There is no getting away from the fact that consumer expectations are higher than ever when it comes to their buying experience, be it an online sale or a physical transaction taking place within a brick and mortar shop.
However, retailers have been slow to adopt and integrate new and emerging technologies. The result? High street businesses shutting up shop. Just take the recent announcement by British favourite, Marks and Spencer, which revealed that due to falling sales figures, it will be closing 100 of its stores by 2022.
Whilst a variety of factors contribute to the overall success of retailers, embracing technology as the agent of change for a digital transformation of their business, and ultimately a superior customer experience, will be essential. Here we look at some of the ways in which retailers can make better use of technology, to keep up with modern expectations and consumer demand.
Making the most of what you’ve got
Retailers can gain access to an abundance of insightful customer information that will help them better tailor their customer experience, if collected and analysed in the correct way. Of course, with GDPR in play, it’s important that customers are given the choice to opt in to sharing their information. However, it is increasingly common for customers to be more than happy to divulge their email address in order to receive an electronic version of their receipt.
This information can also be used to provide a customised shopping experience and satisfy customer needs in a more advanced and tailored way. Collecting data through in-store point of sale (POS) applications enables retailers to build a rich profile of each customer and access a deeper level of understanding for purchasing patterns and preferences, through which custom marketing and positioning can be deployed within the store, on mobile devices and during their in-store experiences.
Augmented reality, AI and ML – the trio for success
Technologies like augmented reality (AR) can become a competitive differentiator for retailers. Applications that provide an AR experience empower customers to make informed buying decisions. Take furniture purchases – being able to visualise how the sofa that a consumer is interested in may look within their own lounge could make or break the sale.
AR apps can deliver a first-hand look at the presentation and even offer alternative suggestions based on a simple picture of a customer’s room. Retailers can then boast a far more informed customer experience resulting in high satisfaction and a collection of invaluable purchasing data throughout the process. Using machine learning to track that consumer and personalise their experience with the retailer can also reduce return rates and encourage repeat purchase.
Putting customer-centric applications first
Keeping customers engaged through a personalised shopping experience will be key to developing customer loyalty. Personal shoppers have been around for years, however, many consumers have not wanted to pay the additional premium for their services. Now through advanced technology, retailers can offer a digital personal shopping experience at no cost to the consumer.
Applications that allow users to see other clothing options that might suit them based on their previous purchases and other types of applications that help to develop a truly customised experience by interpreting user behavior and patterns to present products that satisfy the preferences of consumers, will keep shoppers coming back to repeat purchase.
Personalised apps when implemented correctly can also help provide recommendations for purchase, based on consumer insights and eliminate “basket abandonment” rates, thereby improving sales efficiency and overall profitability.
But none of this can work unless your network can support the tech
All the technologies and applications highlighted can be great for retailers hoping to transform the customer experience. However, you can have the most exciting and cutting edge technology within your store but if when it is slow and awkward to use, when put into practise, the whole customer experience will suffer.
In order to make the implementation of these kinds of innovative technology a success, there is also a need for increased visibility for the IT teams, to insure what is being deployed is performing well and meeting service expectations. If retailers cannot see what is happening with this transformative tech and applications, they will be unable to properly manage, measure, and support it.
Any success will also depend on the ability of a store’s network to ensure the technology is able to run effectively. Handling the deployment of applications, ensuring continued performance during spikes in customer activity, delivering available and high performance Wi-Fi for customers and employees, and ensuring a real-time and seamless experience, are all dependent on a modernised network and full visibility at all times.
Ensuring there is a strong network infrastructure in place will allow retailers to embark on a successful digital transformation journey, resulting in an advantageous digital shopping experience.
Paul Higley, regional vice president at Riverbed Technology, which delivers a complete view – from end users, to networks, to infrastructure to applications – to help customers reach new levels of performance and gain a competitive edge.