Leveraging Artificial Intelligence & Thriving at Retail

[24]7.ai | March 26, 2019

The past decade has brought immense change to the retail landscape, with big players setting new expectations for both online and in-person customer experiences. This, coupled with shifting consumer demands and expectations, has resulted in a change in how we purchase goods. The ultimate question remains: is retail dying?

Charles Dimov is quick to answer this question: no, retail isn’t dying, but boring retail is. Consider for a moment your customers’ journey to purchasing. It’s no longer the traditional walk-into-the-store-and-buy we’ve known for over a century. Consumers now have information about products at their fingertips, can price compare in seconds, and can have almost anything they desire delivered to their doorstep. So why would they visit traditional retail stores at all? And how can you use emerging technologies like chatbots to create a seamless customer experience across channels?

The modern consumer has quite a set of expectations. They want ease, they want fun, and they want customer service to be personalized to their needs. Even more challenging, is the desire to have this sophisticated interaction at any touchpoint, from bricks and mortar to web, from app to social. The buying journey can now be a long and winding road, and it’s essential to keep in mind that this is not only a challenge, but an incredible opportunity for deeper engagement. This omnichannel reality means there are more chances to engage customers with memorable experiences, sharable moments, greater convenience, and top-notch services that will collectively create a loyal—and, if you do it right—evangelical customer.

Retail Trends

Shopping as an Experience is exemplified by retailers like Bass Pro Shops, who create environments that are entertainment destinations as much as they are spaces in which to buy products. Shopping in these stores has become an adventure, and so deep is the engagement with their customer they return again and again for an afternoon of fun. And while they’re visiting, of course they spend!

Online retailers aren’t completely left out of the trends impacting bricks and mortar; Pop Up Stores are trending as well and are a great way for web-based retailers to connect with their customers. Pop ups create opportunities to touch and feel products, and have human interaction with your front line staff, while maintaining a lower real estate commitment. Done well, pop-up stores create a time-limited call to action to purchase, excitement, and, ultimately offer depth in the brand experience.

Of course now that you’ve got awesome entertainment available in your store or pop up, it’s important they function as practical shopping spaces too. But to really nail the trifecta of what a modern store should be, offer your customers an environment that helps buyers express their personal aesthetic. Insta-worthy spots are essential in the new retail landscape, and not only do they engage your customers currently on site, they also are a powerful marketing engine once images land on social media, driving even more traffic to your store. These can be fun—or romantic—but they must be attractive, interesting, and unique.

A couple of classic tricks in the retail toolbox have had modern updates as well. Convenience has never been more important. Click-and-collect, ship-to-store, and order-ahead apps are all examples of Faster Checkouts, with each model being an example of providing services to the customer that makes your store simply the easiest and most convenient to purchase from. Coupled with an age-old technique for keeping customers coming back again and again, Loyalty Programs are being updated for the modern age, with companies like Sephora leading the way by offering desirable samples through their loyalty card program.

So where does technology fit with all of this? With 80% of companies reporting that they want a chatbot by 2020 (Oracle), the emerging opportunity here is the creation of a seamless shopping environment across channels. From functioning as an FAQ page for the new age, to bots that automate and completely personalize abandoned cart marketing, chatbots are available in many forms from transactional to conversational. These tools allow you to blend your online and in-store experience. Remember, a key takeaway is that above all else, today’s shopping experiences need to be easy. Chatbots, when done with sophistication and sensitivity, mimic a human interaction, help brands personalize the shopping experience, and prompt shoppers to take action faster.

Looking Ahead
Indeed, online retail is the future. We all know the stats are astounding, and online retail continues to grow, but customers still deeply value an in-store experience. Keep in mind that 91% of sales are done in a store location and only 9% online, which is a consistent statistic over the past two years. Click to Tweet Even the big players like Amazon have been testing store environments and making big acquisitions to bring them into the physical store game.

Blending experiences using the latest retail trends married with technological web-based solutions is a pathway to becoming the next omnichannel leader. Listen to this episode of Solving for CX to learn more about how you can leverage these trends to create an environment—be it online or in person—that your customers will want to return to again and again.

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