How wearables and location-based marketing engages Millennials before and after the sale

Posted July 26, 2016

WearablesGenYThe promise of wearable technology increasingly relies on integration – even partnerships – between retailers and manufacturers to engage distracted consumers.

In 2014, a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that Millennials — people between the ages of 18–34 — were 55 percent more likely to own wearable technology than those in an older demographic. PwC updated its findings this year in The Wearable Life 2.0, and the study suggests that many people who try out certain wearable devices end up not using them nearly as much as they thought they would — in many cases abandoning them altogether.

The good news, however, is that PwC also found that some makers of consumer wearables were successful at boosting and sustaining engagement after the novelty of a shiny new object waned. “For a wearable to be ‘sticky’ in tech parlance, it needs monetary or other rewards attached to it. Like loyalty points. That’s what 8 out of 10 current users — particularly women and Millennials — told us,” the report reads.

As retailers vie to attract the lucrative Millennial market, more and more of them are looking for ways to incorporate wearable devices into targeted mobile advertising campaigns. Those that partner with wearables manufacturers to implement thoughtful engagement strategies, often including deals and discounts, stand to garner a much greater share of wallet.

And those retailers that continue to engage customers after the sale through great customer support unlock even more value – and increased loyalty.
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The coveted back-to-school shopper

Although many demographics have moved to online shopping for certain items, other consumer markets, like back-to-school shoppers, still do a lot of shopping in-store. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that in 2014 parents of K-12 students, on average, spent $670 per child in back-to-school clothing and supplies.

College students, the NRF study continued, are also big spenders in this area. Young adults heading back to college, were expected to spend $916 per capita. These college-aged consumers are in the prime Millennial demographic — and often do their shopping themselves. With K-12 and college combined, the NRF projected that back-to-school sales would amount to more than $75 billion in the United States alone.

Despite their large basket size, back-to-school shoppers are always looking for the best deals. “Back-to-school shoppers are price-oriented, seeking out coupon codes, promotions and early-bird sales,” says Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst and consumer insights director at Prosper Insights & Analytics. She also states that it’s second nature for Millennial shoppers to check for coupon codes or to comparison shop online while inside a brick-and-mortar store.

Loyalty points, then, aren’t the only way to a Millennial’s heart. Timed incentives such as short-term promotions — particularly targeted ones, informed by a customer’s shopping or search history — can also help deliver shoppers to store doorsteps. Location-based marketing using smartphones and wearables, on the other hand, helps seal the deal.

Using wearables to personalize the in-store shopping experience

Targeting wearable-wearers and luring them to your retail location is only half the battle, though. Once you’ve got shoppers through the door — then what?

Beacons, for the uninitiated, are in-store machines that know who you are. Placed inside retail locations, beacons connect to your smartphone, smartwatch or whatever other connected device you happen to be wearing when you walk into a store.

For example, if you’ve got the CVS pharmacy app on your phone and you happen to walk by a CVS, you may get a push notification or text alerting you to 2-for-1 orange juice, toilet paper on sale for $3.99 or a special bonus loyalty points promotion.

Some apps aren’t necessarily interested in upselling you, though. Toronto-based startup Rover works with Canadian pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart to enable customers to read up on products. Can’t decide between Face Cream No. 1 and Face Cream No. 2? John Coombs, co-founder and CEO of the Toronto-based Rover, says the Shoppers app — with the help of beacons — can detect your position in the store and pull up information about the products you’re looking at in real time.

Some retailers, says analyst Goodfellow, have added QR codes on shelves to allow shoppers to get product information and reviews instantly. And Target’s Cartwheel app allows customers to scan a product’s bar code while in the store to get an immediate discount. Users also earn badges that unlock additional discounts so, the more they use the app, the more they save.

Since introducing the app in 2013, more than 25 million Target shoppers have signed up for Cartwheel and have saved more than $500 million, says company spokesperson Jamie Bastian. Target recently redesigned Cartwheel to include a “For You” section that offers personalized recommendations. “Our goal is to always help make shopping easier, and personalization definitely plays a role,” Bastian says.

Computer-assisted shopping, in tandem with the information collected by apps and wearables — search histories, length of shopping trip or average per-item or total bill amount, biometrics, among other data — can deliver a deeply personal shopping experience.

The post-shopping customer experience

An online Amazon order will trigger an email a day or so after delivery asking the buyer what they thought of the product and inviting them to leave a review on the website. Some retailers that sell on Amazon, such as consumer electronics and camera lens maker Aukey, will go the extra mile and send their own follow up with the terms of the product’s warranty.

Fostering a relationship with customers helps build long-term loyalty. When this principle is applied to a tech-savvy marketplace, however, it inspires confidence — this retailer has taken extra steps to get to know me — and helps turn connected shoppers into store and brand advocates.

Smart companies can also use wearables and mobile apps to invite consumers to test a new product, offer them a drink coupon when they’re thirsty or even send them a recipe that combines that afternoon’s grocery store purchases or in-cart items. When a customer places an online order, the retailer can send a notification to the wearable when the order is delivered to the customer’s home and follow up to ensure the correct items were delivered in good condition.

The data generated during the buyers journey also informs customer interactions with the contact center in the event of a problem or issue. Rather than be a drain on the customer-company relationship, those interactions can further build both loyalty and confidence.
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Use back-to-school shopping as a testing ground

For many retailers, back-to-school shopping is a golden opportunity to experiment with mobile advertising before the big holiday season. Back-to-school shopping is an opportunity to test the waters with new digital advertising and couponing, Goodfellow says. “Retailers are looking for creative ways to get ahead of the competition, reach core shoppers and attract new customers,” she adds.

The internet made finding cheap consumer goods easier, but it also tethered us to our computers. Wearables and mobile devices have freed us to explore the world around us, making now a crucial moment for brick-and-mortars. Now it’s up to retailers to figure out how they’ll marry local, in-store experiences with advancing technology.

After all, the internet may be convenient — but there’s no greater convenience than on-sale toilet paper when you’re running low!

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