Retailers Are Prioritizing Customer Identification in Stores for 2019 — Here’s How They Plan to Do It

Whether online or in stores, consumers today want a shopping experience that’s tailored to them. And retailers want to provide that — but doing so effectively doesn’t just mean feeding back ads for products they’ve looked at before or hiring sales associates to ask what they’re searching for.

In 2019, retailers will be focused on delivering the personalized service that 79 percent of shoppers say they crave, according to a new study from retail management consulting firm BRP. To do so, though, they’ll have to find innovative ways to identify customers across channels — including in brick-and-mortar stores, where shoppers  are usually anonymous until at least the moment they swipe their credit card.

Of the 500 North American retailers BRP surveyed, it found that just 25 percent have the ability to access any customer information before checkout, which can allow associates to offer recommendations based on past purchases, loyalty rewards and special promotions. With most shoppers today using their mobile phones while shopping in stores to check product information, compare pricing and check for promotions, mobile websites, apps and loyalty programs are among the most common ways for retailers to identify customers in real time.

The latter has become particularly popular in the past year, with 52 percent of retailers reporting that they’ve implemented mobile loyalty programs, up from just 32 percent last year (though the majority still say theirs could be improved). Beacon technology, which can identify and track customers in stores, is also increasingly prevalent: 2 percent of retailers said it is implemented and working well, and an additional 21 percent said it is implemented but needs improvement. Last year, no respondents said they’d mastered the technology, and 19 percent were still in the early stages of using it.

“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 includes personalized recommendations, loyalty rewards, coupons, discounts and promotions.”

Key to this will be offering more mobile capabilities in stores for both customers and employees: 36 percent of retailers said they’ve implemented technology enabling associates to use phones or tablets to complete transactions on the sales floor (though more than half still need improvement). Soon, more customers will be able to use their own device to check out, too: More than a third of retailers said they’ve either implemented customer-owned point-of-sale technology or plan to within the next 12 months.

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