How To Engage With Today’s Evolving Customer Base

In-Store Engagement

One of the most effective ways to engage in-store staff is to connect the store’s point-of-sale system to the customer-marketing platform. This reveals who the customer is, if they’re a loyalty member, what level they are at, what their favorite products are and more. Store associates can use this wealth of data to engage the customer and enhance his experience in the store, like letting him know that one of his favorite wines just arrived but hasn’t been stocked yet.

“In the same manner, customer data allows the store associates to introduce products the customer may like since they have visibility to their purchase history,” Harrington says. “For example, asking them if they liked the bottle they bought during their last visit and recommending a similar brand can provide tremendous value to the consumer beyond merely purchasing a product. It creates a connection to the store and enhances their affinity and loyalty.”

While retailers should always train staff to be personable, friendly and interact with customers, technology also plays a big role when it comes to improving in-store engagement. In addition, proper in-store engagement can help retailers upsell products, while guiding customers through the beverage selection process.

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Caitlin Croswell, director of marketing and e-commerce at Latitude Beverage Company, says that ultimately, the majority of alcohol purchases take place in store, so engaging at the point of purchase is essential.

“Alcohol, particularly wine, can intimidate customers as they are not sure what to buy, and are in need of a helpful resource to answer their questions and offer advice,” Croswell says. “Lack of knowledge or familiarity can be obstacles to purchase, so one of the most powerful steps you can take to aid a purchase is to help customers better understand your products and the overall landscape to put them at ease and make them feel more comfortable with a purchasing decision.”

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Looking Ahead

As we move into a more digital age, even the way we pay for items is becoming more automated. Herian stresses that while analytics and social media are making small businesses more personalized than ever, human interaction will arguably remain the ultimate customer experience, and the key to strong customer engagement.

“Consumers like to frequent businesses that fit their needs, preferences, personal interests and lifestyles, but many still appreciate a more personal connection to the places that they shop and the owners of those stores,” Herian says. “Even though technology cannot replace that human element of interaction, it can help provide valuable tools that help retailers create better and more personalized communications with customers, ultimately driving sales for the business.”

Lisotta is seeing that younger generations are overwhelmingly changing the way retailers market their company. Instant gratification is sought out by most Millennials, whether they are aware of it or not.

“Long term loyalty programs will no longer suffice to keep customers engaged and companies will need to pick up the pace to stay relevant in the retail industry,” she says. “Consumers have already started to not only shop by price or product, but also by the added value provided from great customer service and integrated lifestyle marketing. Customer engagement has only just begun.”

Digital Engagement

Today’s digital environment creates multiple touch points to engage and connect with customers. Social media, for example, takes business awareness beyond just the storefront and exposes it to a wider audience. It also allows retailers to keep a close eye on universal customer trends and specific shopping behaviors, which can be incorporated into overall digital marketing strategies.

According to Lisotta, social media creates opportunities for customers to build their presence and promote your brand. “Whether it’s sharing information or having customers share their interest in your brand, it is important to remain present on a digital platform,” Lisotta says. “Customer expect constant communication with their brands despite location. Being not only available, but interesting via social media is important in retaining their loyalty.”

Thanks to social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, advertisers can now target more accurately than ever and are able to reach potential customers who haven’t even stepped in the store.

“With Facebook, once a retailer knows who its typical customer is, advertising the platform enables them to find more people like that customer, and reach them with a campaign that will pique their interest,” Croswell says. Social media networks also enable retailers to have real-time conversations with customers who prefer using social platforms to communicate experiences and ask questions immediately in lieu of an inquiry email or contact form. Additionally, social media provides an opportunity for retailers to create a free flow of information to alert fans or potential fans about tastings, new products and more.

“Retailers can take advantage of the fact that mobile has increasingly played an important role in purchasing behavior,” Herian says. Customers can now easily turn to their phones or tablets to receive or look up various promotions or compare competitors’ prices on the spot while in-store. Retailers can anticipate this and incorporate their business’ most interesting traits, such as the ability to match prices, promote sales or communicate products that are out of stock, and incorporate them into digital marketing efforts.

Harrington says the key with digital is to get consistent with your frequency, message and channel and to focus on conveying engagements that provide value to the recipient, like best-selling microbrews, five beers you haven’t tried (but should) or best winter ales. It doesn’t have to always be about a discount or coupon.

“Effective digital engagements vary based on the business and customers,” Harrington says. “While email often works for some brands, it may not for others. It’s critical for the brand to talk to customers to understand how the channels they engage and to test elements of the engagement—messages, offers, channels, etc. There’s no silver bullet, but the retailers that listen, learn and get consistent are typically the most successful with digital engagement.”

Retailers also should take advantage of everything that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms have to offer in order to effectively engage with and create meaningful bonds with their shoppers.

Russell Zack, senior vice president of products and solutions at HelloWorld says a mobile app is an ideal way for a regular customer to track previous purchases, check balances on rewards, or look up specials and recommended brands to try based on previous purchases.

“In-app messaging is especially effective for personalized offers to the consumer who is using the app, as it has the immediacy and context of time and place,” Zack says. “Email is great to use to notify customers of promotions and offers that are going on for a specific timeframe. Social media can be used to find out about new available products, to power promotions via cooperation with different brands and find out how others are consuming and interacting with the product.”

Maura Keller is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor. She writes for dozens of publications on a variety of business-related topics. When not writing, Maura serves as executive director of the literacy nonprofit, Read Indeed.

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