What do retailers really want from technology?
What do retailers really want? Retail technology that delivers the best customer experience says Red Ant CEO Sarah Friswell
With 91% of consumers more likely to shop with brands who recognise, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations, it’s unsurprising that retailers are starting to realise the need to invest in technology for the optimum digital customer experience. Shoppers are selecting brands on their ability to deliver what they want when they want it, save their baskets when they switch devices, and allow them to chat with an expert consultant to check out a lipstick colour - knowing your customers’ values, habits and preferences has never been more important.
Delivering next-level CX
Hybrid retail based on digital transformation is back with full force, with dedicated technology that’s accessible to all organisations. These are the most effective tools and technologies for retailers to deliver next-level customer experience across all customer channels - for the long-term:
- Totally omnichannel
A fully omnichannel solution needs an all-in-one retail platform with fully integrated data that can maximise sales, deliver exceptional customer service and drive operational performance. It’s vital to check all infrastructure is connected and sharing data sources to provide a single source of truth - otherwise digital transformation won’t deliver the expected results. A robust platform that has been successful with multiple clients that integrates into a retailer’s technology ecosystem is key.
- Data integration
Data integration is probably the biggest challenge for retailers, but it’s a project that needs to be tackled first by heads of IT - not last. Some retail tech solutions say they are integrated when they’re not, and there’s a long-standing myth among retailers that integration with their other systems isn’t possible, which means it’s often brushed aside as a huge problem.
With the right retail platform, it’s easy to harness data from multiple sources - legacy, third party and new – and this platform is the orchestration layer which brings everything together – it’s just about making sure the APIs do exist. But it needs to be embedded into the whole business for a successful retail transformation.
It’s this data that is at the heart of clienteling and having the right information about products, customer profiles, wish lists and more that makes store associates comfortable engaging with customers. Once data is integrated, CIOs can be confident about the value of their clienteling solution. Retailers will need to ensure their all their services, both in-store and online - are able to integrate both new and existing customer data - simply offering a top-layer experience with no data behind it will not be fit for purpose. The role of the store associate will continue to be elevated as they become tech-enabled shopping companions, whether they’re in store or doing a virtual consultation.
The key to building loyalty is personalisation, only made possible with the right data quality and integration. The conscious consumer, concerned with sustainability, diversity and responsible business practices, requires retailers to ensure that their values chime with their target customers and that store associates have all the information they need at their fingertips to prove it – which only the right in-store tech can make happen. This means a personalised experience from social media to the last mile that reflects customers’ personal wants and needs.
- Inventory / stock management
Retailers should regularly be asking themselves, ‘If I don’t have real-time stock information, how can I be confident what I’m selling is correct?’ For tech-enabled transformation to really work, you need to know where your inventory is at any point in the process. If there’s no overview of where stock is and how it is selling, the result may be disappointed customers who have made the effort to travel to a specific store to buy a specific item, only to find that it isn’t available. The technology exists to ensure that store associates equipped with the right tools can order out-of-stock items in-store on behalf of the customer, for delivery either to their home, another store or for pick-up on their next visit.
- Frictionless payment systems
Post pandemic shopping is all about convenience. And having the choice of payment systems is critical. Omnichannel PoS has the power to vastly increase the number of checkouts and payment options available including mixed baskets and remote payments with full attribution - coupled with technically-enabled staff who have all the information to provide customers with what they need.
- Delivery and autonomous delivery
It may seem like just ‘the end of the journey’, but retailers can’t afford to overlook delivery – the last moments of the CX are often the most memorable. Click and collect/BOPAK must be even further embedded into the seamless shopping experience because customers expect to be able to pick up their purchases at their convenience, meaning stock management and inventory will become even more essential to efficient store operations, especially when there are challenges to the supply chain.
A perfect blend of in-store and online
The solution for customer-centred retailers is to take advantage of retail tech that allows them to converge online and in-store experiences as well as access to product information, stock ordering, pickup from alternative stores and so on into one seamless path to purchase which works for the customer across all channels – personalised, fluid, driven by their needs and inherently time-efficient. An experience which meets the real needs of customers, wherever and however they choose to shop, has to be the flagship reason for choosing a brand among a huge choice of retailers.