There was much to learn from the National Retail Federation’s Annual Big Show last month, where more than 35,000 attendees came together to learn about the retail industry and its rapidly expanding technological advancements. The event covered a variety of topics, with extensive discussion about the future of technology and what it means for retail business. It’s now more important than ever for businesses to stay ahead of the innovation curve, prioritizing the implementation of digital technologies to create a standout customer experience.
Retail is no longer simply about selling a product; it’s about selling an experience. Today’s consumers are more interested in retailers who can provide high-quality, engaging shopping experiences. How do retailers do this? If the chatter at NRF is any indication, retailers should focus their efforts on these three trends in an effort to improve the customer experience in 2017.
The more personalized the experience, the more connected a consumer feels toward the brand. In 2017, retailers are expected to become more skilled at appealing to consumers as individuals. There are a number of digital platforms that retailers are already leveraging to collect customer information, providing them access to detailed data that can be used to deliver the right messages to the right customer at the right time. Some retailers have already begun taking advantage of advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence for an even more personalized shopping experience.
The key to a seamless shopping experience is an omnichannel strategy and in 2017, retailers are expected to push their omnichannel strategies even further. Consumers’ desire for instant gratification is forcing retailers to adopt a more integrated, hybrid approach – one that connects both physical and digital worlds, both inside and outside the store. Many retailers are attempting to do this by implementing technology in-store, creating a shopping experience that reflects the seamlessness of online shopping. Other retailers are taking it even further, expanding the customer experience outside the store doors. For example, Starbucks’ mobile app allows customers to order and pay before they even arrive in-store. As digital platforms continue to become more powerful and interconnected, omnichannel solutions will become a customer expectation.
Consumers want convenient, fast transactions and are driven by a desire for instant gratification. With today’s technological advancements and the rise of the Internet of Things, this convenience based purchasing is becoming increasingly possible for retailers. POS systems and self-service kiosks streamline transaction and checkout times. We’ll also see more technology that links the scanning of products with ordering and adding to the shopping list, coupled with the growth of subscription and automated replenishment fulfillment. Voice activation will also be a major focus, expanding from the home into the retail space. Big brands have already begun taking note of how they can harness this voice technology made popular by Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.
2017 will be a tipping point for many of the technologies that have been in startup mode for the last few years. It will be a year in which consumers favor retailers who explore high tech and bold ways to elevate every aspect of the shopping experience. There is no better time than now for retailers to start taking risks and investing in technology.