Retail Innovation Revolution

Kewal (Gibble) Gupta at Channel Partnerships

By Kewal Gupta
5th November 2021

There are a number of ways advanced technology and AI in retail are positively driving customers back to brick-and-mortar visits – it is all about the in-store experience.

Today, any brand that wants to compete online or on the high street needs to have an excellent approach to customer experience. Only retailers with the best engagement and responses will retain customer loyalty.

Before the internet revolution, a good customer experience would have been based on the interaction a shopper had with a shopkeeper. The customer would pop into a local shop and be greeted by the owner or a member of staff, exchange a few pleasantries about the weather, possibly chatting about friends and family – before asking what they needed (and finding it for them). The customer would then pay before heading out with a good feeling about the transaction. The interaction would probably leave a positive and lasting impression on the customer.

Compare the traditional pre-internet experience to today’s engagement. The shopkeeper was trying to understand the customers’ incentives. They wanted to know what they needed – what it was for – and how they could best serve the customer. They may also have wanted to know more about their friends and family’s needs and how they could best serve those people too.  The principal engagement strategies in retail remain the same, but the experience shopping at today’s brick-and-mortar locations has become tiresome, dull, and impersonal.  Many customers increasingly view shopping in physical stores as a tedious chore and a waste of their valuable time.

Now, by engaging AI driven retail technologies, many retailers are starting to find new ways to positively influence the experience of shoppers – leading to returning customers and increased foot fall in brick-and-mortar establishments.

Bringing AI and IoT driven technologies to brick-and-mortar retail

The recent shift to online shopping means that retailers are under even more pressure to create outstanding customer experiences that will attract a return to normal levels of in-store customer visits.

Retailers need to find new ways to modernize the on-site brick-and-mortar shopping experience – without alienating or offending their customers with ultra-intrusive and unsubtle uses of valuable customer data.

Many retailers have already tried (and in some cases failed) to introduce personalised customer experiences by leveraging customer data. However, some of these solutions simply give the customer more reasons to shop online. When the retail experience in-store is no better (and in some cases worse) than the experience online, there remains nothing to incentivise the customer to come back to a physical retail establishment.

And retailers need to continually understand and stay in step with the ever-changing desires of their customers. Geopolitical and environmental factors are increasingly influencing consumers in their decision-making.  As Fiona Swerdlow, VP, Research Director at Forrester said in her October 2021 report – “Overall, consumers’ consciousness about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and policy is taking hold. Almost half of online consumers consider themselves environmentally conscious – but their sentiments run much deeper.”

Retailers must find more ways to get in step with their customers. It is no longer good enough to use customer data to simply personalise a transaction. They need to actively draw consumers back to brick-and-mortar establishments by delivering in-store experiences that reflect the needs of the customer and delight them at every turn.

Retailers have increasingly been focusing on becoming customer and data centric. However, while a significant amount of time and research has been devoted to online personalisation, offline experiences in brick-and-mortar stores can leave a lot to be desired. Estate owners can dramatically improve matters by bringing advanced IoT and AI driven technologies into the physical retail world.

Four AI and IoT driven technology solutions retailers can employ

Ombori Grid

Ombori Grid is a Software as a service (SaaS) platform that helps retailers deliver in-store smart data-driven experiences. Ombori integrates apps and in-store signage to intelligently influence consumer behaviour with the delivery of real-time and relevant shopping information.

Consumers can easily discover services and products that are relevant and of interest via the Ombori smart display solution. Additionally, the Ombori grid can allow consumers to easily book appointments, manage queue positions and arrange delivery schedules to bring a familiar and reassuring online style experience to physical retail shopping.

When integrated with consumer data platforms, Ombori solutions can leverage data intelligence to attract consumers with relevant offers within smart window displays that are then reflected in-store and at the till.  What’s more, the Ombori solution can help retailers manage and control store occupancy levels within an area, floor, department or across the entire store – so retailers can ensure customer safety and bring staff to a location when needed.

Discover more about the Ombori Grid and book a demo here.

WonderStore

The WENGAGE solution from Wonderstore allows retailers to intelligently leverage real-time demographics and analytics to deliver customised multimedia content using smart displays. By combining WENGAGE with a smart display solution, the system can actively track each visitor’s behaviour and emotions – so retailers can adjust their in-store campaigns for more positive outcomes.

WENGAGE can provide shopper intelligence such as gender, age and other demographic data as well as physical attributes (such as wearing make-up and/or glasses).  Perhaps even more importantly, WENGAGE can determine the customer’s current emotions, such as their happiness and satisfaction during and after a transaction.

Such data is invaluable for intelligent retail operations wanting to better understand their customers.  For instance, a woman between 25 and 30 years of age can receive different in-store messages from those shown to a 40–50-year-old male. These messages can recommend products that are more in line with a person’s likely tastes, in addition to their previous purchasing habits.

Discover more about the WonderStore WENGAGE solution and book your demo here

EVERYANGLE

EVERYANGLE combines AI for retail environments with smart camera solutions from Cisco Meraki. The combined in-store solution helps retailers gather real-time behavioural analytics from audio and visual data feeds which can deliver powerful intelligence. Retailers can then use this intelligence to influence in-store operations including staffing, security, and marketing.

The EVERYANGLE solution can power granular alerts based on pre-defined customer and staff behaviour events or patterns. It can also reveal the bigger picture of aggregated data on a custom dashboard, enabling better business decision making.

The EVERYANGLE solution also goes beyond smart cameras with their next generation footfall application – which gives retailers a breakdown of customers by gender, age and more. The application can also tell where a customer went next and their post-transaction satisfaction (happiness) levels after an engagement.

Integrated to a POS solution, EVERYANGLE can additionally provide real-time data on individual consumer transactions, such as who buys what – and it can generate live alerts when store performance looks set to miss targets or exceed them.

Finally, EVERYANGLE’s AI driven dashboards allow retail operations managers to fully understand staff and store performance – enabling them to act on accurate data across multiple sites.

Learn more about Everyangle and book a demonstration here.

Oktium

Oktium is a platform that delivers instant live video connections for customers to salespeople and service providers at brick-and-mortar locations. Oktium aims to bring retailer service experience closer to a traditional pre-internet level for a more personal and guided experience, whether the customer is in-store or not.

For retailers, they can now ensure that customers can speak directly to a qualified brand manager about any of their products, guiding and helping the customer to fully appreciate the product and options available to them. This experience can be invaluable when a product or service demands a level of knowledge that is beyond that of the storekeeper or other staff on duty at a particular site.

Oktium brings the customer into direct contact with the most qualified and able staff member in the retail operation – no matter their location at that moment.

What’s more, the Oktium solution can be embedded within the retailer’s own app or website, so the customer can engage via the retailers own digital solutions and doesn’t have to jump between applications. Built-in features also help retailers gather customers’ information and process payments on the same platform.

Building long-term and lasting relationships with retail customers

In conclusion, we know that digital transformation has moved from being an option to being a necessity. Customer expectations have shifted, and it takes a new kind of customer experience and engagement strategy to attract customers back to the shops.

By enabling AI and IoT technologies within a store, retailers can unlock a multitude of benefits; including improved customer satisfaction, increasing referrals and online review scores – as well as achieving direct cross-selling and upselling advantages.

Retailers can also gain better ways to engage with customers on an intelligent basis. They can leverage their in-store capabilities to communicate messages around the business’s attitudes to sustainability and other relevant customer concerns.

Above all, retailers can build back long-term and lasting relationships with their customers.

For more independent information about these and other advanced technologies for retail, contact the team at Channel Partnerships.

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