The Technology Retailers Need to Invest in for Omnichannel Success
Today's highly connected shopper doesn't think in terms of physical, online or mobile; they're omnichannel by nature. They simply want to shop with their preferred store or brand and make purchases how and when they want, enjoying the best experience possible. This means retailers and brands must break from the siloed approach that assigns different teams and strategies to each of its channels and take an integrated view of its customers, operations and stores. With our latest report, we apply this unified vision to the reinvention of offline retail, exploring how the best of digital — convenience, personalization and data-rich insights — can transform and enhance the brick-and-mortar experience.
By starting with a foundation of digital intelligence, retailers and brands can activate (and monetize) the physical store in new ways. Now shoppers can benefit from the same level of recognized service they receive online, and companies, in turn, can monitor their behaviors to constantly refine merchandising and marketing. Common points of friction — checkout, stock availability and fulfillment — become streamlined, ensuring customers always get exactly what they want in the most convenient ways possible and businesses benefit from increased efficiencies.
With this digital infrastructure in place, retailers and brands can focus on amplifying the qualities that make physical stores so special — human connection, tactile experiences and product curation. Freed from the need to display endless aisles of inventory, smaller footprint showrooms can present products as part of an aspirational lifestyle, educating shoppers on optimal use cases and helping them achieve their broader goals. With the addition of one-on-one attention, partner services and events programming, companies can return greater value on their customers’ investment in time, while simultaneously creating more incentives to visit.
Despite the recent struggles of traditional incumbents amidst the growing reach of digital-first juggernauts, we no longer see the future of retail as an online and offline divide. The organizations that not only survive, but thrive, in this landscape will prioritize strategies that are channel synergistic and customer-first.
In PSFK’s Future of Retail 2018 survey, we asked over 400 retail professionals to share their near- and long-term investment plans to gauge the pace of retail tech adoption, identifying first-mover opportunities and noting where others must catch up.
According to these findings, the top 10 retail technologies that experts today are investing in are 1.) personalization 2.) artificial intelligence and cognitive software 3.) data collection and analytics tools 4.) mobile website experience 5.) social media retail 6.) augmented reality (AR) 7.) Internet of Things and sensors 8.) voice 9.) robotics and 10.) automated systems and programmatic advertising.
Three quick-win initiatives retail leaders are investing in are data tracking, offline/online syncing and flexible logistics:
Opt-In Data Tracking
Survey respondents are prioritizing data tracking capabilities and technology. Because data collection is the backbone for one-to-one customization and large-scale analytics, this investment lays a functional foundation for modern and future personalization software.
Customers’ expectations for omnichannel shopping are driving retailers to offer seamless engagement and transactions across store, mobile and desktop, syncing profiles, inventory and account history.
Shoppers propensity to browse in one channel, buy in another and return to a third is forcing brands and retailers to implement adaptive fulfillment and return platforms that can meet customers at any location.
Looking to the future, retail executives are adopting biometric recognition, in-store augmented reality, and end-to-end personalization.
Integrating biometric cues, such as facial or voice recognition, into offline retail will provide a more seamless system of recognizing regular shoppers, tracking their behavior and activating at their moment of intent.
In-Store Augmented Reality
As AR software becomes increasingly available to every consumer through their mobile devices, retailers and brands can integrate AR into the customer journey for specialized experiences, like adaptive pricing or product customization.
Although retailers can now enable personalization at different points in the path to purchase, the possibility of a fully personalized service customer journey will grow by combining data collection tools to seamlessly tailor content across mobile, in-store, desktop and home experiences.
Scott Lachut is the president of research and strategy for PSFK, a business intelligence platform for customer experience innovation.
Related story: Total Retail's Top 100 Omnichannel Retailers