2018 Predictions on Retail Customer Experience

2017 was an eventful year for the retail sector. Big announcements were made, technologies emerged, and retailers sought out ways to enhance and advance the customer experience.

Fittingly, retail customer experience gurus, leaders and experts are looking ahead at what’s to come in 2018, and shared their insights with Retail Customer Experience. Here are some of the highlights:

Artificial Intelligence

Katie Smith, retail analysis and insights director at EDITED, anticipates greater pricing transparency and that brands will experiment with ways to use prices to attract customers.

“This includes giving customers a discount if they remove the ‘free returns’ option or buy multiple items, or are transparent about supply chain costs, to align with consumer values,” she said. “In 2018, new AI applications — including more chatbots, voice activated devices, real-time analytics and systems to detect payment fraud will flood the industry. Savvy retailers will recognize which apps to use for greater personalization, customer service and inventory management.”

“Jennifer Johnson, head of retail industry marketing at Kronos, predicts AI will be a differentiator as retailers tap more human capital power ‘to innovate and collaborate’ in the crowded omnichannel space.”

“What if your employees and managers could use ANY device of their choice, to collaboratively self-schedule and express where, when, and how much they want to work, and a schedule optimization engine generates an ideal schedule. And what if a machine learning backed forecasting tool could make schedule creation that much more accurate, taking into account customer demand and employee preferences,” said Johnson. “This is the future of work in retail — it’s leveraging AI, machine learning,and advanced technology, but at the end it’s also back to basics — take care of your people and see how that makes financial sense.”

Voice Technology

Almaz Nanjappa, senior vice president of innovation labs at Softvision, expects voice technology to become a “powerful and standard way of interfacing with consumers, and play an essential role in the customer buying experience.”

“Assistants like Alexa and Siri will become more standard as TV and home appliance vendors will make sizeable investments in their products to become more voice interactive to enhance the consumer shopping experience, just as Amazon has done in our homes with Alexa and Apple has provided to mobile with Siri,” said Nanjappa.

“Talkdesk CEO Tiago Paiva expects voice to remain a vibrant customer experience technology, even with increased use of chatbot and other automation tools, and cited a Deloitte 2017 global contact center survey that states voice still accounted for 64 percent of customer interactions this year, four times more than any other channel.

‘Looking two years into the future, the same survey projects voice to be about half of all communications, three times more than any other individual channel. These numbers are for total communications, it doesn’t even take into account that voice is used for the crucial, high-emotion moments that make or break customer loyalty,’ he said, adding he believes AI-based tools will not only be helping customers but support agents as well.”

In-store Experience and Faster Shipping Options

Verifone President of North America, Joe Mach, predicts consumers will continue to visit physical stores “as long as there are new and interesting reasons to go.

‘As new shopping platforms continue to evolve, retailers will use more meaningful personalization tactics to attract customers. By integrating new technologies like beacons, omnichannel solutions and consumer smartphone integration with devices, larger retailers can develop bespoke experiences similar to the smaller boutique experience. We expect to see more use of software applications that create loyalty and incentives for customers to visit their favorite stores more often,’ says Mach.”

Ian Jarvis, head of retail at The Smart Cube, anticipates showrooms will play a bigger role this year in that they provide consumers a way to scope out products. He noted Nordstrom’s move to offer a showroom-only experience this past year.

“Retailers in some sectors can replace underperforming stores and support e-commerce efforts with showrooms. A showroom, in its purest form, is a store that showcases products, but sells nothing — in the sense of providing goods to consumers,” he said, adding that “a showroom offers items for inspection, gives advice on products and takes orders. The products are then shipped to the customer’s home from some other location,” he explained. “The showroom also can serve as a customer engagement hub environment, he noted, by providing personal stylists, tailor services and even manicure appointments as well as refreshments.”

Jarvis also expects same-day shipping to become even more prominent.

“It’s a requirement in today’s world. Consumers might not want to actually make the trip to physical locations, but they still want the instant gratification,” he said, citing Amazon’s same day fresh food delivery and same day delivery efforts by Target, Best Buy and eBay. “It’s obvious that shoppers’ demand for faster delivery is here to stay.”

Dropoff works with retail and e-commerce businesses to bring same-day delivery to consumers — conveniently, reliably, and professionally. And with a feature-rich API that connects to retail and e-commerce systems, providing a seamless same-day delivery option to consumers at checkout has never been easier.

Mobile Technology

Given all the news around mobile — from mobile pay to enhanced mobile shopping — it’s no surprise industry watchers “expect even greater advancements with regard to the retail customer experience.

Vicki Cantrell, retail transformation officer at Aptos, stated it simply: mobile is never ending and never finished.”

“Mobile has been an initiative for retailers for years and has come a long way. Mobile is an extension of the store, and retailers must be able to facilitate rapid delivery of everything available in-store on mobile devices, and then some. In 2018, retailers must continue to improve their mobile platform capabilities so that it works seamlessly or risk losing sales. This goes for mobile applications and in the mobile web browser.”

We’re excited to see what 2018 has in store. Contact us today to find out how we can be your last-mile partner.

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