Many retailers will agree that one of the key components to a successful retail business is the customer experience. Customers are looking for an enjoyable shopping experience. Major retail stores are continuously trying to innovate and improve the retail experience, so that they can grow and retain a strong customer base. Technology has made it a lot easier for retailers to personalize experiences, improve customer relationships, and understand the individual customer's needs. There are many trends that retailers are adopting and involve high-tech strategies for improving the customer experience.
Retail stores nowadays face a dilemma in retaining their customers from convenient online outlets such as Amazon. In order to compete with online alternatives, retail stores have to make physically visiting a store worthwhile to the consumer. “My expectation will be to go to the store to learn about things, to be a participant in things, to try different products, to co-create, to customize, to personalize the things I'm buying,” says Doug Stephens, retail industry futurist and author of The Retail Revival.
For example, a major outdoor apparel maker such as The North Face collaborated with VR company Jaunt to allow shoppers to wear VR headsets and take a virtual tour of Yosemite National Park or even virtually rock climb alongside star athletes. This VR technology creates an emotional connection with customers who might then feel more inclined to purchase items related to the experience. “Our brand mission is to inspire a life of exploration, so we felt like this was a great way to enhance our storytelling, use technology, and transport people to the outdoors,” said Eric Oliver, director of digital marketing at The North Face.
Another way to improve customer experience is by knowing what customers really want. Retailers who are already experienced with this know that you can learn this by simply talking to their clientele. They can ask for feedback on the level of service, pricing, product selections, quality, and promotions. Technology may make this task much easier by already tracking and identifying each and every customer's wants and needs. One company called Hoxton Analytics has a system that can automatically determine a shopper's demographics by scanning and identifying only your shoes. Privacy may be one concern with this kind of technology but the company assures that the system “does not gather personal data, it does not store individual photographs, nor can it recognize individuals.”
Brick and mortar stores are learning to adapt to online competitors by taking advantage of multi-channel retail opportunities. Retailers are improving customer experience by offering better services with an integration of various channels and creating a “seamless blend of all the channels that customers typically access before making a purchase.” For example, a startup called Iconeme added electrical implants to mannequins that can communicate with nearby shopper's smartphones. That customer can learn more about the clothing the mannequin is wearing and even make purchases seamlessly via their app.
The retail industry is continuously going through change and some factors have gone beyond product price and quality. It is the shopping experience in itself, which may differentiate successful brick and mortar retailers from the rest. Retailers are beginning to grasp and understand that satisfaction levels are much higher for both customers and even employees when transforming shopping into a creative and personal experience. Innovative retailers are able accomplish this feat by developing affordable and robust technology around the customer experience.