Competing in online retail has never been more difficult than in 2018. Online retailers face challenges in shipping and fulfillment, huge competition from domestic and international competitors and a constant battle for the attention, time and dollars of consumers. Smart online retailers understand that success in 2018 depends on two things: adopting new technologies that improve customer engagement and drive sales, and differentiating your brand from those of your competitors.
Online retailers in 2018 must find creative solutions to boosting customer engagement and winning new customers. In this blog, we’ll look at three of the most creative new retail sales ideas that are changing the industry, and how retailers are benefiting from adapting and customizing new and emerging technologies for the retail sales environment.
Increase Sales with Personalized Digital Experiences
Online retailers today are using blending CRM data and behavior analytical tools to deliver personalized digital experiences to their shoppers across platforms. To understand the impact of personalized experiences, it’s important to remember how little time has passed since big data became a widespread tool for brands to manage their relationships with customers. In the past, brands showcased their products through magazine and print ads and on billboards – all mediums that facilitated “one-to-many” communication between brands and their customers. Today, brands can communicate one-to-one with their most loyal shoppers, contact them by name and send personalized offers, and offer a unique shopping experience for each customer with features like product recommendations based on their preferences and purchase history.
Personalized digital experiences generally come in three categories: marketing, sales and customer service. Online retailers can personalize the sales experience on their ecommerce websites by offering product recommendations to shoppers based on their collected data, products they have already viewed, or what’s trending in-store right now. Remembering a customer’s purchase history and using it to recommend products they might want can boost sales while making the shopping experience easier and more convenient.
Big data is also enabling online retailers to reach out to their shoppers with personalized offers and promotions. Retailers can collect email addresses from shoppers and contact them with personalized offers or discount codes for items they have recently viewed or may be interested in purchasing. Finally, greater access to consumer data is enabling personalized customer service interactions where brand representatives use customer data to anticipate service requests before they happen.
Personalization is having a huge impact on results for retailers who can deliver a great experience. As detailed in this latest report by Segment, 49% of shoppers reported making an unplanned purchase after receiving a product recommendation and 44% of shoppers said they would become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience.
Technology in Retail Boosts Customer Engagement
Technology and its applications re becoming more present in every area of our lives, and the retail environment is no different. Digital and physical retailers are leveraging some of the latest cutting-edge innovations in technology to enhance the retail experience, offer personalization, and fight for the attention and loyalty of shoppers.
Some retailers are already taking advantage of artificial intelligence to provide customer service both online, via customer service Chat Bots, and in bricks-and-mortar retail stores. Artificial Intelligence robots in physical retail locations is still an immature technology, but the novelty and customer engagements generated by this new technology have led to improved commercial results for early adopters. One AI robot was used to greet shoppers at a California clothing store, leading to a 20% increase in foot traffic and 300% increase in revenue.
AI has proved even stronger in web applications, where retailers are using AI chatbots to cross-sell and engage with existing leads. One New England-based car dealership saw Toyota car sales increase by 60 units per month after they began using an artificially intelligent sales assistant program to follow-up on more leads. AI is allowing retailers to find fresh and novel ways to interact with customers while automating time-intensive tasks and driving sales and revenue results.
The second tech application that we’re excited about in the retail environment is virtual reality. Augmented and virtual reality applications can change the way that shoppers remotely interact with products they may be interested in purchasing. The new Magic Mirror, already present in physical retail locations at Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus, Rebecca Minkoff and Uniqlo, allows shoppers to create a 360-degree video of themselves twirling in a new outfit or see themselves in differently-colored versions of the same garment.
Early adopters of AI and virtual reality in retail are discovering new ways to engage their customers and build brand loyalty while automating sales and marketing tasks and driving sales. They’re also offering a unique and novel shopping experience that shoppers can’t get anywhere else.
Reinvent Social Interaction to Reach More Customers
Millennial buying habits have been the subject of scrutiny since millennials started buying things – just look around the Internet for the lists of businesses – and sometimes whole industries – that people claim millennials are putting out of business. The truth is that retailers need to do a better job of understanding what drives and motivates the buying habits of young people today and adapt their retail sales strategies accordingly.
For starters, millennials are deeply influenced by social media and peer recommendations. This is the generation that grew up with smart phones and social media, and it’s important that retailers reinvent the ways that millennials can engage socially with their brands if they want to successfully market to this demographic. A recent study found that 79% of millennials in the United Kingdom who use the Internet before purchasing something are influenced by social media.
How can retailers facilitate more interaction with millennials? Some retailers are deploying social shopping technology to high-traffic areas in the form of digital screens where shoppers, or groups of shoppers, can browse for products. Popular locations include parking lots, eateries, shopping district junctions, and mall food courts. Some retailers are also creating kiosks where shoppers can shop for whole outfits at a time, rather than purchasing item-by-item. These novel shopping experiences serve to create meaningful engagement between retail brands and young millennials who are more likely to love and share a brand that provides them with a meaningful and unique shopping experience.
Technology is changing rapidly and becoming more commonplace in every area of our lives, including the retail environment, where brands are aggressively competing for the attention, time and hard-earned money of consumers. In a competitive marketplace, creative retail sales strategies and applications are the key to differentiating your brand and succeeding – or just surviving – in online retail.
Successful online retailers today are collecting data from their shoppers in-store and through their website, blending their CRM data with behaviour analytics and using the resultant data to deliver personalized product recommendations, individualized promotions and marketing materials and more helpful and convenient customer service experiences.
Early adopters of artificial intelligence technology in retail are using customer service robots to increase customer engagement, boost foot traffic and drive sales at physical locations, while chatbots are being deployed in ecommerce stores around the world to automate customer service and marketing tasks. Virtual reality in retail is making it easier for shoppers to envision themselves with a new product – whether applied in-store or remotely.
Retailers are also reinventing the ways that shoppers, especially in younger demographics, interact with their brands through novel shopping experiences. One-stop outfit shopping and social shopping through digital screens are creating opportunities for brands to engage shoppers in new ways, boosting engagement and building brand loyalty.