Consider a 'beyond digital' approach to power omnichannel experience
By Michael Romero
Imagine browsing items online or your mobile, adding them to your cart or preferred list and setting up an appointment with the retail associate even before you arrive at the store?
By the time you reach the store your dressing room is stocked with the items of your choice, and you are able to see other similar items as well as related accessories. The dressing room has a wall-sized touchscreen, allowing you to look for similar, as well as related items, on the store catalog.
If one size doesn't fit you, you can request for another at the click of a button on the touchscreen or on your mobile. As you make your purchase decision, the billing takes another three minutes and as you are on the way out, the life-size screen displays other irresistible offers based on the insights related to your shopping history and behavior. The system even allows you to scan the quick response code onscreen for any additional items to be added to the shopping basket.
Does this real-time customer engagement sound too futuristic? Not anymore.
Welcome to the ‘beyond digital’ world of customer experience. Retailers are adopting the latest technologies in order to boost to customer engagement, experience and loyalty and their sales. As an example, tech-savvy fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff tripled its clothing sales by using smart interactive mirrors (which double up as touchscreens) within their connected store. It was observed 30 percent of the customers who tried items requested via the touchscreen also requested for additional items, enhancing their volumes of purchase.
Similarly, with each RFID-tagged item, stores can simplify processes through omnichannel engagement by keeping a tab on what enters the fitting room, what is purchased or discarded, and how should the store constantly reorient its operations to continue to delight customers as per their expectations. That's a formidable amount of data to recharge retail performance.
The changing rules of retail
In a recent survey, 71 percent of U.S. consumers still prefer shopping in physical stores, even if the same items were available online. However, customer engagement in retail is not what it used to be. Shopping is no more treated as a need-based activity, but has become an experience, providing a unique opportunity to retailers to develop strategies for delivering this experience and boost their business.
With the proliferation of devices and connectivity, customers are increasingly adopting emerging technologies to multitask better, changing the way they interact with the world, leaving behind digital footprints everywhere.
In this era, customer experience cannot be rooted on just being sporadic and transactional in nature. Retailers need to strategize and adopt an end-to-end digital approach to offer an omnichannel experience and real-time engagement model to their customers to gain loyalty and sustain operations profitably.
Not surprisingly then, those retailers that have not been able to adapt their operations and models to changing technology trends are facing grim business circumstances. The British Retail Consortium recently warned that the retail sector, one of the U.K.’s largest employers, was facing up to 900,000 job losses over the next decade due to closure of shops.
Transformation, therefore, is inevitable and retailers need a strategy built around the customer and the multiple channels they interact with.
Delivering the multichannel experience: The promise of data analytics
An Aberdeen Group study reveals retailers that have adopted strategies to build robust multichannel operations are able to retain an average of 89 percent of their customers while players that are yet to adapt have a retention rate of 39 percent.
To effectively drive omnichannel engagement, retailers should align performance with the brand promise. This will ensure that physical stores and digital properties are operating in sync. It is equally important to know one's audience, both existing and potential customers.
A one-size-fits-all approach cannot help in reaching out to the diverse audience; companies need to leverage digitalization to integrate back-end data and customer information with the enterprise database to address unique requests in time.
Data is the core element here, not just for getting to know the customers, but drawing extensive insights based on past customer behavior, shopping preferences and buying decisions. Data analytics can become a strong tool in retailers' arsenal. The collation, cleansing, analysis and interpretation of data today provides the predictive ability to understand customer preferences and customize product and service portfolios, more effectively than ever before.
It is now possible to draw upon a vast pool of data generated by consumers in myriad forms — from Facebook and Instagram posts to digital calendar entries and purchase records — and leverage predictive analytics to deliver a truly 360-degree retail experience.
For example, data scrapped and gathered from a shopper's smartwatch might suggest she may have recently included a three-mile morning run as part of her fitness regime. Armed with this tiny bit of information, in conjunction with her purchase history, a retailer can advertise, recommend, suggest and cross sell anything from running shoes to health drinks.
Retailers need to realize every bit of insight on the customer is critical and so are the techniques to implement the right tools to crunch this multitude of data into actionable and meaningful insights. The impact of this can then be realized across other aspects of the retail business such as inventory management, sales strategies and managing multiple business processes.
Going 'beyond digital' to rethink omnichannel experience
A successfully digitally transformed organization is one that delivers superior digital experience around products and services to create value and stickiness, transform technology and operations digitally, utilize internal digital and information assets as platforms, and accept that all units have to be actively engaged in digital innovation.
Going 'beyond digital' is about improving retail experience and delivering upon the brand promise by integrating each and every hub and contact point within the retail ecosystem. By adopting end-to-end digital technologies, design thinking and modern analytics applications, 21st century retailers can create unparalleled customer experience. They can draw upon the wealth of customer data, leveraging extensive insights to create strategies for delivering unique and personalized experiences for each and every customer that walks into their store.
Michael Romero is global principal for BEYONDigital, HCL Technologies