Today, consumers have moved away from the idea of wanting to buy products: they are now looking for experiences wherever they go, which has had a significant impact in the retail world, especially in physical stores. For retailers, it has been necessary to change their mindset and look for new ways to offer consumers innovative aspects that make them feel that a product is worth investing in.
But how can they operate more efficiently and flexibly while remaining profitable in a highly competitive market? Is it possible for them to adapt to evolving consumer behaviors and expectations through enchaned customer experience?
Understanding the past to comprehend the future
In the report How To Transform Your Retail Store, Compton tells us that to understand how we can ensure a good customer experience in the retail world, we need to understand what has changed in today’s consumers and how they differ from the consumers of the past:
Consumers are now always connected, thanks to their smartphones. In the U.S., 48% of adults who shop online prefer to use their smartphone for in-store research, specifically to find or redeem coupons, compare prices and look up product information.
Digital technology has changed consumers’ behavior and expectations: consumers now expect physical stores to offer the same assortment of products in-store and online – something that is often virtually impossible – and the same product information they get via the web. According to Forrester, 77% of U.S. adults who shop online expect retailers to maintain the same prices online and in physical stores, while 33% believe they are less likely to visit a store whose inventory is not available online.
Hyper-connected consumers are changing the rules of commerce as we have known it up to now. Now, it is the retailer who, in some way, must chase the consumer to avoid being perceived as irrelevant, or even “boring,” something that can have a brutal impact on sales – primarily if these are on consumers of the new, fully digitized generations.
The benefits of Digital Technologies in Retail Stores
Given this context, one thing is clear: it is imperative to use digital technology to create value in retail stores and adapt to this new paradigm. The use of this technology benefits not only retailers but also consumers in many different ways:
- Through the use of digital devices, it is likely to provide a better in-store customer experience. Their use can range far and wide, from ordering out-of-stock items to providing personalized product recommendations. Immersive experiences, such as digitally connected fitting rooms, are also helping to reinvent the way baskets are built and improve conversion: now, a customer can check prices, browse the product catalog, and even try on clothes virtually with augmented reality without leaving the fitting room.
- Digital store platforms can connect technology inside and outside the store to improve product placement, choose more efficient inventory, and even redeploy employees to perform more urgent or efficient tasks. Digital technology enables us to produce actionable intelligence to generate actionable insights in staffing, inventory visibility, and loss prevention.
- Contactless payment methods and checkout-free payment solutions, such as Amazon’s Just Walk Out, have streamlined the checkout process and reduced returns and exchanges. One thing is clear: when the consumer is well informed, returns and exchanges decrease considerably, as they feel comfortable and confident in their purchase.
- Technology allows us to generate actions and obtain knowledge in real-time, allowing us to act quickly and effectively in the face of changing consumer behavior. The application of analytics in retail stores unlocks the creation of new value for the consumer. They are allowing retailers to offer relevant and contextual experiences associated with specific moments, taking full advantage of the analysis of real-time customer data, contextualizing it with other data such as the presence of employees, location, and even the weather.
As we can clearly see, it is paramount that retail stores act with agility and can test these types of digital technologies to execute and demonstrate the value of their organization to consumers as quickly as possible. If one thing is sure, time is moving on, and consumers are becoming increasingly demanding in the way they buy their products.
For retail stores, optimizing these capabilities to meet customer demand is now a must to stay ahead of changing customer needs and expectations and ensure an extraordinary customer experience wherever they go.