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Are you Offering Shoppers the Digital Experience they Expect?

New research identifies gaps between customer expectations and retail execution when it comes to digital experiences.

According to the Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations report, based on research conducted by Incisiv, there is a disconnect between customer expectations and retail execution. The research combines findings from surveys of 1,212 retail consumers and 60 retail executives to understand the effect digital has on the shopping experience.

“The digital divide in retail is growing, as over 75% of retail shopping traverses the digital realm, but less than half of retailers deliver on the most important digital capabilities that customers desire,” said Brian Brunk, principal, BRP. “Further, very few retailers offer the next generation digital technologies, like automated returns and proximity-triggered mobile coupons, that could significantly influence future purchase decisions. Retailers must transform and quickly close the digital gap to remain relevant with their customer.

Consumers are no longer confined to a linear buying journey and expect greater convenience and empowerment to shop the way they want and where they want. Digital sits at the core of that promise and it’s no surprise that most consumers research prices, reviews and product information before they set foot into a store and when they are in the store they perform these actions on their mobile devices.

“Mobile devices and the capabilities they enable are the primary catalyst for the continued evolution of the customer experience,” said Ryan Grogman, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “The majority of today’s consumers research products and brands digitally prior to visiting a physical store and, once they are in the store, about half of them use their mobile devices to perform price comparisons, read product reviews, and even validate inventory.”

Consumers are more likely to shop at retailers that align next-gen technologies to their digital preferences; however, in many cases, retailers don’t offer the capabilities that impact consumers’ shopping preferences.

Proximity-triggered Mobile Coupons – Consumers value digital discounts and promotions on their mobile devices. 

  • 65% of customers would more likely shop at a retail brand that offered this capability
  • 8% of retailers offer this capability

Augmented Reality Experience – Many consumers appreciate the opportunity to see products in a virtual environment.

  • 48% of customers would more likely shop at a retail brand that offered this capability
  • 15% of retailers offer this capability

Automated Returns Process – Consumers expect the returns process to be easy and frictionless.

  • 68% of customers would more likely shop at a retail brand that offered this capability
  • 8% of retailers offer this capability

I encourage you to download and read the complete Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations report:

DOWNLOAD NOW

As always, I appreciate your insights on this topic.  Please share your thoughts and opinions below.

David

Alibaba is piloting AI-enabled shopping experiences

Luxury Daily – Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has opened a concept store that offers shoppers and luxury retailers a look at a new frontier for fashion retail digitization.

Dubbed “FashionAI,” the pilot boutique harnesses artificial intelligence capabilities for a stress-free shopping experience. While it is only open for a few days, the store will act as a temporary testing ground for innovative retail formats.

“AI-assisted shopping brings the compelling elements of online purchasing to the physical store, creating a truly unique, personalized customer experience,” Laura Sossong, consulting manager at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “Consumers who desire a meaningful in-store experience but want the added benefits of styling tips, convenience and individualized customer service are sure to embrace this hybrid offering.”

Ms. Sossong is not affiliated with Alibaba but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

“Predicting fashion trends is imperative for the success of luxury retailers, and in-store AI technology will allow retailers to glean invaluable insight into marketplace preferences and trends,” Ms. Sossong said. “By gathering rich reportable data on customer shopping choices, retailers can then predict trends, demand and inventory needs and shape assortment direction and strategy based on findings.”

“The plethora of insights created by AI will enable luxury retailers to make smarter merchandise planning and assortment decisions,” BRP’s Ms. Sossong said. “We are bound to see elements of AI technology being incorporated into the luxury space, particularly in high end markets where implementing AI will bring ROI by inducing further purchases.”

Read Full Article: Alibaba is piloting AI-enabled shopping experiences

CLOUD STRATEGIES: Proving Key to Personalization, Product Content Enhancement

Retail TouchPoints – The retail cloud business segment is expected to reach more than $28 billion by 2021, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.9%, according to research from MarketsandMarkets. As many as 70% of retailers say cloud will be a major factor in their business by 2020, according to a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit. But as more retailers jump aboard the cloud bandwagon, they should strive to gain a competitive edge with the technology that goes beyond the basic benefits of a cloud implementation.

This Retail TouchPoints Special Report will spotlight innovative strategies facilitated by cloud solutions that can help retailers achieve new business goals with speed and efficiency.

Many retailers already are leveraging cloud servers for business basics like POS processes, order management and fulfillment and communications across the enterprise. More advanced cloud offerings can help them:

  • Personalize offers even before the purchase journey begins;
  • Improve delivery and quality of product content offerings, especially as the number of SKUs they carry increases;
  • Unlock and unify customer data from disparate sources; and
  • Assist with in-store, mobile-powered guided selling.

