Do you remember when people thought digital commerce would fail because it wasn’t personalized enough? It is strange to think that, once upon a time, the longtime associate at your local store provided the personalized experience in retail. Times have certainly changed! While online merchants have taken advantage of technologies that personalize the online shopping experience, stores have fallen woefully behind. Online merchants won the convenience battle, but stores have an amazing opportunity to win on personalization.

According to the 2017 Boston Retail Partners POS/Customer Engagement Survey, “70% of retailers indicate customer identification is their top customer engagement priority.”

In-store customer identification can be broken down into three areas: the how, the what, and the why.

The How
When it comes customer identification in-store, traditional methods of customer lookup (telephone number, name, address, email and/or loyalty number) still top the list, but newer methods are starting to make their way into the store environment. According to the BRP survey, 43% of retailers have at least piloted in-store customer identification via Wi-Fi on a mobile device. Beacons are another way. They are little devices using Bluetooth technology that detect and communicate with nearby mobile devices. I like to think of beacons as a little electronic Elf on the Shelf – it sees you when you are showrooming, it knows when you’re on a social media break, and it sends you special promotions if you have been very nice.

The What
The point of identifying a customer in the store is to get information that helps you better understand the customer. How many times have you been trying to checkout while digging through your wallet, purse or phone to find a specific promotion? As customers, we want retailers to be able to access our targeted offers and discounts, which requires them to first identify us. For associates, customer identification is a no brainer and being able to identify the customer much earlier in the engagement is key.  Waiting until the ‘checkout’ to identify the customer is too late and by identifying a customer as soon as they walk through the door means  consultative selling becomes infinitely easier once you have insight into customers previous shopping history.

The Why 
Why should physical stores want to identify customers anyway? The ability to offer personalized offers and engage in suggested selling based on previous behavior are two of the main reasons. These ideas have been integrated for years in the digital space – and are getting more refined with advancements in artificial intelligence – but stores are still catching up. Consider that for the past several years, customers have had more information walking into a store, with a mobile device, than store associates.

Stores are faced with a great opportunity to make significant changes. Join Salesforce Commerce Cloud and BRP for a webinar on April 4 to hear more on store personalization and key findings from the 18th annual BRP POS/Customer Engagement Survey. Register below.