Another NRF has come and gone. Thousands of retail executives, decision-makers, and industry fanatics descended upon the Javits Center in New York City to discuss and discover the latest and greatest tech innovations at ‘retail’s big show.’ As industry leaders shared ideas, one major theme emerged: personalized digital experiences are going to shape the future of retail.
Today’s shoppers have an abundance of options, and retailers are hungry to stand out and grab their attention. Whether online or in-store, major retailers are re-discovering their customer and what motivates them. To cater to these shoppers, retailers are tapping technology to enhance the customer experience. As technology diversifies and becomes more cost effective for smaller retailers, this year’s NRF gave us a window into how this trend will shape shopping experiences in 2018 and beyond.
- Augmented reality and artificial intelligence take center stage
To no one’s surprise, augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) were the talk of NRF 2018. Over the past year or so, beauty retailers have paved the way for AR in-store, and the appeal is hitting even more mainstream retailers. Finish Line for example, installed lorry client Elo’s 4202L 42” interactive digital signage with MemoMi’s smart mirror software in three of its stores. The installation allows users to test out their new kicks in an AR setting, snap a photo, and then share it on social media.
That’s not the only one, as artificial intelligence was well represented on the show floor. Retailer Cosabella is using AI in three key areas: advertising email automation, A/B testing, and product personalization.
- Digging deep into consumer preferences with data analytics
Deep learning and data analytics are being used to identify better prices, allocate store staff more efficiently, and offer better product curation recommendations. As an example, companies are already using data to schedule the appropriate ratio of store associates to customers during “power hours,” which has been found to increase revenues by one to three percent.
One of the more intriguing concepts aims to bring the same kind of website analytics and insights to in-store foot traffic. Adobe Analytics, for example, captures shopper behaviors while Adobe Target optimizes that information and delivers a hyper-personalized experience.
- Two modes of customer experience: chatbots and sales associates
As noted by many keynote speakers, catering to the multi-channel shopper is going to be key in the year to come. In fact, Oracle Retail Vice President Jeff Warren shared that “of the 174 million shoppers over the five-day holiday period post-Thanksgiving, the omnichannel shopper spent, on average, $82 more than an online-only shopper in that five day period. And they spent $49 more than an in-store only shopper.”
Therefore, retailers need to be prepared to offer the best customer service experience both online and in-store. Chatbots are the way of the future for online shopping. Not only have they given retailers a direct line to their customers, but also helped cut down on wait/hold times, improving the overall experience. For example, 1-800-Flowers.com recently integrated with Google Assistant to allow shoppers to place orders via voice or text in an instant.
While online customer experience is increasingly important, retailers can’t forget about the in-store customer experience. Many thought leaders discussed the “employee experience” to create a better in-store customer journey and noted that it all starts with the sales associate. When employees are armed with the right technology and software that yields valuable information, they can better tailor their service and recommendations to shoppers.
All in all, the retail industry is going to get more personal in the year to come – and there’ll be a lot of vendors out there vying for a spot to help.
Retail tech providers looking to stand out in this crowded space will also need to personalize their own message to meet their business goals in 2018. NRF gave us a glimpse into future and a look at which companies may be most impactful in driving retail innovation. Let us know how you plan to meet the challenge at email@example.com.