Contributed by Nanda Sibol, Director, Brand Strategy of Anthem

Nanda Sibol

The goal of business and marketing is to close the sale, and today we’re doing that by optimising the “right” offer and taking away any barriers to purchase in the moment, in turn simplifying the decision process. Why this focus? Because shoppers are demanding the right product (targeted) at the right price (best value) at the right place (online convenience or the in-store experience) and at the right time (immediately). While the business that seals the deal no doubt wins, the shopper is the ultimate winner with the spoils of a shopping victory that meets her needs with the least amount of hassle. From offline to online, we’re seeing examples of retailers using advanced technology to put together the “right” offers for these savvy buyers.

A retailer’s worst nightmare is when a buyer finds that right product at the right price but encounters an obstacle when trying to purchase. That can take the form of a shopper rethinking the purchase or encountering a long, daunting checkout line that makes the purchase not worth the wait. To overcome these barriers and avoid the lost sales opportunity, retailers such as J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, Costco, and Sam’s Club are arming their sales staff with mobile checkout devices. Shoppers no longer need to wait in line to pay, making it the “right time” and that much easier to close the sale.

A new technology, EyeSee, uses a camera with facial recognition software hidden in a mannequin to collect and analyse shopping patterns and demographics. The mannequins are made by the Italian company, Almax, and are currently in use in the U.S. and three European countries. It can be used by offline retailers to help them personalise offers and enhance sales: the right time depending on when there are more or fewer shoppers in store, the right place depending on traffic flow within the store, and the right products based on who is shopping.

On the e-commerce side, one of the basic issues is waiting for the product you ordered to arrive. Tackling that challenge is a new service aptly called eBay Now (available in San Francisco and parts of New York City) that provides same day delivery, often in less than an hour. Shoppers place orders with local stores using a smartphone app, and eBay uses a courier service to get it to shoppers at the right time. The $5 delivery fee also gets it to them at the right place whether it’s the office, gym, park or home. In essence, it’s now okay if you do leave home without it. For instance, let’s say you are at the park, it’s colder than you expected, and you don’t have any gloves. Place your order and eBay Now’s valet will deliver it to the park in under an hour.

It’s the job of the marketer to deliver this set of “right” attributes to the shopper. It requires a deep understanding of shopping behaviour from need states to occasions to trip types, and then simplifying the shopper’s purchase process. According to a study by the Corporate Executive Board, simplifying the decision process can result in increased purchase, customer loyalty, and recommendations to others — key metrics a marketer wants to influence. Therefore, the objective is to present the “right offer” and simplify the choice, thereby giving the shopper confidence in her selection.

Nanda Sibol is Director, Brand Strategy in the San Francisco office of Anthem, a global creative agency that actively connects brands with people by amplifying desirability—creating an insatiable thirst for brands from package design to brand campaign to drive brand performance.

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