Within the last 15 years, there have been a tremendous number of advancements to enhance the retail shopping experience. Of these improvements, those that stood out have created a simplified, quicker, and inexpensive way for consumers to effectively locate and purchase products.
Today’s solutions are part of the “digital convergence” era, known for technologies coming together to enable a whole new consumer experience while still providing a realistic avenue for retailers to set up and deliver.
Digital convergence is defined as a deep integration of knowledge, tools, and all relevant human activities allowing society to answer new questions and change the respective physical or social ecosystem.
To create an incredible shopping experience for a consumer, digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), avatars, Internet of Things (IoT), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) have come together to create a remarkable environment. A great example of this cohesion is when a consumer chats with a personal shopper through a smartphone, with AI picking out a list of suggested items. The consumer then orders the products, having them shipped to her home or walks into the nearest retailer to collect her items. In years prior, these capabilities were available but segregated. Now, they are blended and delivered as a unified experience.
The aspect every retailer needs to remember in today’s digital convergence age is how to capitalize on what is available and which solutions will better enhance the consumer experience.
Below is a list of technology capabilities that can help a retailer get started:
1) Personalized Communication: When the marketing message is adapted to each individual by using information from a data store and communicating it through various media channels.
Social engagement platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all great avenues to reach any audience. Now more organizations are beginning to use these platforms not just as ways to promote key offers and promotions but also to create personalized communication with the consumer. Facebook Messenger and SnapChat are two options for retailers to interact directly with consumers. While initially handled by Chatbots answering the frequently asked questions, the more complex or technical communications are transferred seamlessly to a phone call or chat with a retailer’s representative.
"The main goal is helping consumers find exactly what they need and ensure they receive the information to make a purchasing decision while having a great experience"
2) Omnichannel: An approach that seeks to provide the consumer with a seamless shopping experience from shopping online while using a desktop, mobile device, telephone, and/or via brick-and-mortar store.
After learning about a product through their favorite social channel, most consumers make a conscious decision to purchase the product by buying either online or in-store. Previously, those channels were segregated due to the lack of technology capabilities. In more recent years, omnichannel solutions have made it easier to blend the online and in-store experience, allowing consumers the flexibility to shop without complications. Though eCommerce is a quickly growing segment of overall retail sales, it is still only a fraction of sales being placed through traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
3) Geolocation: The identification or estimation of the geographic location of an object.
Most of us have faced this challenge before; finding a product online but wanting in-store pick-up, while still having a personalized experience. To combat this challenge, several technology vendors offer beaconing and geolocation with the ability to send notifications to consumers, directing them to the right part of the store and engaging them with unique discounts based on buying history or location within the store aisles. The overall goal is to help the consumersphysically find what they need and ensure they receive the information required to purchase. Interacting with a consumer through a unique location-specific opportunity forms a closer relationship with the consumer to continue the buying experience, either online or in-store.
4) Simplified Checkout and Payments: No buying experience is complete without the ability to easily pay for products!
An integrated omnichannel solution with retailer fulfillment guarantees that a purchase made online and picked-up in-store will result in the appropriate retailer being compensated for providing a service and/or product. Mobile payments such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Square, and GoPayment have become the norm for offering a simple online payment process. Solutions like these make it simple to pay for a product while on-the-go. With more options available to allow for quicker payments via mobile device, even non-traditional payment devices like Fitbit are incorporating payment capabilities to better help the time-sensitive consumer.
Now is an exciting time to be in retail!
Fortunately for retailers, these technology enhancements have created new ways to help adjust for the changing times. While there certainly have been plenty of challenges in utilizing solutions for finding and purchasing products quickly, the current and near-term technology offerings look promising for retailers to create an unforgettable consumer experience.