We explore some of the technologies that retailers should consider and embrace to offer a more digital experience. Technology these days is the driving force in every industry. The retail sector has been slowly embracing the digital platform over time, but the pandemic has forced the sector to speed up this process to adapt to the changing environment of doing business.
Digital provides opportunities for retailers to acquire new customers, engage better with existing customers, reduce the cost of operations, and improve employee motivation along with various other benefits that have a positive influence from a revenue and margin perspective.
Here are some of the technologies and tools that retailers should consider and embrace to offer a more digital experience.
Retailers have been exploring the options of omnichannel for a while now. In addition to creating new touchpoints with their customers, in current times, it also means a new revenue stream.
It is also the first step in delivering frictionless, personalized experiences for the customer — from self-service portals to mobile apps to well-informed service agents – based on centralised customer data. With customer transaction history, preferences and interactions in one place, retailers now have the flexibility to support great, personalised customer experiences through any channel.
Inventory tracking, stock availability, shipping details, and orders are now available on the cloud. Cloud-based “Retail as a Service” solutions allow employees to check real-time stock availability, inventory, shipping details, and store orders. Services like these also reduce the cost of software development and process data at a much faster rate and make it easier to deploy.
Studying analytics is vital to understanding the customer. Information, like demographics and customer traffic, allows retail businesses (like any other) to make smarter decisions based on customer details, as well as to personalize the customer experience.
With customers using more internet-connected devices to do their shopping, digital marketing becomes more important than ever for retailers connecting with shoppers. Whether it's digital coupons, virtual storytelling, emails, or increased ads, companies need to continuously up their digital marketing game to keep up with trends and market demands.
Ecommerce and social media are becoming increasingly intertwined. Shoppable Instagram and Facebook posts and stories, in particular, have rolled out in the region in the last year. 2020 is a great time for retailers, especially the smaller ones, to get on board and leverage these and similar social channels their customers already use.
Augmented reality is completely changing shopping experiences. This technology now offers consumers the option to virtually try on clothes or test products via AR before making the purchase. It’s an opportunity for retailers to offer something different to their customers and differentiate themselves.
For example, within Sephora's mobile application, users can virtually sample makeup in real-time. By placing filters over their live selfies, users can see what makeup products would look like on their faces.
Platforms like Shopify are offering AR services like Shopify AR, making this technology more accessible to smaller retailers. This feature provides an easy-to-use toolkit for these retailers to create their own AR experiences to showcase their products to customers using browsers.
Facial recognition technology helps retailers better understand customer preferences. It can track where customers gravitate within stores, determine customer demographics, and even prevent theft. By tracking where most customers first go to in the shops, business leaders can develop a store layout that is most productive for its clientele.
While AR is transforming the consumer retail experience, VR is changing the business side and is helpful for visualizing and redesigning stores as well as testing different layouts without having to physically rebuild the store based on customer preferences and feedback. Retailers can involve their customers to help create experiences that would appeal to them.
Artificial intelligence (AI) goes a long way to help automate and customise the retail experience, aiming to make shopping easier for the consumer. For example, visual search allows shoppers to find and buy a product just by snapping a photo. AI works its magic to identify the product (or similar ones) across multiple sites and retailers in just a click.
Sensor data, like beacons, is revolutionizing brick and mortar retailers. Major retailers strategically place these sensors around their stores, which can connect to customer's phones, if Bluetooth is enabled and the retail app is installed. With this connectivity, retailers can see how long users are in their stores and what they pick up, as well as offer personalized discounts based on that information.