This in turn can help a retailer keep his customers engaged over a period of time, derive insights and leverage those to ensure the best possible experience for customers.

The author, Shantanu Paknikar, is the General Manager, Innovative Business Solutions (IT services division), Happiest Minds Technologies
 

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