Black Friday and Cyber-Monday, the two biggest retail events occurring every year in November, are still expected to happen in 2020 throughout Europe and across the world, however, with a new, more carefully planned commercial approach, focused on the logistics of these seasonal events.
Catalyzing huge crowds in store, hungry for must-have items and attractive discounts, or fulfilling vastly massive amounts of orders placed through e-commerce channels have always represented both an opportunity, as well as a challenge for retailers. How to plan adequately the stock? How to control margin erosion versus price discounts? Can customer service meet the expectations of shoppers? How to ensure a streamlined management of returns and refunds? How to make brands stand out from the arena?
These are all compelling issues that retailers normally face during November and, later, during December with the various holiday shopping events. This year, the usual complexity factors-in an additional variable, the one of safety (with all that this implies in terms of compliance with anti-contagion policies, such as social distancing and sanitisation of customer-facing spaces) and the one of an unpredictable demand, due to the recessive consequences of an economy that has been undoubtably hurt by this pandemic. A recent research from Channable highlighted a resistance, from 70% of shoppers surveyed, towards visiting physical stores with the same level of presence compared to previous years, while online commerce is expected to grow by 59% this year, compared to the same period in 2019.
Managing crowds of shoppers effectively and where they are more active, therefore, will need to be planned and accounted for way before any issues can manifest in store or online.
The winning strategy will be spacing out shoppers across all available online and physical channels before and after peak dates, to reduce the in-store presence but also order fulfillment disruptions, without failing to monetize the seasonal buzz but orchestrating multiple omnichannel touchpoints around customers. Computer Vision in the stores will play a crucial role, as it provides a foundational level of diagnosis and a benchmark of store performance, on top of which retailers can make the necessary arrangements to gear up their stores as needed, with additional automation solutions, and that can be perfectly comparable with the KPIs of any online presence.
Retailers who look for a robust, flexible and interoperable store analytics solution will find in the Advantech suite a perfect ally, comprising a footfall/heatmap analysis edge server solution compatible with multiple optical sensors (counting camera’s, fish-eye camera’s but also RTSP/ONVIF IP Cameras, as well as lidars). The accuracy offered by its Intel OpenVino AI technology can be appreciated not only in unique body detection/body tracking (anonymised and perfectly GDPR compatible) but goes as far as into zone mapping/geofencing, gender detection, dwelling times/rates, identification and deduplication of returning visitors, u-turn tracking in entrance/exit and other KPIs, that can be visualised on a dashboard, and exported via REST API and/or integrated with additional datasets such as POS/ERP data.
By collecting daily insights on numbers of visitors, their conversion rates at POS and the way they roam and dwell around the store, retailers can understand and predict how their shoppers’ behavior reacts to promotions and merchandise assortment, but also how the stock should be planned and allocated.
release promotional discounts way before Black Friday. Test one-off discounts on selected items to understand how price, stock and margin will work altogether within a certain product category and around certain weekdays. This will also allow for more granular Just-in-Time (JIT) stock planning.
if your heatmaps show hot areas around specific promotional items and these seem to convert well into sales, space out those aisles and make them bigger, to avoid navigational roadblocks and allow for more capacity around Black Friday peak days. Where possible, implement pay and go solutions to expedite check out for items that sell well at scale. Conversely, where dwelling time is high, but this does not translate into proportional sales, review brand strategy and act, where possible, on marketing levers such as price packaging, positioning or move out those items into more peripheral areas of the store that do not interfere with best-sellers. Digital Signage in those areas (whether for product recommendation or real-time advertising) can be of help to lead more indecisive shoppers toward the cashier and maximise sales potential.
Empower your ecommerce touchpoints to help shoppers make up their mind at home, if they plan to visit the physical store to buy. Wishlist’s, Click and Collect Orders, Curbside pickup or Virtual Concierges can help reduce hesitation and expedite check out, reducing congestions.
Finding correlative patterns across footfall, demographic profile (such as age and gender), conversion rates and dwelling time can further guide retailers into customising their offers for the segments that matter.
Brand and store managers will need to sit together during this season and exchange data. Cross-comparison of store data with targeting strategies applied into online advertising can mutually inform physical stores and ecommerce assets. AI can be used on historical data to analyse such patterns down to the single branch of a chain and predict new trends based on track records of multiple signals.
Where store analytics show “dead” area’s with low rate of sales per square metre or, reversely, where dwelling is high, interactive kiosks can both revive engagement or also streamline customers assistance, reducing manned operations and staff cost.
Do not forget social media as a channel where you can potentially “discharge” the volume and weight of those shoppers who could be expected to significantly crowd brick and mortar premises. Make items shoppable directly from Instagram and visual searches or other UGC offers a contextual and targeted arena where brands can avoid cannibalisation.
Monetising on Black Friday this year will require retailers’ ability to adjust and calibrate their offer and capacity in very short timeframes, to adjust to the uncertainty of shoppers behaviour and external threats. Abandoning a fragmented view of the retail business and conceiving the customer as the one and only sales channel, to be access by both online and physical touchpoints, will be the winning mindset to make the most out of this shopping season.
IoT Solutions Development Consultant | Retail & Healthcare |Tech Data Europe