Bringing E-commerce like capabilities to Brick-and-Mortar Stores for Shopper Engagement

By Ifti Ifhar, CEO – ComQi

Brick and mortar retailers could slow the erosion of their businesses by e-commerce platforms if they had better ways to understand shopper behavior and increase the probability of sales.

The key is getting shoppers engaged with the store and brand, and borrowing on some of the techniques used by online platforms.

Think about it … when someone like my millennial daughter walks into a clothing store, browses the floor, maybe even tries something on, and then leaves without making a purchase. Apart from security videos and maybe some sensors, the retailer has no record of the visit. The retailer doesn’t know that she was there, what she tried on, why she didn’t buy, or what really interested her or turned her off. Nothing. She’s a ghost.

On the other hand, when she goes online to that same retailer’s website, the online marketing team learns a lot about her through her sign-in, and by tracking her movements and preferences through the site via cookies.

The online team knows about her, and how she fits in the macro story and profile about the retailer’s customers.

There’s a tendency to shrug off the brick and mortar side because of the marketplace noise about physical retail dying and all shopping going digital. A shift that way is directionally happening, sure, but it will take many, many years before physical stores even come close to giving way to online shopping.

Consider this: 92% of retail sales are still conducted in brick and mortar stores, and the erosion that’s happening is meaningful but slow. About half of one per cent of shopping migrates from physical to virtual stores each year.*

The National Retail Federation says the supposed retail apocalypse is a myth, noting there has been a net increase in the US of more than 4,000 store openings in 2017. For each company closing a store, says the NRF, 2.7 companies are opening stores.**

That noted, e-commerce IS a real issue and physical retailers face some big challenges, notably:

  • How do they initiate and deliver digital interactions with shoppers when they walk through the door?
  • How do they mine and then leverage the same kinds of valuable data generated by online selling?
  • How can shoppers be incentivized to make a purchase … in the store, and not later online?

Our company, ComQi, works with a lot of top tier retailers on shopper engagement solutions. Based on more than a decade of experience, wide install base and robust technical platform, we’ve developed a solution that addresses the core need:  Incentivizing the store shopper to engage with a dedicated touch-screen/kiosk and get time limited coupons and targeted promotions to their cell-phones. An opportunity for them to get a discount right here and now.

ComQi-Shopper-Engagement-Graphic (4)

Here it how it works, from the shopper’s view:

Step Shopper Activity
1 Shoppers walk into the store and see eye-catching promotional content such as discount coupons or a touch-screen/kiosk inviting them to sign up and get it right now.
2 Shoppers interact with the screen, enters contact details to instantly receive those promotions, such as limited-time discount coupons on their smartphones.
3 Shoppers receive an email or text with the coupon details on their smartphones.
4 Shoppers redeem the coupons at checkout.

This process is similar to an e-commerce website, which prompt visitors to sign up in exchange for incentives like discounts. Online, retailers are also after the email or mobile number, or social media handles.

The touchscreen works in a similar fashion, greeting the store visitors to enter their information (email or phone number) to receive the same discount on their smartphones.

Using touch displays, retailers can also reinforce their brand and create an experience that mirrors the online one. Retailers can bring e-commerce-like capabilities into the brick and mortar store by capturing the store visitors’ data. It’s not very different from frequent shopper cards.

However, in this scenario, visitors identify themselves at the beginning of their journey versus at checkout.  Clearly, if you know who is in your store when they enter, retailers will be in a much better position to serve them, and themselves, in the process.

That increased customer service comes in the forms of convenience, product availability and both personalized and contextualized interactions. Today’s consumers want information that is relevant to them, and also that is readily accessible – preferably on their smartphones. ComQi’s shopper engagement solution helps retailers do just that.

This is what’s happening behind the screens with a ComQi shopper engagement solution:

Step Description
1 ComQi’s content management system (CMS), EnGage, organizes, schedules and publishes promotional content – such as images and videos – to the touchscreens. The CMS is also used to monitor the on-going operation of the screen and to alert store operations when they need servicing.
2 The touchscreen displays eye-catching promotional content, such as current specials and promotions.  The viewer is invited to interact with the touchscreen to get a coupon, prompted and guided by on-screen animation.
3 The shopper interacts with the content onscreen, exploring the various offerings the store has configured to display.  And the on-screen keyboard enables a shopper to enter a phone number or an email address.
4 Compliant with privacy requirements and the retailer’s policies, EnGage is triggered to send the shopper a coupon using MMS (SMS with embedded urls and images) or an email.  All communication with the consumer can be configured and designed by the retailer
5 The shopper can access these coupons on their smartphone now. The coupon can be time- or availability-limited … for instance, only redeemable that day or only 2 in stock … in order to incentivize immediate purchase or can be used on a later date & online as well.
6 EnGage also updates the retailer’s CRM database with data on shopper touchscreen interactions.

Clear Benefits

  • A non-intrusive way to engage with shoppers (not customers yet!) in a brick-and-mortar stores.
  • A non-intrusive way for a retailer to identify store shopper (by e-mail/mobile #), visit time & location and merchandise interest, all recorded into the retailer’s CRM for further action.
  • Increased probability of converting a store shopper into a customer.
  • Using digital touchscreens ensures that content changes can be made quickly, flawlessly and efficiency for better relevance

The fight between physical and virtual retail is real, but these are the early days. Bricks and mortar has many, many years of life in it, and if these retailers learn from and borrow from e-commerce, they can start to better understand their shoppers, and get them heading for the checkout instead of just looking.





Ifti Ifhar is the CEO for ComQi, a global provider of digital signage and customer engagement solutions. Ifhar has BA degrees in Economics and Accounting, as well as an Executive MBA.