A lot of people are talking about the great retail apocalypse. On the surface, negative titles paint a grim picture for just about everyone except Amazon. Despite these seemingly dark times, a retail renaissance is currently underway, paving the way for a brighter future for the entire industry.
As the co-founder of Heyday.ai, an AI-powered customer chat platform for retailers, I have witnessed firsthand this “retail renaissance” and the systemic trends shaping its future. To offer a more positive view of the current and future state of retail, I decided to take the pulse of those who are really in the trenches by creating a virtual roundtable of global retail leaders leading the way. charge and embrace change.
From fashion to automobiles to home appliances, I interviewed a select group of seasoned retail executives to help explain the driving forces behind retail transformation and how brands can adapt and thrive in a mobile and AI driven retail world.
Rising customer expectations
The new generation of buyers are increasingly looking for instant gratification – the same level of immediacy they are used to with their phones.
Noam Paransky, senior vice president of digital at Gap Inc., noted that consumers “want things to be faster and more relevant. They seek a high level of interaction. This obsession with the “now” is forcing retailers to change the way they operate in order to be more agile. Customers are looking for what I call “on-demand brands,” companies that can add value instantly.
To adapt to this new concept of real-time relevance, re-merchants need to adopt a just-in-time mindset, not only in terms of inventory but also in terms of messaging. This is how they will win the battle in an ever-active world.
Seamless omnichannel experience
With the emergence of mobile as the preferred customer channel for commerce, the line between online and in-store purchases is increasingly blurred, if not blurring. As a result, brands need to rethink the entire omnichannel experience to feel as smooth and frictionless as possible.
Jeff Pearson, senior vice president of e-commerce and marketing at LIDS Sports Group, summed it up well, explaining: “I like to use the words ‘unified commerce’ as opposed to ‘omnichannel’ … hui want to be able to shop what they want, find what they want, buy what they want, anywhere, anytime.
In order to meet these expectations, retailers must rethink customer experiences in order to reduce the barriers between the physical world and the digital world. The ultimate goal: to eliminate friction in the customer journey.
Rich conversations with customers
According to Jim Lyski, Marketing Director of CarMax, conversational AI technology may just be the long-awaited glue of omnichannel. He told me: “The more complex the customer journey, the more likely you are to lose customers. Chatbots help keep the process running smoothly and eliminate friction.
With a hybrid use of AI and human assistants, brands like CarMax can now unlock rich customer conversations at scale, 24/7. I believe that the ability of brands to continue engaging with customers over a period of time is the future of customer engagement outside of the four walls of a store.
Every month a huge 8 billion messages are sent between businesses and customers on Facebook Messenger only. Customers increasingly expect businesses to be available via SMS, forcing brands to rethink their communication strategies. Ultimately, customers want to access businesses and services when and where they want to be, and that increasingly means in messaging applications where they spend most of their time chatting with their customers. friends.
The more brands open up channels of communication with their customers, the more they can learn from those interactions and get the right data to further personalize experiences. Grégoire Brasset, vice-president and general manager of Lacoste Canada, told me: “TThe future of retail is about creating a personalized experience through product personalization and specific customer considerations.
Global brands sit on vast amounts of data, but only a handful are actually leveraging it to their full potential. Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of sales and marketing at SHARP Home Appliances, believes this is a huge untapped opportunity and offers a unique perspective: “CRM means ‘Consumers Really Matter’. Unfortunately, most businesses spend millions on CRM and still do a lousy job of personalizing the customer experience with data. ”
I think that he is right. Individual personalization is the real promise of data lakes if used correctly. When a brand’s data is organized in a way that is easily accessible to both store associates and virtual agents (AIs), the degree of personalization of the experience can increase exponentially, as can customer satisfaction.
Bring the human touch to the store, online
Despite the high expectations, AI and data alone is not the answer. Even the most tech-savvy retailers believe that humanity should always be at the center of interactions.
By leveraging new technologies like AI to augment store associates – not replace them – retailers can give their team the superpowers they need to deliver exceptional customer service.
Ultimately, the future of retail mirrors its past. It’s about putting the customer at the center of everything. In my experience, thinking about people first almost always leads to more profit. Sometimes customers just want to have a simple conversation.