Retailers aren't only interested in supply chain optimization to keep their customers happy; they're also keen on making the entire shopping journey fun and enjoyable. And many of them are successfully doing so by leveraging state-of-the-art consumer technology.
Nearly two-thirds of consumers believe retailers are utilizing digital device technologies in a manner that has helped make online shopping experience much more pleasurable overall, according to a recent poll conducted by the National Retail Federation. Roughly the same share felt this way about the in-store experience specifically and 80% was similarly sanguine when using the internet.
Mark Mathews, vice president of research development at NRF, noted that consumer-facing mobile technologies are truly omnipresent and have redefined the shopping experience.
"Technology has become part of our everyday lives, and consumers are open to adopting technologies that make shopping easier," Mathews explained. "Retailers know this and are embracing investments in technologies that improve customer service and the customer experience whether it's online, in store or on mobile devices."
"Of those who have used in-app navigational tools, 89% said they would again."
Showrooming - when consumers visit stores in order to "try before they buy" online at a lower price - is particularly commonplace and something retailers have leveraged to their advantage. But they're also deploying technologies that remain in the development phase, such as in-app store navigation and augmented reality. Of those who have used these tools, 89% said they would again if given the opportunity, and 86% said the same for augmented reality.
Yael Zlatin, director of ecommerce at Adtaxi, told Digital Commerce 360 that buyers increasingly want a more personalized shopping experience and some of the ways retailers can go about doing that is by leveraging artificial intelligence and omnichannel marketing.
"A customer might discover a brand's product via a digital ad or social media channel, but purchase the item in a physical store," Zlatin explained. "Using AI during this process can help retailers with audience segmentation, retargeting and creating custom content for personalized experiences."
Beware of hurdles
However, it's easy to make mistakes along the way, Zlatin cautioned. For example, while retailers may succeed in making it easier to locate certain items or check out more seamlessly, they may neglect the other components to convenience shopping, such as ensuring popular items remain in stock.
To overcome these potential stumbling blocks, retailers should avoid going it alone and reach out for help, focusing their energies on what they do well and relying on third-parties to handle what they don't.
"By leveraging outside resources, retailers can access expertise and analytics that can help propel their brand - and sales - forward," Zlatin advised.
Case in point: autonomous checkout. One of the litany of advantages to online shopping is getting to skip the lines associated with buying in-store. Retailers are increasingly adopting technologies by partnering with organizations that specialize in point-of-sale and line-busting software so the advantages of ecommerce are readily available.
Richard Crone, CEO and purveyor of Crone Consulting LLC, noted at a recent NRFtech conference that autonomous checkout technology is gaining traction among convenience and supermarket chains. These systems utilize a combination of cameras and sensors which track buyers in order to narrow down the items they're most likely to select. This enables retailers to get a better idea of what buyers want so they can have an experience that is more customized to their tastes.
"What you experience (in these stores) is a completely free business model where every customer is known, contactable and preauthorized, before they even enter the store," Crone explained.
Will Glaser, CEO and founder of machine-learning technology firm Grabango, added that the advancements in computer vision software is also making it easier and quicker for buyers to grab what they need, check out and be on their way.