Customer Experience in Retail - A Match Made in Heaven
Brought to you by WBR Insights
For some time now, industry commentators have been sounding the death knell for the brick and mortar retail industry.
Due to the low prices, expanded choice, and global nature of the ecommerce sector, it is becoming increasingly difficult for physical retailers to remain competitive.
However, consumers of all ages still say going to physical stores to make purchases is their first choice, including 62 percent of Baby Boomers and 58 percent of GenZers, and those retailers which are thriving in this status quo are doing so by turning their focus to one factor - customer experience.
It's this concept that allows physical retailers to offer their customers unique experiences that are more difficult to recreate in the online space.
Inversely, poor customer experience can be detrimental to a retailer. In fact, recent research from the United Kingdom estimates that retailers providing a sub-par customer experience are losing around PS102 billion (~$125.6 billion) each year.
So, what is inherently different about the physical retail shopping experience that consumers simply cannot get when shopping online?
What are the sorts of things the most successful retailers are putting out there to keep customers off their computers, tablets, and smartphones, and continuing to walk through their doors?
As we move inexorably towards the third decade of the 21st century, it probably won't surprise you to learn that digital technology is playing a serious role in this game.
The number of retailers using artificial intelligence has jumped from 4 percent in 2016 to 28 percent in 2018 and they're expected to spend $7.3 billion on AI by 2022.
This technology is helping retailers provide more personalized experiences than ever before by taking data from things such as loyalty cards and using it to build sophisticated buyer personas and offer recommendations based on previous interactions with the brand.
Thanks to developments in omnichannel analytic technologies, data from the customers' online interactions can also be brought into the fold to create a single unified experience.
Augmented reality is another aspect of digital technology which is empowering retailers to provide amazing customer experiences to their discerning clientele.
In fashion stores, AR-powered changing room mirrors can provide customers with the ability to access more information about the products they're trying on, request assistance from a store associate, and even view the item in different colors.
Smart shelving can display dynamic pricing and inform store associates when stocks are running low - making sure shelves are always well stocked and removing the frustration that comes with consumers not being able to find the product they were looking for.
Smart shelves can also work in conjunction with the customer's own smartphone through digital shopping lists. The customer creates a shopping list using the store's app and gets notifications when they are near their selected products in-store.
Beacons are also playing a role in this experiential transformation. Low energy Bluetooth devices placed at strategic points around the store can deliver custom promotions and offers to customers' smartphones when they are close by.
Proximity marketing, as it's known, has risen in prominence in the last couple of years and we're now seeing some interesting applications.
For example, beacons can be used to run special treasure hunt contests - perfect for toy shops or other child-orientated stores - where people get clues delivered to their smartphones as they locate each one.
Those worried about security needn't be concerned. Beacon functionality is only made available to consumers who have installed the brand's smartphone app or given permission in some other fashion to receive the notifications.
All this digital technology is well and good, and we all love hearing about and experiencing these amazing innovations. However, there is one aspect of the brick and mortar retail experience that isn't related to technology and cannot be replicated in the ecommerce space - flesh and blood human beings.
Your staff is the front line of your business. They are best positioned to drive incredible customer experiences for your brand. Make sure your employees understand the importance of customer experience and do everything they can to make the customers who walk into your store feel like visiting royalty. Of course, technology can help with this as well.
Allowing your staff to serve customers using tablet computers is a great way of making their experience better. Being able to check out there and then without having to wait in a checkout line will make the shopping experience more pleasant and helps create an omnichannel amalgamation of online and physical store experiences.
Technology is helping physical retailers meet the customer experience expectations of their clientele. However, it's by combining technology with amazing, passionate, and motivated store associates that you can truly achieve next-generation customer experiences.