Retail is in the midst of a remarkable transition. As new technology continues to emerge at pace, the world we live in is changing fast and consequently so is the way we buy things. Constantly starting, pausing and resuming purchase journeys across channels to fit shopping into our busy lives, we’re growing increasingly demanding and impatient.
At ustwo, we’ve worked with a number of forward-thinking retailers, bravely experimenting with new propositions in the market. Using a holistic approach to assess the appetite of the market, the idiosyncrasies of each segment and the capabilities of their organisations, we’ve helped them reshape and accelerate their service offerings to ready them for the next wave of complex shoppers – Generation Z – without alienating their existing customer base.
Recent forecasts state that retail will change more in the next five years than it has in the past fifty (Fitch). The change is not only driven by industry trends and emerging technologies, but very much shaped by the behaviours, attitudes and aspirations of today’s customers – and those of tomorrow.
This behaviour, known as ‘the constant state of partial attention” (Fitch), has led some retailers to turn to technology for innovation in their retail experience.
In the future, data-driven, tech-enabled services will facilitate an ever-evolving, intersecting customer journey and the convergence of on- and offline
Do people really want to feel like Tom Cruise in Minority Report when shopping?
The question every retailer should be trying to answer is – how do people want to shop in the future? Is navigating large-scale installations, checking out outfits using magic mirrors or onsite 3D body-scanning technology for better size profiling desirable? Do people really want to feel like Tom Cruise in Minority Report when they shop – or do they crave something entirely different?
As our devices capture ever more personal details about us, it has become possible to utilise and synthesise customer, product and inventory data across channels. For users this means the potential of a tech-enabled, personalised and enhanced in-store shopping experience. Yet most brands still aren’t up for the challenge.
Curious to learn more about how today’s consumer sees the role of tech in future retail, we headed towards Regent Street to chat to people as they shopped.
Forget gimmicks, it’s all about providing an intersecting shopping experience
A consistent pattern quickly emerged through our conversations, highlighting that today’s customers do share a common set of expectations and behaviours.
Unsurprisingly, they’re super busy and don’t want to wait for anything. They want the conveniences of commerce ‑ including inventory and product information ‑ regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in a physical store. And they’d like to be able to conveniently locate and explore products, get real-time stock/inventory information or personalised offers regardless of where or when they shop.
Prominence was given to efficiency and the importance of being able to get what they want, when they want it, with a minimal amount of disruption to their daily lives.
“I shop a lot online; it’s a convenience thing for me. When I go into a store I rarely buy anything, because it’s too busy, it’s so annoying when there’s a 3-hour wait for the fitting rooms, or a 3-hour wait at the register or when you have a question and there’s no one around. Stuff like that just makes me want to leave.” – Anna, 19 years old
The people we talked to didn’t have an appetite for gimmicky tech installations. They felt these installations don’t play an integrated role in the overall experience and that most staff isn’t equipped to give clear direction on how to use the technology the retailer is promoting. Driven by practical needs, they all envisioned tech-enabled services as something intelligent and personalised that would empower wayfinding or reinforce their purchase decisions while shopping.
“I’m not really a techy person, so it’s a bit difficult for me to imagine the future, but if I could check out from anywhere in the store, so I didn’t have to wait in line that would be convenient ‑ so, some sort of in-store, personal companion app would be ideal for someone like me who likes to be in and out fast.” – Adrianne, 21 years old
To paraphrase Nir Eyal, people don’t crave something truly new, but prefers the somewhat familiar done in new and improved ways, and they expect a bespoke set of timely responses from the retailers they engage with: it’s essential that it’s all about them, their wants and their needs.
“I wouldn’t want technology to remove the human element entirely, and I do appreciate some good advice from a dedicated member of staff. On the other hand if tech could improve or enhance my experience that would be good. I just want to feel like I’m the centre of the universe ‑ like I’m important” – Maurizio, 49 years old
Use personal devices to leverage every touch point of the journey
Equipped with these insights, the knowledge that smartphone users actually interact with their phones on average 150 times a day (report by KPCB) and that roughly 68 per cent of customers use a mobile device while in store, we decided to take a closer look at how we would use technology and data-driven services to create an intersecting and fully integrated shopping journey.
As one of the biggest gaps identified was the lack of multichannel integration and the fact that most in-store staff currently don’t have access to CRM data on their customers, we decided to use the digital profiles created by customers across channels as our starting point. We wanted to create a truly seamless shopping experience, serving the customer timely, contextual and personalised offers in real time. We also wanted to reinforce the relationship between the sales staff and the customer.
We believe new technology initiatives should be launched with the purpose of digitising and personalising the multiple touch points of today’s shopping journey ‑ yet, to date no one has successfully launched an experience that fully connects the dots for the customer who shops from home, at work, in transit and in store.
All your personal data and preferences in one place. Always up-to-date. Get context-aware notifications and personalised offers in real time – whether you shop online or in-store. The MyShop Companion knows where you are, what you’ve wishlisted, your style, your size, your favourite brands and it’s hooked up to all your go to stores as well.
Our vision for the digitally enabled store
In putting together our approach, we thought about how to merge personal assistance and data intelligence to create a truly tailored shopping experience.
Imagine a customer-led, bespoke service that can change the way customers shop and offer an experience every person we spoke to desires. Imagine the death of separate online and in-store experiences, and the beginning of a data-enhanced shopping experience.
We’re calling it the ‘MyShop Companion’. It’s a multi-faceted, always up-to-date service that enables in-store and digital experiences to converge by offering a unique array of on-demand services that customers can opt-in or opt-out of at their own convenience, allowing the them to accomplish more in less time and with less effort – regardless of channel.
Bluetooth beacons will alert you with personal messages about items you’ve wishlisted, offers, special sales and much more as you walk around in your favourite shopping streets.
And don’t worry. When you check-in to a store, a dedicated member of staff will be notified through an mPOS and encouraged to pull up your personal profile with all your preferences and wish listed items available. Ready to help you with additional information or recommendations if you need it. You can even book an appointment and have a fitting room made ready for you when you enter the store if that’s more convenient for you.
No more waiting in line! The app companion enables you to send any item directly to the fitting room. For a stress-reduced and continued browsing experience in-store, you’ll be notified when your fitting room is available for you. If you already know what you want, grab it and check yourself out.
The app features a broad range of self-service option that allows you to check yourself out from anywhere in the store. With opt-in services like this, boundaries for the shopping experience of the future are becoming increasingly self-defined.
Are you ready to truly delight your customers?
As a retailer you need to focus on how to integrate your online and offline offerings now, before yet another start-up leapfrogs you and claims the space.
It’s time to embrace that your customers are channel-agnostic and expect a continuous experience. If you take a holistic approach and start utilising the abundance of data stored in their ecosystem of connected devices, you’ll not only have a single view of the customers, you’ll win their loyalty and drive up sales.
To truly delight your customers you need to provide them with:
A seamless, intersecting shopping experience that offers instant, real time information about offers, product availability etc. online and in-store
Dedicated, knowledgeable staff that know their preferences and have access to a synced, personal profile, wishlisted items and more
Instant gratification through a variety of on-demand tech-infused services solving relevant and meaningful problems.
Customers are forcing a fundamental change in retail by demanding and expecting a seamless convergence of their in-store and digital experiences – what are you waiting for?