Technology is rapidly disrupting the world of retail and sales. Five years ago, companies may have been able to sneak by without a social media presence or a website. Now, this is becoming significantly harder. Companies that don’t have an online presence may be losing out on substantial potential income.
Wondering how to use technology to revolutionize your sales? Take a look.
Big box stores often have retail apps that allow customers to browse inventory, check store hours, contact store staff, and more. Small companies might assume that using apps is impossible for them; after all, creating an app is expensive, and with fewer customers, the return on investment might not be sufficient.
There are companies, however, that have ready-made apps that may work for businesses or other apps that companies can piggyback on. For example, while a restaurant may not need an entire app, they could join an app that lets customers reserve a place in line before they leave for a restaurant, like OpenTable. A simple app could also distribute a podcast or vlog that intrigues customers.
Chatbots on Facebook Messenger
Customers expect there to be rapid—if not immediate—responses to their inquiries on social media. In general, if they do not get an immediate response, they will abandon their inquiry, which often means going to your competition. But keeping someone on Facebook Messenger all day is expensive and impractical. Instead of paying someone to monitor every social media channel, companies can use chatbots that they either create themselves or hire a programmer to create for them. According to experts, business messaging apps are used as much as 9 times a day by the average consumer. Chatbots can answer basic questions and forward more in-depth inquiries to customer service. This can help companies preserve those precious interested customers.
Deep learning—or artificial intelligence—are rapidly becoming a crucial force in marketing. After all, most websites sell a vast number of products; being able to recommend just the right item to a customer is a skill. In some ways, this is the most crucial piece lost when retail transactions move from the brick and mortar store to the web storefront. The human element is still important in sizing up what a customer is looking at and making a suggestion about what they might like as well. In person, this process is called up-selling.
Deep learning is the process by which companies compile their big data and sift through it, finding patterns and trends that they can use to recommend things to customers that appeal to their interests. Big websites show these as “Also bought” or “you might like” links. Processing all that data is hard, however, and companies that don’t know how to do this are missing out. Yet some experts estimate that 85 percent of all customer interactions could be managed or improved by deep learning.
For all but the biggest companies, this kind of data analysis is too big to do in-house. Businesses are springing up, however, that will process this information for their clients.
Niches are more valuable
Before the web, companies that wanted to thrive needed to expand their market. Companies couldn’t survive if they catered to an incredibly narrow subset of clientele. Sometimes businesses could work through catalogs and mail order sales to survive, but with the need for foot traffic, most companies needed to be able to draw in a broad range of customers.
For modern companies, that’s just not true. As long as they understand how to target their marketing using social media, blogs, and message boards, businesses can connect to their niche audiences and serve their needs.
This is particularly advantageous to businesses because they can offer very specialized products and marketing to make sure that their ideal customer’s needs are being met. Although it’s still possible that a company might make its interests too narrow to find enough customers to survive, when the only real overhead is website maintenance, businesses have an easier time making ends meet.
Technology offers many different exciting options for businesses. From more efficient inventory management and less expensive register options to exciting marketing connections and website development possibilities, companies that embrace technology are going to do better than companies which continue to eschew the web options. Companies don’t have to get deeply involved to see the benefits. A simple website that offers hours of operations and directions to the store can help companies build foot traffic. A restaurant that puts its menu online can interest customers who are trying to figure out where to eat tonight. An owner-run blog can help invite audiences to the store and bring visitors in from social media.
When businesses are willing to disrupt their business model and try something new, they can often leapfrog the competition and create a new way of connecting with their customers.
Sam Meenasian is the Operations Director of USA Business Insurance and BISU Insurance and an expert in commercial lines insurance products. With more than 10 years of experience and knowledge in the commercial insurance industry, Meenasian contributes his level of expertise as a leader and an agent to educate and secure online business insurance for thousands of clients within the Insurance family.