Our work in tech PR for retail and ecommerce gives us an interesting vantage point on the retail customer experience, especially given its enormous changes of late. In fact, tech innovations have disrupted retail as much as nearly any sector. Not only do the shifts affect our lives as consumers, but innovation is often very mediaworthy.
The pandemic drove much of the change we’ve seen in retail over the past three years. Lockdowns boosted e-commerce and grew online marketplaces. As a result, many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers must now adapt to the ever-changing demands of consumers, or risk losing their business. That’s one reason we’ve seen innovations that help retailers improve the customer experience. Here’s a closer look at four ways retailers are using tech to keep up with shoppers or even stay ahead of them by offering greater convenience and a better experience. They’re also important trends for any retail PR strategy.
By using customer data and insights, retailers can tailor products and services to meet the specific needs and preferences of individual buyers. This can include personalized recommendations based on past purchases, targeted promotions and discounts and customized product offerings. A more tailored shopping experience puts retailers in a strong position to increase customer loyalty, improve satisfaction and drive sales. Amazon uses machine learning algorithms to analyze customer behavior and provide personalized product recommendations. Customers who frequently buy cooking items, for example, will receive recommendations for kitchen gadgets and cookbooks. Personalization is a valuable tool for any retailer looking to enhance the customer experience and build long-lasting relationships with their regular patrons.
Chatbots for customer convenience
The use of chatbots in retail has gained steam over the past decade, as large companies like H&M, Sephora, Dominos and others have successfully integrated chatbots into their customer experience. And it’s easy to see why. Chatbots use artificial intelligence and natural language processing to provide instant support and assistance to customers, answering common questions and providing personalized recommendations. This can reduce wait times and improve customer satisfaction, as customers no longer have to wait on hold or search for answers on their own. Chatbots can also provide 24/7 support, ensuring that customers can get the help they need at any time, day or night.
A study about chatbots in retail by Uberall, a provider of hybrid (online and offline) customer experience solutions, found that while a whopping 80% of consumers have had a positive experience with them, nearly 60% still lack strong enthusiasm for chatbots. While many customers still haven’t fully bought into chatbots as a real way to improve the shopping experience, the addition of smarter and better technology stands a good chance to change their minds in the near future.
VR/AR create a more exciting shopping experience
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can improve the retail customer experience by providing more immersive and interactive shopping experiences. And many believe this will be one of the top industry trends in the new year. These technologies allow customers to experience products and services in a more realistic way, putting them in a prime position to make more informed purchasing decisions. Furniture retailers like IKEA and Wayfair use VR and VR to help customers visualize how furniture will look in their home before they make a purchase. These features are not only compelling, but they reduce the likelihood of returns and exchanges. In addition, VR and AR can create unique and engaging in-store experiences, such as virtual product demonstrations or interactive games.
The rise of mobile payments
Mobile payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet allow customers to pay for their purchases quickly and easily from their mobile devices. This eliminates the need for customers to carry cash or credit cards and reduces checkout times for a more seamless shopping experience. Another advantage of mobile payments is that they’re more secure than traditional payment methods, as they use encryption and tokenization to protect sensitive customer information.
Starbucks has perhaps most successfully implemented mobile payments. Their mobile app, which is incredibly popular among their legions of regulars, allows customers to order and pay for their drinks ahead of time. Then when they get to the store, they can bypass any lines to pick up their order from a designated area. This has not only improved the customer experience, but also led to increased sales for the company.
The advances in technology in recent years has transformed the retail industry as a whole by providing new ways for retailers to connect with their customers and deliver more fruitful shopping experiences. As technology evolves, we can expect more exciting innovations relating to the retail customer experience in the coming months and years.