ELIMINATING THE ‘SAFETY STOCK’ PROBLEM

Despite the introduction of cloud services, many merchants still haven’t taken the proper steps to give shoppers true “real-time” access to their inventory across channels. Many retailers still struggle with “safety stock” — additional quantities of an item held in inventory to reduce the risk that the item will be out of stock, according to Ken Morris, Principal of BRP.

“Let’s say I’m selling Tag Heuer watches — I must have a safety stock of two to account for this lag,”
said Morris. “If I have two or less items in a store, I have to tell corporate I have no items, because I have to account for the lag in updates to inventories between all the distribution centers and all of the stores. Although I may have two each in every store of 1,000 stores, it’s going to read as zero to someone trying to buy online and pick up in store.”

With a cloud service that incorporates data from all stores and distribution centers, retailers would be able to generate more accurate real-time stock numbers throughout the enterprise, without worrying about products going out-of-stock. Additionally, associates would be able to access this information quicker within the store, so they could assist consumers with real-time inventory data.

MOBILE APPS GUIDE IN-STORE SALES VIA SHOPPER DATA

Cloud platforms also can help retailers match products within the store to shoppers via guided selling. Morris described how an app recently designed for a BRP retail client offers guided selling in-store based on prior shopper behavior.

“Whatever they visited or put on their wish list or basket as they walked into the store, the app would guide them around to look at what they saw online and direct them with a Google map around the store,” Morris said. “This makes retail experiences way more relevant than most are today, especially because stores are changing. Having that data while the customer is in the store is key. To be able to affect the sale before checkout is what Amazon does every day online. They know who I am, they know what I buy, they know what I’m likely to buy and they help me through that sale.”

Read Full Article: CLOUD STRATEGIES: Proving Key to Personalization, Product Content Enhancement

Simplify and Optimize your Network to Transform your Customers’ Shopping Experience

The network is a key component of the store technology platform necessary to deliver real-time retail and the enhanced shopping experiences customers now expect. As retailers continue to deploy more applications via the cloud, along with implementing data rich services; a simple, fast, agile, reliable and secure network solution is imperative for a successful transformation of the store.

Watch this video to learn more about how you can simplify and optimize your network to transform your customers’ shopping experience.

For more detailed insights on how to transform your network for the store of the future, download and read The Future Retail Network Manifesto.

As always, I appreciate your input on this this topic. Please share your comments and opinions below.

David

Retail Transformation – For the Customer and the Enterprise

XplorexIT– With the flurry of bankruptcies and store closure announcements in 2017 and continuing into 2018, the phrase “Retail Apocalypse” has become the topic of many conversations. The doom and gloom of an apocalypse is very far from reality. However, there is no argument that change, turmoil and disruption is reshaping the world of retail. This article was authored by Perry Kramer, Senior Vice President and Practice Lead at BRP.

There are a number of retailers who are thriving and many more who continue on a successful growth path. The common thread that weaves among these retailers is the leveraging of enterprise software, business practices and view of the customer to improve overall margin and customer service. The stability and elasticity of network technology, including SD-WAN, is allowing retailers to move many store-centric systems to the enterprise level (cloud) to increase effectiveness. For mature retailers, this has resulted in higher customer satisfaction, reduced application costs, and has become the cornerstone for real-time retail.

Real-time Retail
Successful retailers recognize the absolute need to keep the customer at the epicenter of the retail transaction. To achieve this, retailers are migrating to an environment that offers real-time access to enterprise-wide product information, customer preferences, and transaction history across all channels. To meet the new set of customer expectations, modern customer engagement, merchandising, order management, and inventory management systems must be integrated in real-time and seamlessly accessible by the sales associate. Top retailers are adopting and implementing a unified commerce platform based at the enterprise with real-time retail information available at the fingertips of their corporate users, call centers, sales associates and customers.

While retail is definitely going through challenging times, the transformation is exciting with new technologies and opportunities arising to enhance the customer journey and support the expanded use of AI and BI tools needed to optimize the profitability of each transaction. The increased maturity of networks and network tools will continue to bring further transformation and drive fundamental changes in retail. A foundational component of reducing costs, enabling speed-to-market, and meeting or exceeding customer expectations in real-time is the migration of distributed functions to the enterprise. For retailers who are not well into their transformation to offer a ubiquitous real-time retail customer journey, the key to survival is to redouble their efforts before the competition puts them out of business.

Read Full Article: Retail Transformation – For the Customer and the Enterprise

Amazon’s “style assistant” offers guidance, product suggestions

Luxury Daily – Online retail giant Amazon is looking to become a key source of fashion inspiration and advice through the nationwide roll out of its style-centric Echo Look device.

