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The COVID-19 legacy

By Retail Technology | Monday December 21 2020 | UPDATED 19.12.20

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation but what effect will it have on the future of retail? Richard Roberts, VP UK & I and Northern Europe at Mitel takes a look

Retailers will ramp up AI adoption to drive deeper personalisation

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many retailers have ramped up their ecommerce capabilities in an effort to drive customer engagement and ensure business continuity. Our recent research indicates that they have been successful in achieving this, with retail coming on top for the best customer service for 50% of Brits, followed by healthcare and hospitality.

The data suggest that consumers’ adoption of digital CX tools will continue to increase next year, with nearly half of UK consumers expecting to use more chatbots (42%), virtual agents (43%) and self-service CX technologies (44%).

In response to this trend retailers will continue to strengthen their digital offerings, so we’ll see a stronger focus on personalisation. This will drive faster adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics, with businesses looking to bundle AI-powered chatbots and agent-assist technologies with contact centre platforms to create more personalised and seamless online experiences. As AI becomes more widely used, virtual assistant apps will become easier to train and deploy, enabling smaller retailers to compete more successfully with larger brands when it comes to customer experience.

These technologies will be key for providing a seamless omnichannel customer experience and for meeting the needs of today’s consumers who expect quick and easy access to information at any time and on any device. 

The future of work post COVID-19 will drive wider adoption of cloud UC solutions

Within just a few months the pandemic has changed the face of modern working, triggering a shift to virtual collaboration that is likely to last long after the pandemic is gone. The rise of remote working and the financial pressures of the lockdowns have put tremendous pressure on IT departments to offer reliable and flexible solutions for teleworking, while keeping down costs. In this volatile market environment cloud has emerged as an essential strategy for enabling businesses to transition to a more agile working model.

The need for seamless communication and collaboration has never been greater, so next year we’ll see wider adoption of cloud solutions for unified communications (UC) and business collaboration.  High-performing companies will be spending the time, money and energy to assess their current infrastructure and plan the best way to gain the benefits of cloud without having to start all over, become burdened with expensive deployment models or get locked in for years with a specific vendor. As a result, we’ll see a rise of multi-cloud approaches to cloud migration and virtual desktop solutions delivered as-a-service.

Video collaboration will evolve to create more immersive collaboration experiences

Video collaboration has experienced tremendous growth during the pandemic and this trend is likely to continue into 2021 as organisations are looking to accommodate the needs of their hybrid workforce. As a result, industry players will be looking to add new features to existing collaboration apps such as a shoulder tap button or a quick-call function that allows users to recreate the spontaneity and intuitiveness of in-person meetings.

There will also be more focus on combining video conferencing with other emerging technologies to create more immersive experiences through complementary use cases for the technology. For instance, we can imagine to augment videoconferencing solutions with AR by introducing features like enhanced digital whiteboards that make collaboration in meetings more intuitive and feel more 'real'. Or if you’re a service worker, like a technician, and you’re stuck with a problem – an AR-enhanced videoconference could connect you with a colleague who can help you solve it. AR will be also a major boon to remote training, particularly when in-person training is more difficult or expensive.


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