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Smart Holiday Shopping: An Omni-Channel Customer Engagement Solution for Small Business Saturday

Posted on: November 22, 2018 | Posted by: Leo Merle

The season of holiday shopping is upon us. In the first post of our “Smart Holiday Shopping” blog series, we explored possibilities for in-store engagement on Black Friday; in this second installment, we’re shifting our focus to optimizing omni-channel customer engagement on Small Business Saturday.

For small businesses, competition is on the rise—particularly for brick-and-mortar shops that also do business online. These shops face increased pressure from trusted online-only retailers as well as large chain stores. Luckily, on Small Business Saturday, small shops have a chance to shine: in 2017, 108 million shoppers spent $12.9 billion at local shops on Small Business Saturday, and 35% said that they transacted online at local stores’ websites. This annual explosion of both foot and online traffic presents small businesses with the perfect opportunity to differentiate from the competition with enhanced, omni-channel customer engagement that spans both in-store and online experiences.

Let’s explore how small businesses can power robust customer engagement strategies that create true omni-channel customers—not only on Small Business Saturday, but throughout the entire year.

Small but Mighty

Unlike the enormous worldwide retailers, many small businesses operate in a specific geography or target a smaller segment of consumers with more focused offerings. With a tightly defined base of existing in-store and online customers, smaller retailers are already armed to really “know” their customers well and deliver meaningful, personalized shopping experiences. This puts them one step ahead when it comes to driving engagement and sales across all channels on Small Business Saturday.

But while small businesses have an enhanced ability to understand their customers’ needs, they still require a way to respond in-the-moment, acting on their omni-channel knowledge in order to drive sales and satisfaction both online and in-store. Once this real-time response is enabled, small business can deploy advanced customer engagement strategies. Consider the following scenario, for example:

Jim is running errands at a strip mall near his home. As he leaves the grocery store and heads to his car, he passes by a local hardware store. His phone buzzes with a notification: “Jim: Our Complete Toolset is 40% off for Small Business Saturday. Stop by and save!” Jim had been examining this toolset online a few weeks ago, but rarely visits the hardware store in person. However, intrigued by the price drop and just steps away from the shop, he decides to go in and take advantage of the sale.

These customer engagement strategies can also be deployed for online shoppers:

Emily has shopped in-store at a local clothing boutique near her office before, but never checked them out online. On Small Business Saturday, however, she receives an email from the boutique and decides to browse their sales online. Within minutes of tentatively adding an item to her cart, Emily receives an on-screen notification: “Emily, order in the next 5 minutes and save $5!” Pleased with the deal, Emily makes her first online purchase from the boutique.

How can small businesses enable such advanced, omni-channel customer engagement strategies personalized to their customers’ needs? The answer lies in intelligent customer engagement technology.

Intelligent, Omni-Channel Customer Engagement Technology

To thrive on Small Business Saturday and drive engagement throughout the year, small businesses require a smart Customer Engagement Hub (CEH) solution that leverages next-gen Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) models to optimize both online and in-store experiences, regardless of where they originate.

The key capability of these CEH solutions is their ability to determine a customers’ current intent, then intervene in real-time to engage them with content personalized to their context. In Jim’s case in the example above, the small business used Wi-Fi beacons to determine Jim’s location in-the-moment, then leveraged an ML algorithm that analyzed his recent browsing history and determined the most relevant offer for him in real-time. In Emily’s case, however, the boutique utilized her in-store transaction history and real-time clickstream data—analyzed in-the-moment with an ML model—to determine that she was unlikely to check out online without intervention. The CEH then triggered an offer that resonated with Emily in-the-moment, providing her with the highest possible discount while still preserving cart profitability for the boutique.

In both scenarios, the intelligent CEH was able to make an accurate prediction based on a customer’s history and real-time behavior—both in-store and online—in order to engage them in a meaningful way that also helped drive sales on Small Business Saturday.

Create Omni-Channel Small Business Customers

The benefits of an omni-channel customer engagement model on Small Business Saturday are numerous: higher sales, differentiated experiences, increased satisfaction, and much more. But for small businesses, one advantage stands out—the creation of omni-channel customers.

Omni-channel customers are consumers that are willing to engage online or in-store. They pick up their customer journey right where they last left off, regardless of their channel of origination, ultimately completing more diverse transactions with a small business. Now that customers already use an average of six touchpoints when buying any given item, the creation of omni-channel customers is easier than ever before.

Think back to the examples of Jim and Emily. While Jim’s journey began online when he browsed for toolsets via the hardware stores’ website, he ended up transacting in-store after receiving a location-based mobile notification. Emily, on the other hand, usually shops in-store, but was influenced to make a purchase online thanks to an urgency-based offer on the website. With the help of an intelligent CEH, both engagements resulted in the creation of omni-channel customers—the ideal outcome of Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday that promotes both online and in-store participation.

ZineOne’s AI-powered Customer Engagement Hub powers the omni-channel customer engagement strategies small businesses need to optimize Small Business Saturday sales. Learn more about how our solution works and the possibilities it holds for online and in-store engagement.