Whether it's a Tesco Clubcard, Nectar points or a Boots Advantage card - most of us have a variety of loyalty cards in our wallet. But where did it all start? Can we even remember the days before loyalty schemes - and where can it go from here? Does the high street need to get much more sophisticated when it comes to gaining our loyalty and engagement? Well, thanks to new technologies being introduced onto the shop floor, we're set to see major changes in the way retailers interact with us.
Customer loyalty and engagement is an area of great interest to me, working in the real-time media technology world. The tactics retailers use on us have changed dramatically during and post-recession. Our demands as consumers have shifted as we have become more focused on tightening purse strings in the face of an unstable economy. I believe as the UK moves out of recession, we will continue to want retailers to engage us, but the plethora of loyalty cards and current tactics to gain our loyalty will bore us and more innovative ideas will need to cut through the clutter. Shoppers are fed up with being bombarded with endless email voucher offers and points cards aplenty.
Well, new technology means retailers will soon be interacting with us on a whole new level - almost with virtual assistants at the cash desk, providing deals and offers in real-time that are tailored to our specific needs. The cash desk is a previously unexplored opportunity and it is only a matter of time before retailers start using it to engage us, providing not only tailored deals but entertainment during this 'dead' time at the payment point - an inevitable point of interaction. Our personal preferences will be addressed, making us feel special and individually catered for.
Retailers will start to use this approach alongside their own infrastructure, which collates the information they use in their loyalty schemes, combining it other intelligent software and payment innovations to improve our customer experience. Imagine a tablet equipped with a camera and platform that can establish your age and gender, gauge your mood and then tailor a promotion specifically to you on the spot. This is the emerging technology available right now - and it's likely to be coming to a store near you soon!
Retailers want to upsell, cross-sell, gain our loyalty and feedback and this latest technology will allow them to do this. As consumers, it offers us a whole new experience in the retail environment. It makes the purchase process more enjoyable by embedding elements of gaming, for example offering money off vouchers for winning a game at the point of sale.
The personal approach makes us feel special, and therefore, we will engage further and get more out of the experience. This has already worked very successfully with real-time, online targeting. Bringing the same approach offline and into the retail environment promises great benefits to consumers. Convenience is key, and as innovations such as contactless payment are now emerging and being accepted, I believe this real-time approach to engage with us will also be embraced by consumers.
How retailers engage with consumers has come a long way in the last 10 years. There are some exciting developments at the moment - and while all this technology is still quite new, I have no doubt it will catch on quickly as stores begin to trial it and consumers reap the rewards.