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The Digital Handshake: What It Is, Who’s Missing Out and What’s to Gain

What customers expect from a retail experience is generally a good barometer of what they expect across the board. After all, retail is usually one of their first points of contact with the new – be that brands, innovation or technology. So, it’s pertinent that the pandemic has opened consumers’ minds to tech.

One of the most compelling insights thrown up by global research we carried out recently showed that the public’s reliance on, and growing trust in, technology was on the rise. In the UK specifically, half of the shoppers now expect QR and AR to become the standard when they shop going forward.

What they also expect is a firm and friendly digital handshake. The pandemic has ensured that the space between physical and online consumption has blurred beyond question. For consumers, there is no battle between bricks & mortar and e-commerce. Rather, both are symbiotic and part of the same ecosystem, they expect to be online in-store and that brands and retailers will have a single view of them as customers.

The digital handshake is about connecting the offline world with online, seamlessly. And while this sounds simple enough, very few are executing it properly. Taking retail as an example again, data points across their shopping journey should be tracked in one clean line, and the customer should be able to see all their transactions in one place, whether they’re surfing on their mobile or picking up bargain-bucket deals in-store.

But more often than not, that journey isn’t connected. The resulting, fragmented customer experience leaves the shopper discombobulated and frustrated – counter to expectations, offline and online are two entirely different things in this scenario because that’s how the retailer or brand has treated them.

An effective digital handshake uses the data touchpoints across the entire customer purchase journey – be that in-store, social, in-app, and so on – to understand their individual motivations, retarget them appropriately and offer truly personalized offers and experiences. Breaking the barriers between these different points is the key to customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

Some brands do pull this off with a great degree of success. The Amazon Fresh stores in the UK are a case in point, doing an excellent job of linking your online persona with your in-store, shopper-first mindset.

There is a vast range of friendly, in-store tech that can enable this. Our own PodDrop embeds tech into in-store sampling by inviting shoppers to scan a QR code and share personal data in exchange for a sample product, which quite literally drops like a grabber machine at the arcade. It’s a simple method to know who has sampled a product and ensure that it is not a missed opportunity for a future sale.

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Connecting that data point into the wider ecosystem or single customer view through a digital handshake will provide vital information.

For example, did the customer successfully purchase a retail-price product following the sample?

Did they research it any further?

Have they browsed for similar products after the PodDrop experience?

This information can then be fed back into the brand’s CRM, allowing relevant, impactful messaging to be relayed to customers who had used PodDrop.

Customers aren’t averse to this sort of tech – or this kind of data-based, relevant targeting. Today, they’re fully aware of the value exchange taking place. However, they’re weary of it being done inefficiently and in some cases, downright bad. They’re so tired of getting a bad deal, 71% of them cite marketing bombardment as the main deterrent from connecting with brands via mobile in-store.

An effective digital handshake counteracts all that by offering insight that no purely physical or digital interaction can match.

Once brands and retailers stop thinking of online and offline as two channels that never interconnect, then they’re well on the way to delivering the unified experience that their consumers expect and will replace that limp wrist with a firm, helpful handshake, whether that’s in retail or elsewhere.

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