The Digital Retail Tools of the Future
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The Digital Retail Tools of the Future

By Marc Biosi, Global Director, Sitel

Marc Biosi, Global Director, Sitel

From personalized emails prompting me to purchase items I’ve reviewed to ads popping up in my social media feeds, retailers are using every tool they can to reach and engage with today’s consumers. Among this digital transformation, retailers are leveraging strategies and tools to personalize each customer’s shopping experience to win the loyalty of potential buyers.

"Given the appeal and attention these displays already draw, imagine the possibilities of using technology to personalize each viewer’s experience with voice-responsive window interactions as they walk by the window"

In today’s retail setting, personalization is key to engaging and keeping customers loyal to your brand. Personalization, in its current form, is used to draw consumers in with unique offers through a myriad of communication channels and touchpoints, including SMS texts, direct mail, email and more. Cutting edge personalization harnesses a customer’s historical purchasing data to not only find the right way to contact a customer but also provide new products that might be appealing based on previous purchases.

While personalization tools and strategies are a must for retail marketers, there are other emerging customer experience (CX) digital tools that retailers should consider incorporating in 2018. In the past year, we’ve seen explosive growth in the number of retailers using chatbots, tapping into artificial intelligence-based functions to strengthen customer relationships, offer new experiences and provide self-service means to customers.

Not only are retailers leveraging AI-based tools to broaden and engage their customer base, retailers are also revamping the layout, design and functions of physical stores in an effort to drive more foot traffic. Take Nordstrom’s “Local” concept store for example. Nordstrom has created new locations whose function is to accept returns and offer appointments with an in-store stylist. These new stores have no on-premise merchandise to sell and instead serve as another touchpoint for online consumers to place or pick up online orders and get fashion advice. This is a prime example of the marriage between in-store and e-commerce working cohesively to provide a unique, engaging and personalized experience to both digital and in-store customers.

With blended digital and in-store tactics being deployed by retailers across the U.S. (and the globe), retailers now have access to more data and customer information than ever before, giving them a leg up on personalizing each and every interaction they have with a customer.

In 2018, retailers should consider using this data and information to transform how they interact with customers. Here are two concepts that illustrate the use of data and digital tools.

The transformation of window shopping

Traditionally, brick and mortar stores dress a storefront window with the latest and most unique merchandise and products of the season. The unveiling of whimsical and eye-catching set ups have become a longstanding tradition in retail. During the holidays in New York City, for example, the department stores on 5th Avenue draw hundreds of visitors and tourists who come to the city to catch a glimpse at the ornate, over-the-top window displays that have been assembled. Given the appeal and attention these displays already draw, imagine the possibilities of using technology to personalize each viewer’s experience with voice-responsive window interactions as they walk by the window. Augmented Reality (AR) paired with location-enabled devices and the data derived from each device can transform window display in a way that will resonate with consumers like never before.

The digital display tools of the future—most likely a combination of AI, AR, app-based geofencing—will leverage search history, shopping history and historical purchasing information to identify customers passing by and virtually curate an electronic window display with items a person is most interested in. The ability to electronically alter window displays will give retailers more opportunities to execute personalized campaigns to re-engage customers. Taking it a step further, if and when the retailer senses (via location-enabled apps) that the consumer is continuing to walk past the store entrance, the tools of the future will leverage this information and automatically send the consumer a discount or promotion to lure them back toward the store.

While most retailers are not ready to take their storefront to this futuristic state just yet, there are subtle ways to start testing these technologies. For example, retailers may consider implementing geofencing widget capabilities inside their application to allow them to offer incentives to customers within a certain distance range to entice them into the store. From here, you can begin to understand how customers respond and react to personalized offers based on their activity.

The transformation of in-store associates

As many brick-and-mortar businesses look to compete with online retailers, brands are also introducing new mobile technologies to streamline in-store transactions and support. Mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, have become popular tools for associates to use on the retail floor for these transactions. For example, Apple store associates are all equipped with devices allowing them to roam freely in the store, answer customer questions and complete transactions without the use of a register or long lines. Another advantage to equipping associates with portable devices is that it allows the associate who greets consumers in the store to follow them through their entire transaction. This commitment to one shopper helps strengthen relationships and build a rapport with the consumer.

With the use of mobile devices on the sales floor, retailers are also working to transform and train their greatest sales assets—their associates. Training employees to utilize these new technologies is a must for retailers in 2018—and it will certainly help support future endeavors to introduce new digital tools.

While it’s hard to predict the exact digital tools of the future or what the next big development will be, what we do know is that the path to retail success is through the data and resources already available to brands. These tools and tactics may not be the answer to the defending against the retail Armageddon, but the personalization and experiences they help create will undoubtedly make consumers more likely to remain true to specific brands.

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