Consumer and retail trends have been evolving more than ever in the last decade. New technologies in our everyday lives have increased the expectations that users have from all their service providers, retailers are not an exception. Although one might argue that retailers provide products and not services, the quality of the customer experience that they provide has a huge impact on the number of products they sell.
One of the major take away points from the NRF show this last January was that in order to be successful in today’s retail environment, retailers need to focus on improving their customer experience (CX). In fact, research by Gartner shows that over 80% of organizations within the retail industry expect to compete mainly based on customer experience this year.
The reasons behind this change of focus across the industry can be found in a study by Forrester. The results of the study showed that customer experience focused companies have 1.6x higher brand awareness, 1.9x higher average order value, 1.7x higher customer retention, 1.6x higher customer satisfaction rates, a 1.9x higher return on spend and 1.5x higher employee satisfaction.
Consumers themselves are a major reason for this focus within the industry. In fact, a report by Walker has found that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more if they get a great customer experience.
When talking about offering a great customer experience in 2019, one can’t avoid talking about retail technology. The reality is that today’s emerging retail technologies are set to become the cornerstone of customer experiences of the future. Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a consistent experience across all consumer interaction points are the main focus points of the major players in the industry.
Augmented Reality (AR)
In 2018 many retailers across different verticals have launched mobile AR applications that were focused on helping consumers experience their brand and products from the comfort of their homes. Placing virtual furniture into your real living room is a great way of selecting furniture that will fit and match your space.
Another interesting application of AR in retail is its use to enhance the in-store retail experience. In an interview with CMO.com, Mark Asher, director of corporate strategy at Adobe said, “I think we are already seeing a trend where retailers are trying to reinvigorate the brick-and-mortar experience”. “Building novelty through immersive experiences like AR is a great incentive to bring people out of their homes to the store or create a reason for traffic that’s moving by your store to come into the store.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
From customer service chat bots, search filters and suggested item lists, to facial recognition, personalized promotions and seamless checkout systems, AI is going to have a tremendous impact on the industry.
In the same interview Asher shared his thoughts on Artificial Intelligence, “AI is really going to matter in an impactful way in the next few years as far as delivering disproportionate impact,” he said, “because when you couple AI with machine learning, it can affect every aspect of the organization. There are ways for AI to help everyone do their jobs better, and it can even create new business opportunities”.
AI will also have a tremendous impact on the in-store experience. Think of Amazon Go, and its use of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning to detect when products are taken by a customer from a shelf and track them through a virtual cart. With this entire process being powered by AI, experts predict more retailers introducing smarter, AI based in-store experiences in 2019.
In today’s world consumers have a large number of shopping channels available to them. A retailer’s website, Amazon, Overstock, Google Shopping, eBay and Facebook being just a few of the options. In order to remain competitive, a consumer-oriented company needs to have a consistent presence across all these channels.
A study by New Voice Media has found that the main driver for consumers to feel emotionally connected with a brand, is their ability to have a consistent experience and contact with the brand through any channel. In addition, research by Aberdeen Group (via Internet Retailer), has shown that “companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared with 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies”.
In order to provide consumers with the seamless cross-channel experience they are looking for, retailers should pick an Omni-channel shopping platform that is robust and flexible enough to fit all their current and foreseeable needs.
Technology is going to keep advancing, and consumers are going to keep changing. If you would like to know more about the latest retail technologies and how they can be applied to increase your revenue and lower your costs, please contact us for a free consultation.