At this year’s National Retail Federation Big Show we saw everything from intelligent robots and virtual reality to next generation in-store experiences such as Amazon Go. Beyond all the innovations and bells and whistles, one thing was certain – those who are winning at retail are delivering an experience for their customers – and not just online, or in-store or on a mobile device. The winners are connecting the experience across all channels to deliver something consumers want and need at every step along the way.
To deliver this seamless experience, retailers need to move from “faux omni-channel” – that is, patching together legacy systems – to a true unified commerce platform. With unified commerce, retailers can meet the expectations customers have for an experience that is personal, mobile, seamless and secure. We discussed these four key pillars with retailers at NRF. In this two-part series, we’ll take a deeper look at each of the pillars and what it means for the future of retail.
Unified Commerce is personal: If you love me, let me know it!
Customers have valued being treated with a personal touch since the days of the Mom and Pop retailer. Today, social media has created a culture of information sharing that has increased this customer expectation. In fact, 95% of millennials say they want brands to court them actively and send them deals. When they walk into a store, they want a friendly, helpful associate who makes them feel welcome and special. Likewise, when they go online, they want an experience tailored to their preferences with recommendations that help guide them through the purchasing process. Finally, when they walk away, they want to be remembered with ongoing communications and offers. The solution to delivering this kind of personalized experience is unified commerce; a common, centralized, real-time platform for all customer engagement across all channels.
But while this need is obvious to retailers, what’s surprising is only 9% of retailers have implemented a unified commerce solution. One of the reasons for this is the perceived cost and complexity of making unified commerce a reality. But the truth is, the cost of NOT pursuing this type of solution – falling further and further behind – could be far greater than the cost of starting to move down that path.
So, what have you done for your customers lately? Chances are, you probably feel like you could do more – no matter what kind of CX you currently provide.
With only 40% of retailers actually focused on improving personalization, the most obvious way forward is to leverage mobile and the IoT, along with actionable insights to empower sales associates with data on the floor, create personalized offers, and communicate on a personal basis with customers when and where they desire.
The benefits to the retailer are being heard loud and clear. It’s estimated that within two years, half of retailers will have in-store customer identifying technology, and within three, two-thirds will have guided selling and personalized promotions.
That pretty much sums it up. Your customers are inviting you to get personal across all channels. To capitalize, retailers need to answer their call – if you love me, speak up! – or risk getting left behind.
Unified Commerce is mobile: Can you capture “the stare”?
You’ve seen the memes of people walking through life staring at their phones. It’s scary, but the reality is people are now addicted to being constantly connected and getting everything on demand. Mobile is both the cause and cure for FOMO (fear of missing out) and retailers are taking advantage to give consumers a 24/7, anytime, anywhere shopping experience in the palm of their hand.
We know that nearly half of retailers have made an improved mobile shopping experience their top digital priority. The game stakes are a consumer friendly mobile interface that makes it easy to browse and purchase on the go. But customers are beginning to expect more. They want a store to know who they are when they walk in the door and to share special offers on their device. Soon they will expect their mobile phone to guide them to products in the store and to provide personalized recommendations.
Is your retail business capturing that stare? The opportunities to do so are endless. Mobile offers a way to stay connected with shoppers when they walk away from your site or storefront and is integral to creating more engaging in-store experiences. With the advance of presence technology and the IOT supporting new in-store retail concepts like Amazon Go, and with innovations like VR and AR creating new kinds of retail customer experiences, mobile will be central to creating personalized, frictionless, engaging shopping that excites and delights consumers.
Putting together a unified commerce strategy
A good place to begin is with our new Unified Commerce as a Service offering, which helps retailers define their unified commerce strategy, select the right network, hardware, software and as a service offerings to create a seamless customer experience. Together, we can help maximize your retail networks’ potential.
Stay tuned for part two of this post-NRF series, where we’ll take a deeper look into the other two essential pillars of unified commerce: being seamless, and secure.
– Greg Griffiths
Proliferation of mobile devices is driving the rapid move to unified commerce. 71% of retailers report plans for a unified commerce platform in the next three years. Download the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey from EarthLink’s BRP for insights on retailers’ initiatives as online, mobile and brick and mortar converge creating a seamless cross-channel experience.