Technology within the retail space has primarily served to ensure transnational moments were quick and efficient. Now, retailers have an unparalleled opportunity to go a step further and leverage data-driven and digital technologies to elevate the customer experience in more meaningful ways.
From creating new products to delivering specialized campaigns, machine learning, analytics and other technologies are empowering brands and retailers to understand their shoppers better and deliver differentiated, one-on-one experiences.
As customers’ expectations for best-in-class shopping increase thanks to the immediacy and personalized relationships crafted by retail upstarts and ecommerce giants, data-led intelligence is essential to thrive in this competitive landscape.
In the past, technology simply helped retailers do what they’ve always done, only better, faster and more effectively. Shopping is no longer a singular activity or a special destination—it’s always on and integrated into the fabric of our daily lives. With the world’s largest shopping mall in their pockets, customers can make a purchase anytime, anywhere.
Brands and retailers are supporting storefronts and experiences with a baseline level of data collection that analyzes and responds to customers’ micro and macro needs, in order to deliver a tailored and convenient “Wow” shopping experience at scale while gathering insights for the general business. By seamlessly integrating web and app-based digital channels into the in-store experience, retailers can not only elevate customers’ purchase journey, but power end-to-end omnichannel analytics capabilities.
“We’ve seen how technology can make online shopping more efficient, with lower prices, more selection and increased convenience. We are about to see the same thing happen to offline shopping” Hal Varian. Chief Economist, Google
Using synced Customer Relationship Management technology personalization and recognition across channels becomes the expectation among shoppers, retailers, and mall operators. Creating systems that ‘log’ customers into physical stores to trigger recommendations and in-store activations can inform associates to deliver personalized service.
2020 will be the year where it is virtually unnecessary to see, feel, or test a product in person before you feel confident enough to buy it, thanks to augmented reality.
We recently saw Toyota launch a new AR program that allows users to try out 10 of their cars without ever picking up the keys. Just as importantly, in my opinion, consumers didn’t have to download an app to try the experience--something that can be a huge deterrent for those of us burned out on downloading apps just to see if they’re worth downloading. Toyota is not the only company using this feature--far from it.
Companies like Target, Lowe’s and Amazon have found that augmented reality may be especially helpful in decreasing the number of returns they see from online shoppers. While e-tail will hit $5 billion in value by 2021, it is estimated that 25% of purchased items are sent back.
Augmented reality could mean retailers keep more of their sales because consumers more fully understand what they are buying at point of purchase.
Making It Easy--and Personal
Today’s shoppers do not just want their products fast, they want to be able to get information about them quickly. They want to go to your website and be able to compare prices, styles, delivery dates, see your recommendations of things they may like even more--preferably all on one screen. That’s why AI is so important in digital retail.
Consumers are constantly dropping hints at the types of things they like and want--and how much they want to pay for them. The savviest retailers will be gathering that information from endless sources like social media to IoT sensors and using AI and deep learning to make the shopping experience as easy and personalized as possible.
In digital transformation, consumers love a seamless experience. That’s why technologies like visual search and social shopping are going to skyrocket. Being able to take a photo of a dress you see someone wearing on the street, or to be able to click the purse that your favorite social media influencer is holding in her latest Instagram post are the things that are going to keep e-tail exploding in 2020. Again, AI is taking the lead in these technologies, making things like visual search possible.
From a platform standpoint, Instagram and Pinterest have helped pioneer social shopping, but I also see more integration opportunities for bigger retail platforms both brick and mortar and virtual. For instance, I can imagine Stitch Fix expanding social platform usage to better tailor the wardrobes it sends to customers using machine learning.
Perhaps existing members can see the outfits on real customers and click on an entire outfit to have it included in a future delivery. I can also see tools built by a company like Nordstrom that allows a photo of a garment to be used to pair and recommend additional items being tied to a social profile that can look at existing clothes and accessories shared and/or written about positively on public platforms. I see this as the next wave of social and retail integration where 360 data bring better experiences to customers through better data synchronization.
Reality and Virtual together on the Spatial Web
Even beyond augmented reality, we’re going to see an increasingly confusing mix of digital/virtual and reality in the coming year, especially in retail via the spatial web. Thank-you 5G and the speeds you will deliver to our smart devices. This isn’t just virtual changing rooms. I’m talking about the ability to place ourselves in our ‘favorite brands’ advertisements; being able to model favorite brands’ clothing, and an increasing coordination of virtual experiences that will intertwine on the spatial web.
For instance, a newly engaged woman may try on her wedding gown virtually and see herself walking through one of many possible wedding locations. A man who recently bought a motorcycle can try on new gear and see how it feels on the motorcycle he’s just purchased. We may even see people paying for these virtual experiences, which makes the ideas of “retail” and “reality” themselves even more interesting.
As we all continue to use technology in all aspects of our daily lives from social media platforms to Shopping. The device in our hands becomes an even more critical part of our future. With full 5G speed, capabilities in the virtual and real worlds will continue to merge. The new shopping experience will be forever changed at an exponential and continuing pace.
Tony Giudici is a Director of Market Development for Excelerate America, the ultimate resource for modern entrepreneurs and small business owners. What do you think about the future of e-tail shopping? Let Tony know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.