As part of Euromonitor International’s interview series, I had the pleasure of speaking with Nitin Mangtani, Founder & CEO of PredictSpring. Nitin Mangtani is Founder & CEO of PredictSpring, the first unified mobile platform powering seamless shopping experiences in the store and out of the store for brands. Nitin is a former Googler and visionary behind Google Shopping. Nitin led the Google Shopping team for 7+ years and helped scale the platform to hundreds of thousands of retailers worldwide. Prior to Google, Nitin was a founding member of data infrastructure group at BEA. BEA was acquired by Oracle for $8.5 billion.
With consumers empowered by technology, how do retailers need to help consumers with seamless product discovery in-store and online?
Consumers today want the fast, anytime, anywhere experience of shopping online with the personal connection of shopping in a store. And with the proliferation of mobile technology, this is possible.
For consumers, this means providing a fast and engaging shopping experience, and seamless checkout. For a brand looking to increase gross merchandise value (GMV) and lifetime value (LTV) from its most loyal customer base, the answer is an amazing mobile experience online and in-store. According to Kleiner Perkins mobile shopping apps experienced the highest growth in 2017 - with a 54% year-over-year increase in app sessions. There are many mobile app features that have fast become table stakes, e.g. the ability to do visual search, barcode scan, access store-level inventory, and being able to checkout seamlessly with Apple Pay.
Enabling in-store pickup is also imperative to make the customer shopping journey as convenient as possible. Consumers want flexibility in fulfillment. BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) provides the ability to reserve an item online and pick it up at any of the retailer’s physical locations. This option is convenient for the customer and drives foot traffic to the store, providing additional sales opportunities for the retailer. In addition, embedding a chat with a stylist in a mobile shopping app creates a one-on-one connection between the customer and associate, and provides exclusive access to a style expert. As the lines between commerce and experience blend, consumers expect more of a concierge-driven approach from brands. In fact, there is an opportunity for luxury brands to create more exclusive app experiences, tailored towards its top 10% customers and big spenders.
In the store, again, this is a mobile-first experience. This means adopting a store associate app that incorporates clienteling and a mobile POS. This ensures sales associates can enhance the purchase journey for customers by quickly and easily identifying the customer, providing access to real-time inventory both in-store and online, placing orders on behalf of customers if an item is not available in-store (by tapping into online inventories), accessing past purchase history to drive product recommendations and referencing customer loyalty status. In addition, a mobile POS provides a fast, line-free checkout from anywhere in the store. Store associates can further engage with customers with features such as appointment booking by providing top clients a one-on-one consultation.
How do you convert customers into the best advocates for your brand after a purchase?
It’s all about the experience. Customers convert to brand advocates when they encounter the best mobile experience on their devices and a seamless shopping experience in-store. If customers have to wait 30 minutes to checkout in a store they are not going to be your best advocates. You need to provide a fast mobile checkout to customers so that the in-store experience is delightful.
Brands also need to think about how to reward their most loyal customers. Loyalty members spend 5 - 20% more and purchase more frequently. Brands that recognize the importance of better serving their VIP customers will also be rewarded with higher customer retention and product feedback. Mobile apps are the best channel to highlight and showcase the loyalty program front and center. Loyalty is also very sticky. Customers love looking at their loyalty status in their mobile apps to glean insights into rewards, points and upcoming events.
What are the best attributes for a retailer to have in an empowered consumer world?
As brands and retailers are vying for the lion’s share of the retail spend, there are a few ways they can differentiate themselves in the eyes of the empowered consumer. One such way is to create a true omnichannel customer journey, where the consumer’s interaction with the brand is consistent regardless of how, when or where they engage.
Brands and retailers can leverage the power of mobile in three important ways.
First, retailers must focus on creating a powerful native mobile shopping app to incentivize loyal brand advocates. This experience needs to be fast and should encourage them to connect with the brand from their couch, and in the store. Via the app, consumers should be able to search product, live chat with customer support and professional stylists, make appointments, receive direct notifications and appointment reminders, get product recommendations, place orders, access, and shop from social feeds such as Instagram, and check loyalty status.
Second, consumers should be able to leverage this mobile technology as they shop in-store. This includes enabling omnichannel features such as loyalty, a barcode scanner to check inventory in-store and online and receive important geofence notifications when they are near the store, informing them of new products and promotions.
Third, brands must adopt mobile technology in-store and leverage sales associates as an extension of the brand to provide important clienteling services to customers. Clienteling, when coupled with a mobile POS in an all-in-one app experience allows brands and retailers to reconnect with consumers in a genuine and personal way while offering the speed and efficiency today’s consumer demands. Clienteling focuses on three important things:
- Information – customer information, such as wishlists, past purchases, sizes, likes and dislikes are all stored and are accessible with a simple tap. This information helps drive engagement and gives sales associates a “360-degree” view of their customer.
- Personalization – personalization is one of the best ways to improve the customer experience. By harnessing user data and engaging customers with tailored messaging and offers, retailers can not only enhance the shopping experience but can increase engagement and sales. Direct messaging in-app has also proven to be much more effective for product recommendations, promotions, appointment reminders, invitations, and loyalty program updates.
- Seamless Checkout – a recent study from Adyen highlighted that nearly half of all shoppers in-store will abandon a purchase if the checkout line is more than five minutes long. This frustration is costing retailers almost $40 billion each year. Retailers must offer their customers a counter-less mobile checkout that is fast and convenient.
Which retailer do you consider to be successful in an empowered consumer world?
M.Gemi, the leader in direct-to-consumer footwear, is hyper-focused on serving its customers with an exemplary omnichannel customer experience. In the store, M.Gemi equips its retail associates with mobile devices with a store app to enable sales associates to connect personally with customers as soon as they walk into the store. The associate can readily access past purchase history, product recommendations and notify the customer of upcoming promotions. Moreover, the associate can tap into store-level and online inventory to place an order on behalf of the customer, to seamlessly checkout with a wireless, modern POS.
Sephora does an amazing job with its consumer mobile app to engage with customers in and out of the store. The affordable luxury retailer has successfully enabled in-store shoppers with its app, incorporating many omnichannel features including a barcode scanner, image scanner, and the ability to make in-store appointments with a beauty advisor. Customers can also flash their loyalty card directly from their app when making an in-store purchase. The company’s loyalty program encourages repeat business and they understand the importance of omnichannel commerce and enabling the consumer to shop in and out of the store. This is further supported by its Beauty Insider Community, which bonds its loyal brand advocates.