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This text is adapted from interview originally published in French by Survey Magazine, find the link to original article HERE.

Customer Data Collection at the Point-of-Sale: Where Are We Right Now?

(Survey Magazine): What are the current tools to gather data about customers at the moment of purchase?

(Margherita Pagani): Different technologies allow new ways to collect data unobtrusively and understand consumer behaviour inside the store. The evolution of mobile devices with RFID codes, allow the customer, via their smartphone, to identify coupons and collect information about preferred products while shopping. Our research on this issue at EMLYON Business School Lifestyle Research Center is focused on the use of new kinds of tablets that customers can use while navigating in the supermarket and how they can provide suggestions about products and suggestions on screen (both video and text) but also track the path and time spent inside the store. The screen is attached directly on the shopping trolley – called Smartcart. In the future, this “smart” trolley would allow to track the products selected and put in the trolley and also to bypass the queues at cashier due to automatical mobile payment. The retailer has a new opportunity to leverage on a huge dataset stored in a cloud system that allows to know better the customers but also provide benefits to  the other core functions, for example, logistics, reorder of the products, monitoring of the purchasing.

(Joonas Rokka) What many brands would like to know, but struggle to measure, is exactly this: how well their marketing activities direct customers towards their products inside the store. In contrast to regular shopping carts, Smartcart thus provides several novel ways to collect data, including movement and location-based, product-related, and customer satisfaction data. Notably, they record actual maps of shopper movement in the store via geolocalization. It also signals where they did not move, helping the shop manager to better design and optimize the store layout, presentation and experience.

(Survey Magazine): How can the purchasing behaviour be influenced (techniques, practices…)?

(Margherita Pagani): The customer behaviour inside the store is influenced through the experiences they live. New technologies aim to create new experiences which pertain to the personal dimension (how useful, easy to use…) but also the social dimension (how pleasant and social the experience is). In our study, we specifically investigate the personal engagement resulting from customer experiences of using the new technology. In particular, we studied how the use of Smartcart tablet shapes these experiences and their impact on brand awareness, preference and trust. Augmented reality, virtual reality, robotization and other emerging technologies equally have the same goal to enhance the total value offered.

(Joonas Rokka) Smartcart is essentially a recommendation tool. It provides suggestions and helpful advice to the shoppers in the store, both based on their search behaviour but also their movement in the store. At the moment, it gives product recommendations, special offers, and also inspiration for cooking recipes. For example, marketers can choose to trigger a recommendation or content on the screen when the customer moves into a desired area in the store or when they search a specific search word. Since consumers perceive only a very small number of brands during their shopping trips – on average, we estimate them to perceive only 0,3% of all available products – Smartcart can offer increased visibility. Based on our research, 20% of content recommended on the screen was perceived by the shoppers. This is an important difference in the light that on average customers buy every fourth product they consider in the store.

(Survey Magazine): Could you tell us a little more about your findings, especially about the use of the tablet?

(Joonas Rokka): Our study on Smartcart tablets suggest several advantages for in-store data collection: for instance, movement-specific, product search, and store satisfaction data. Smartcart functions as a “Google” of the store – perhaps its most important benefit. This generates a lot of data about the products that consumers are looking for. For us, it is highly important for the store manager to know this, and especially the kinds of products that are not readily in stock. Finally, after each shopping trip the tablet asks the customer to indicate their satisfaction. All of this data, is uploaded and could be analyzed in the cloud.

(Survey Magazine): What are currently the new technologies and solutions for gathering data?

(Margherita Pagani): There are different technologies and tools to collect data. Asking the customer to interact with a device (tablet, smartphone, or tactile screen) inside the store allows a detailed account of their shopping trip and purchase action. Related solutions include social media services like Foursquare, in which customers are asked to log in when entering the store. This is the case of StarbucksH&MGAP and others. In these cases, the company offers a monetary or social compensation in exchange for data that they can collect. The data can be retrieved and analysed via CRM systems and communicated within the organisation towards better, personalised customer experience.


Further information:

Margherita Pagani is a Full Professor of Digital Marketing at Emlyon Business School and Adjunct Professor at Bocconi University, Italy. Her current research examines consumer experiential engagement in mobile marketing, social media, IoT, privacy and new business models in digital ecosystems.

Joonas Rokka is Associate Professor of Marketing at Emlyon Business School and Director of Lifestyle Research Center. His research is on branding, consumer experience, and new media.

Smartcart Ltd., is a start-up company based in Finland, and a research partner of Lifestyle Research Center at emlyon business school. Smartcarts can be found in over 40 cities and in 60 large and mid-size supermarkets in Finland.