With mass store closures by Sears, Toys “R” Us and other major brands, conventional wisdom says brick-and-mortar retail has one foot in the grave.


Online sales make up just nine percent of all retail sales, according to a new Deloitte study. The study also found that brick-and-mortar sales are actually growing — to the point that they’re driving almost half of all retail growth.

Those findings highlight why retailers need a holistic view of their customers: one that spans their online and offline activities. In another blog post, I discussed why and how to apply that strategy when allowing customers to buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS) and return in store (BORIS). Now let’s explore how this strategy can drive sales in the first place.

Signs of the Times

Conventional wisdom assumes that digital signage’s reach and effectiveness are limited because shoppers — especially younger ones — are increasingly focused on their smartphones in stores.

But OutSmart’s research found that millennials trust digital signage over online ads. One takeaway is that the more retailers know about their customers’ online and mobile activity — for example, what they search for on a brand’s website — the better able they are to craft digital signage campaigns that leverage and influence that activity.

This strategy can be highly personalized and granular if the retailer lets customers opt in to sharing their activity. Suppose a customer searches for a product on the retailer’s website but doesn’t purchase it. The next time she’s in the store, she logs onto its Wi-Fi network, which is provided to enable wayfinding. Or maybe she stays on cellular service but uses the retailer’s mobile app to get the shopping list she created on the store’s website.

Either way, the retailer knows not only that the customer is in the store, but exactly which aisle, by tracking the Wi-Fi access points she’s connected to. When she’s near digital signage, the store can serve ads for the product that interested her. That reminder can drive sales that otherwise might not occur, such as with an in-store–only discount for that product.

At Your Service

This strategy also can use the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, Bluetooth beacons around a store can push e-coupons to this shopper’s phone when she’s in the right place at the right time. As my colleague, Aaron Lagowski, showed in a recent blog post, this strategy worked well for Redbox: Kiosk beacons alerted customers about new games and movies likely to interest them when they were shopping for ingredients for dinner rather than what to watch afterward.

For retailers, one big challenge is making all of these disparate technologies work together toward their business goals. That’s why they often choose a partner such as CDW, which has dedicated teams that work together to create a tightly integrated, turnkey solution customized around each retailer’s unique strategy.

Or look at it this way: We’re like personal shoppers for retailers who realize it’s time to tear down the wall between online and offline because brick-and-mortar isn’t going away anytime soon.

Visit CDW.com/IBM to learn more about transformative technologies.

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