Technologies like artificial intelligence, data analytics, sensors, interactive signage and mobile devices are enabling digital retail, both online and in-store. They're driving a fast transformation of fortunes in the retail industry. As a result, consumers are adopting new ways of engaging, transacting and delivering wholeheartedly. Digital leaders like Amazon.com and Wayfair are forcing the rest to adapt to the digital age. The line between physical and digital commerce is becoming increasingly blurred, and to succeed there's a need to operate in all the right channels to acquire customers and leverage all data to increase profit margins.
Which begs the question: What's on the digital road map for retail?
Interactive Store Experiences
Brick-and-mortar stores are now destination “experiences” enabled by interactive mobile and sensor technology. Interacting with dynamic signage, smart mirrors in dressing rooms and augmented reality to visualize ownership in your home are paired with attendants equipped with tablets to provide concierge, personalized experiences.
Products, fashion and commerce have permeated social media, enabling consumers to explore and discover instantly, guided by tastemakers and friends. The prolific social networks have created robust ad platforms, but now the “buy now” button enables immediate gratification no matter where they're browsing.
Convenience for Fulfillment, Smart Forecasting for Inventory
No more UPS stickers on the front door causing frustration for customers; it's now all about options designed to make life easier. There’s now a choice to pick up from the store (now a fulfillment center) or a convenient locker, and the use of third-party couriers like Uber and Lyft are enabling retailers to take “last mile” deliveries into their own hands. Real-time inventory and online customer behavior information can create analytical models that can forecast future demand, thus enabling stores to stock up, reducing waiting time.
Insight-Driven Dynamic Pricing
By mixing demand data with customer insights, retailers can use analytics to dynamically change the price of goods and target customers. This can increase revenues and profit, but also enables a win-win passing on of savings to customers when possible. Jet.com, recently acquired by Wal-Mart, has been operating with this transparency savings model.
And so the digital transformation of retail continues to provide new opportunities for brands to differentiate in terms of customer experience online and offline, while driving revenues and profit margins. For those that can't keep up — like Sports Authority and The Limited — the stakes are high. The entire customer life cycle, from acquisition to purchase and delivery, which spans across digital channels, from online to offline, requires an integrated customer journey and enabled systems.
James M A Williams is the director of digital service at Ness Digital Engineering, a provider of custom software development services, customer experience design, and more.
James M A Williams is currently the director of digital service at Ness Digital Engineering. He has led strategic and creative initiatives across industries, working with startups and established companies to make digital innovation systematic in their business. Working with designers and technologists he believes in the power of creativity to disrupt, challenge and create products and experiences that matter.