Just a decade ago, personal shoppers were considered a luxury reserved for rich old ladies or busy executives who didn’t have time to go to a store or who wanted the red carpet treatment when they did set foot in a retail establishment.
But as with many things, technology is democratizing this experience that was previously the domain of high-end department stores and bringing personalized shopping to the masses.
And who better to cater to the masses than Microsoft, which is taking a lead in this space. Yes, the company whose desktop operating system is still the most popular in the world is now branching out to make sure your shopping experience is as tailored as a custom suit.
The company recently made a slew of announcements with merchants such as GameStop, Panasonic, HP, NCR and interestingly, restaurant chains Hardee’s and TGI Friday’s. The goal of this team is to “modernize the shopping experience,” which translated into everyday English means getting people into stores, getting them to buy goods and services and making sure they keep coming back for more.
Not an easy task when you can order just about anything online and get it shipped for free. Microsoft is banking on personalization as the key to getting people back into brick and mortar stores. For example, in the near future when you go into a GameStop location, you’ll have an ‘immersive’ experience, which seems to mean you can interact better with salespeople and products. At Hardee’s and TGI Friday’s, this new experience involves self-ordering kiosks and tablets used by servers to take orders and run payments.
The deals with Panasonic, HP and NCR revolve around point-of-sale systems, which will be designed to create personalized in-store experiences without compromising customer data.
This move by Microsoft seems to be part of a growing trend of customers looking to brick and mortar establishments for the experience they simply can’t get online. They can and do get better pricing online; what they can’t get even at Amazon is that personal touch, and that’s something retailers are desperate to change even as we hear horror stories like Target Canada shutting down all 133 of its stores. But even in this dramatic example, customers said they wanted to be loyal to the American chain’s stores north of the border but couldn’t when faced with empty shelves and little else to bring them back in.
This lesson has taught retailers a harsh lesson: even one misstep can seriously jeopardize their standing in the eyes of customers and negatively impact the bottom line. But by combining technologies such as analytics, advanced point-of-sale devices and the ability of customers to shop and pay through their mobile devices, they just might have the winning formula to increase foot traffic and keep it from walking out the door.