Originally launched last year on an invite-only basis, the Echo Look uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to help consumers pick between outfits or add to their closets. The Echo Look has the potential to change the way consumers shop for fashion and interact with their wardrobes, opening doors for Amazon and its brand partners.

“Echo Look is a logical extension to integrate with Amazon’s commerce platform,” said Laura Sossong, consulting manager at Boston Retail Partners. “It’s the perfect complementary offering to stimulate incremental sales and create cross-selling opportunities for Amazon’s existing fashion pieces and Alexa technology.”

“Fashion marketers will absolutely look to leverage Echo Look’s Style Check function to boost sales and increase exposure to their brand offerings,” Ms. Sossong said. “The social component of the device will allow sharing of look books, raising awareness and demand for labels and trending merchandise across social communities.”

“Playing upon successful components of social media, Echo will bring outside influence and inspiration to a consumer’s closet,” Boston Retail Partners’ Ms. Sossong said. “It will promote social shopping by introducing shoppers to new style ideas and brands that inspire purchases.”

Read Full Article: Amazon’s “style assistant” offers guidance, product suggestions

Retailers Want Your Data: Here’s How They Get It

PC Mag – If you’re a business owner, knowing your audience is key. But how best to collect data on customers? According to Boston Retail Partners, 37 percent of retailers use more personalized service as an incentive to have consumers identify themselves, while another 37 percent offer no incentives at all. About 30 percent offer product-based incentives (such as buy one-get one free), while others dangle easy returns or exchanges—if you sign up for an account.

The more a retailer knows about you—from products you’ve purchased to those you’ve browsed, favorited, or put in your cart for later—the easier it is for them to find ways to get more of your dollars. There is a whole industry filled with products, information services, and agencies designed to reconcile and act on much of the anonymous browsing conducted on retailer websites.

Read Full Article: Retailers Want Your Data: Here’s How They Get It

Unified Commerce is Here: The Customer Experience of the Future

MarTech Series – According to a Latest Report, 73% of Customers Want Order Tracking Across all Touchpoints but only 7% of Retailers Currently Offer “Start Anywhere, Finish Anywhere” Order Capabilities.

Customer-centric retailing and selling are the new business models. The new model goes beyond the traditional horizon of omnichannel, breaking down the lofty walls between internal intent silos and the potent customer experience platforms.

” Unified commerce and a customer experience (CX) that transcends channels are the foundation of the new retail model.” – BPR

The future of customer experience is now, and Unified Commerce would play the biggest role in assigning performance-related metrics to the use of emerging technologies — AR, VR, AI, and video for commerce. BRP’s 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current priorities and initiatives as digital and physical retail environments converge to facilitate a seamless experience across channels.

The report also compares retailers’ priorities with customer expectations – based on recent results from the 2018 Retail Consumer Study conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise – to understand how retailer priorities align with customer expectations.

Read full article: Unified Commerce is Here: The Customer Experience of the Future

The Retail Firmament: Email And The Customer Experience

MediaPost – Retailers are crawling toward delivering a holistic customer experience. And they have a long way to go, according to The Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, a report by BRP.

Most retailers use personal email — 81% say they do. And 12% expect to use it within three years. But 45% admit their email marketing needs improvement. And not all are succeeding at delivering a unified cross-channel experience to customers.

Of over 500 North American retailers polled, 81% pursue a multichannel or omnichannel program, but only 5% have reached a “true unified commerce model,” the study states.

The result is a “faux” omnichannel model, according to BRP, a retail management consulting firm.

Overall, the top priority of the respondents is to increase customer loyalty — 53% are pursuing this goal. The second objective, cited by 42%, is to optimize the customer experience.

Read full article: The Retail Firmament: Email And The Customer Experience

Study: ‘Seamless shopping’ is still a pipe dream

Chain Store Age – Retailers know it is critical for shopping experiences to be seamless and frictionless, yet these experiences are still few and far between.

While most consumers expect the ability to shop effortlessly across channels, only 7% of retailers currently provide a complete unified commerce experience that allows a customer to “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere,” according to the “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey,” from Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

Knowing that consumers will often stop shopping a brand after just one bad customer moment, retailers are making big plans to converge digital and physical retail environments to facilitate a seamless experience across channels going forward. Within three years, 50% of companies plan to offer a complete unified commerce experience that allows a customer to start and finish the sale anywhere.

To help retailers prepare for this journey, BRP offers the “E5 of Customer Experience”: Educate, Engage, Execute, Enhance and Enabler.

“With customer expectations continuing to rise, it is promising to see how many retailers are focused on adding new capabilities to enhance the shopping experience,” said Perry Kramer, senior VP and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners.

Read Full Article: Study: ‘Seamless shopping’ is still a pipe dream