Let’s imagine ourselves in the near future. What does your corner liquor store look like? Is there a robot stocking shelves or working the register?
At BevMo!, there is. NAVII is an in-store robot that looks at what inventory is missing from shelves. It alerts staff to restock products and engages with customers to help them find things around the store.
You may have trouble believing that a robot like this could help out in your store (much less run the entire operation). After all, humans are always going to be a vital aspect of sales and customer relationships. But robots — and the technology that makes them work — can help you sell more effectively and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
Robots are built using a few essential elements:
- The Internet of Things: “IoT” connects devices across the web so they can communicate data and automate processes.
- Artificial Intelligence: The ability for machines and devices to learn and perform “cognitive functions” similar to a human brain.
- Machine Learning: A subset of AI that allows machines and devices to “learn” through a set of rules and data, rather than explicit programming.
- Data: Facts, statistics, qualities and characters gathered through transactions and interactions.
And while the data gathered is incredibly important, it’s only useful when it is processed and put to use analytically.
Understanding and implementing these four elements forms a basis for the future of retail in the beverage alcohol industry. Consumer-focused and real-time analytics and technology can massively improve or even transform your store — as well as the stores of your competitors.
The idea of using analytics and technology to better your store isn’t new. In the past, analytics were implemented to look at store management, category management and products. Technologies, like POS systems, are a starting point for gathering store and consumer data, but without a means for analysis.
Today, every industry is shifting toward a deep understanding of the consumer. Technology and social media are putting a focus on the consumer experience, which can lead to richer engagement, more direct digital marketing and valuable e-commerce. But these tools don’t focus on customer buying habits and behaviors, which means you can only dive so deep.
As we move forward, you’ll be able to achieve that depth. Instead of focusing only on broad digital marketing and e-commerce tools, you’ll have interactive displays that are personalized for each consumer that walks in. These tools may be able to recognize the face of a customer, recall their purchase behavior, and then display specific products (and promotions) for them — all within a few seconds of entering the store.
The beverage alcohol industry is building toward an in-store experience as personalized and intelligent as that of the e-Commerce, giving people a reason to leave home to buy their alcohol rather than order from the couch.
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Many big retailers, like Amazon/Whole Foods and Total Wine, are already investing in this future. They are implementing smart technologies — like facial recognition software that makes shopping at Seattle’s Amazon Go store feel like walking in and out of your own (giant) pantry — and omnichannel experiences that could pull your customer base away from your store unless you can create a competitive experience.
Here are a few examples of how data-driven technology and analytics can improve your customer experience and, consequently, the success of your store:
- A customer likes to buy a specific brand of wine. In the past, they’ve entered your store simply hoping that it was in stock. Using their shopping data along with inventory updates, an automated, personalized email will be sent to alert them that the wine has been restocked. That email can show the customer where to locate the item on the shelves, too. The customer will enter the store feeling confident and catered-to, and will purchase the wine without frustration.
- Another customer comes in monthly and spends up to $500 preparing for a party or restocking their home bar. When they enter the store, technology recognizes them and pulls up their purchasing history. At the shelves, using smart displays, they’ll see personalized pricing for the items they want to buy. When they take their item and a different customer approaches, the pricing can dynamically change based on their profile.
- You can also observe basket adjacencies (items commonly purchased together), and lay out your store to make those paired purchases easier for shoppers. If you know the buying behaviors of customers when they shop and check out, and you’re able to record what is in each bag that leaves your store, you can start to identify patterns of product purchasing. With this data, you can create personalized promotions for items that often move together or rearrange inventory on the shelves.
All of this information — who your customers are, what they are buying and in what quantities and pairings, etc. — will live on one platform that effectively helps you run your store.
As the beverage alcohol industry continues to grow and evolve, business owners will have to invest in smart technology and data analytics. These tools will help you prepare for the future of the retail experience and compete effectively with forward-thinking companies, big and small.