The retail industry is being revolutionized through technology, with the accent very much on personalizing the customer’s retail experience both on and offline; technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Big Data and AI (Artificial Intelligence) are playing their part in delivering this.
Sophisticated POS (Point of Sale)
POS tech has become highly developed, to the point where the following can all be achieved in a matter of seconds when a customer purchases:
- Swift payment taken – whether cards or cash
- Data capture – creating a new customer record for a first time buyer or details of the purchase to help build the customer profile of a returner
- Start and build relationships – the use of personalized gift cards at the POS to encourage new and existing customers to buy at this outlet
- Fast and accurate inventory management – POS linked to inventory systems adjusts stock levels and creates purchasing trends data instantly
The above helps retail operations to not only transact sales quickly but also build useful customer profiles regarding their purchasing habits – a huge asset for future marketing activities. Also, stock levels can be accurately maintained and intelligence gained as to what sells and when.
Targeted – the above customer profiling through POS data capture is one method where intelligence gained about the specific buyer can be used to market to them subsequently in a highly targeted and ‘personalized’ fashion. Their buying habits can be used to focus offers and details of new products directly relevant to them.
Remarketing – tech advances make it easy to track people’s online research to put relevant offers and product details in front of them based on their recent searches.
Geographical marketing – becoming popular via smartphones; product information can be served to people using GPS and remarketing techniques through AI tech.
This is very much a part of the move towards making each customer’s shopping experience unique to them as retailing becomes more customer as opposed to product centric.
The rise of social media has caused a sea change in the way organizations and brands relate to their customers and potential market, but relationship marketing isn’t just ‘doing’ social media – it’s a whole marketing strategy in itself.
Building and maintaining a relationship is becoming a key part of doing business; retailers interact with people directly so as to try and build positive relationships.
Automated retail sales
A battery of technological advances including AI, the IoT (Internet of Things) and Machine Learning is ushering in the rise of automated retail environments involving no staff interaction such as the Amazon Go outlets.
These grocery stores enable people to shop without interacting with staff or even an automated checkout, and are being rolled out across the U.S. with other retailers looking to follow suit.
All visitors need is their smartphone and the Amazon app to go shopping.
AR and VR
These technologies allow people to interact with brands and products to help them buy; for example, there are apps in the form of an AR mirror enabling women to try different make up shades instore, and interactive smart mirrors enable people to virtually try on an outfit.
Some larger furniture outlets such as IKEA enable customers to virtually bring items into their homes to assess how they’ll look.
Customer relations using chatbots
AI tech is creating a huge rise in the use of chatbots to communicate with actual and potential customers whether on a retailer’s website or other digital channels such as social media.
It means more consumers can interact with a retailer at less cost to the business in terms of staff wages and overheads. It also means a consistent level of customer service can be achieved since human variation is removed from the equation.
Customer service can be offered round the clock and involves far less waiting for attention as in being held in a call center queue for example.
All to play for
Whilst many feel online retailing spells the end for physical stores and shops, the reality is somewhat different: it’s expected over 80% of retail sales will still be via a physical store well into the 2020s.
Also, bear in mind companies who originated online are developing a physical presence such as Amazon with their Amazon Go stores referenced above and physical bookstores – ironic in that they started as an online bookseller.