By David Gorelick, Head of Retail Services, Americas
Today’s shopper is much busier and more impatient. Thanks to advancements in technology, they are used to getting what they want, when they want it – simply with the click of a button.
In fact, the rise of technology has literally reshaped how consumers shop, and has been increasingly critical to driving innovation, efficiency, and customer engagement. Whether buying online and picking up merchandise in-store or purchasing an item online while in an actual physical store, the user experience is much more seamless, simpler, and interactive these days. And shopping has not only become simpler and savvier through the help of technology, but the advancements have also helped retailers become much smarter about
their customers in the process – a real win-win.
Shopping Made Simpler
There’s no doubt about it – technology makes shopping easier. For one thing, it helps save time, which is a top priority for many shoppers. In fact, according to a recent Forrester retail survey, shoppers ranked “saving time” as the number one reason to use in-store technology.
From in-store robots to digital payments to omni-channel marketing, technology is expediting the shopping process – all while making the experience more engaging and interactive. And it’s big business. According to the International Data Corporation, the global robotic market will be worth $135 billion by 2019. Just last fall, Lowe’s introduced LoweBot, an autonomous retail service robot in 11 of its stores. The robot
answers simple questions, enabling more time for employees to focus on delivering personalized service. In addition to helping customers, the robot also captures real-time data that ultimately helps influence future business decisions.
In terms of digital payments, according to Juniper Research, their value will approach $3.9 trillion in 2017 – that’s an increase of more than 14% over last year’s total. With smartphones in the hands of both shoppers and retail staff, the days of waiting in long lines at the checkout are over. The convenience of paying with a mobile device without handling cash or a card, coupled with a fast transaction time, leads to an enhanced – and more secure – customer experience at the point of sale.
Additionally, more and more retailers are striving to build a true omni-channel experience that merges at-home, in-store, and mobile commerce into one seamless and friction-less experience. It’s all about true continuity of experience – the mobile app should match the responsive design of the website, which should thematically reflect the look and feel inside the store. And each interaction becomes a seamless extension of their previous interaction, enabling customers to use the channel of their choice for each step along the
journey, simplifying the entire process.
Good examples of retailers offering an omni-channel experience include Wal-Mart, who recently announced same day in-store pickup of items bought online, and Macy’s who recently installed a system that will integrate all of its inventory systems and give store associates almost complete visibility of the items available across all channels.
Shopping Made Savvier
Advancements in technology have also allowed smart retailers to better customize the retail experience for the savvy customer. After all, the more interactive the experience, the more engaged the shopper will be. Interactive interfaces, augmented reality, and social media integration are just a few examples of the types of technology that create a unique experience for each individual consumer. From virtual mirrors that allow users to try on boots without actually putting them on their feet to window and storefront displays projected in 3D, these experiential retail trends are emerging in stores everywhere and making a real difference to the savvy consumer.
The best part? Having the ability to interact with customers in real-time, providing them with more personalized and memorable experiences. Japanese-based retailer Uniqlo, for example, installed smart fitting rooms, allowing the shopper to choose the clothing they want to try on and then overlaying different colors to help them make the best choice. And Neiman Marcus now offers a digital ‘Memory Mirror’ in one of its stores that allows shoppers to view outfits side by side and then share snapshots with friends to solicit their
feedback. How’s that for personalized service?
Shopping Made Smarter
Advancements in technology have also helped retailers become smarter about their customers and what they truly want. For instance, location-aware technologies, such as GPS, geo-fencing and beacon technologies, can welcome the shopper back to the store and then trigger notifications such as mobile coupon offers based on which aisles a shopper has recently visited, as well as past purchase data. Combining these technologies with back-end analytics can provide retailers with much more information about their customers’ behaviors, preferences, and needs.
Additionally, information collected from retail applications enables retailers to create a customized in-store shopping experience while also catering to the demands of an increasingly digital age. For example, a mobile app could allow consumers to tag an item they see in a store and have it immediately placed in their online shopping cart. In this case, the consumer benefits from in-person customer service, as well as the convenience of purchasing at home.
Customer loyalty programs are an effective way to market to a group of targeted customers by offering sales and discounts based on past purchases. When done correctly, target marketing based on data derived from a loyalty program can drive many more customers into your store.
Through advancements in technology, the whole retail experience has become much simpler, savvier, and smarter for both customers and retailers alike. And these changes aren’t about to slow down anytime soon. Whether you’re whipping together a party in minutes by having items sent to your home by drone or virtually trying on new looks at a local store event with friends, technology will continue to deliver unique and engaging experiences that will keep consumers coming back for more.
David Gorelick is the Executive Managing Director, Head of Retail Services, Americas, at Cushman & Wakefield, leading client development and revenue growth initiatives for the Americas Retail platform.