Top Retail Technology Trends That Should Be on Every Marketer’s Radar

October 11, 2018CCG Retail Marketing Blog

A roundup of innovative solutions to boost customer engagement and ROI.

Ask any retailer about their most complex challenge today and you’ll likely get a resounding answer: creating an easy, frictionless consumer shopping experience. The fact is, making it easy is hard work. The digital commerce market is more crowded and competitive than ever, meaning retailers must be strategic about selecting the marketing solutions that will deliver the most bang for their buck. Fortunately, there is no shortage of technology in retail that can help improve and enhance the shopper experience — and boost retailers’ ROI.

The Most Innovative Retail Technology Is Data Driven, Customer Focused

The increased competition among retailers not only is driving a more customer-centric approach, but also calls for proven solutions to help retailers enhance the customer experience at every touchpoint — both in-store and online. Leveraging data and the insights it provides to improve operations and the shopper experience is a common theme among current retail technology trends.

For retailers, the key to getting the most from these technology trends — and the solutions they offer — is to implement the ones that address and help solve a specific problem. Whether it’s improving customer retention, increasing sales, or better managing inventory and other internal processes, it’s essential to consider which trends will allow you to focus on creating engaging, long-term relationships with your customers.

Here are four innovative technology trends that should be on every retail marketer’s radar to help grow engagement and revenue.

Machine Learning

Considered a subset of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning is transforming retail technology in stores as computers become better, faster and cheaper. In a broad sense, AI refers to a computer’s ability to make decisions in ways that mimic human logic. Machine learning refers to the way computers can learn the steps of that logic without being programmed in a specific way.

The predictive nature of machine learning is proving to be extremely valuable to retailers. For example, retailers can use their past and current data to predict future behavior and trends. Popular uses of machine learning include using chatbots as customer service tools to answer common questions and handle customer requests. Other uses include assisting the back-end by providing inventory information in real time.

Outdoor clothing retailer The North Face uses machine learning to offer online users a more personalized shopping experience. Shoppers can speak to a virtual assistant on their phones who can help them select the most relevant products based on their preferences.

In another example, 1800 Flowers lets customers access voice-activated interfaces, like Alexa, to order flowers. The retailer also gained thousands of new customers when it integrated chatbots with Facebook Messenger, making it easier and more convenient for shoppers to order flowers.

Takeaway: Think about your brand’s biggest challenges as well as your customers’ pain points. How can machine learning help you address them? For example, if one of your goals is to increase customer retention and sales, use machine learning to automate product suggestions based on previous purchases.

Location Awareness

Brick-and-mortar retailers have more opportunities than ever to leverage location-based technology to improve the customer experience. Technologies like beacons and geofencing make it possible for retailers to digitally mark an area around their store, allowing them to detect nearby customers by their mobile device. This provides an opportunity to target them with special offers as they’re walking into your store.

Location data from retailer apps and other sources not only lets retailers know when a shopper is nearby, it can also provide demographic and psychographic data, such as past shopping behavior. This, in turn, can inform retailers about the most effective ways to communicate with and engage shoppers.

Clothing retailer American Eagle is one of many brands using location awareness technology both in-store and outside to target shoppers with location-specific rewards, discounts and product recommendations. In fact, if a shopper tries on an item in one of their stores but doesn’t make a purchase, the retailer can use that data to follow up with a related email or product offer.

Takeaway: Consider location-based technology to create more of a “concierge level” of service. For example, when a shopper walks into your store with their mobile phone, sales associates can leverage in-store technology to greet that person by name and quickly access their shopping history. Or, consider engaging shoppers who have downloaded your store’s app by delivering promotional messages straight to their devices whether they are outside your store or inside, browsing products in specific aisles.

Advanced Personalization Techniques

Consumers today have Amazon expectations wherever they choose to shop, and more retailers are making it a priority to personalize the shopping experience — from the time shoppers start searching for a product to the point of purchase and post purchase. In fact, a report from Econsultancy shows that 93 percent of businesses see an increase in conversions when they use personalization.

But as retailers know, personalization involves more than including a first name in an email subject line. The more extensive — and consistent — the personalization, the more consumers will feel like they are known to and valued by the retailer. Fortunately, the combination of data and machine learning capabilities are making it easier for retailers to leverage technology to not only personalize at a deeper level, but also individualize every step of the customer journey — across all of a shoppers’ preferred channels.

Retailer Boden takes a personalized approach in customer emails that shows customers they are known and valued:

Personalization can provide value for retailers, too. For example, this email from MyProtein demonstrates how paying attention to customer behavior and timing relevant, personalized communications accordingly can pay off in terms of increased engagement, retention and sales.

Takeaway: To really make the customer feel like you know them and care, focus on individualizing the customer experience. Whether your sales model lets shoppers build and customize their own products or you personalize the customer experience through communication touchpoints, focus on consistently creating an individual connection.

Subscription Services

From fashion to entertainment, food to personal grooming, retailers are embracing this growing trend as a way to maintain long-term engagement and profitable customer relationships. Subscription services can provide a steady stream of income for retailers and make the shopping experience easy and convenient for the customer. Retailers succeeding with this model create a seamless customer experience by leveraging data insights and advanced personalization tactics to remind shoppers when it’s time to reorder and to recommend additional products based on the customer’s previous purchases.

Some retailers, like StitchFix and Birchbox, focus solely on the subscription service model. Other established retail brands — like Walmart, Target and The Gap — are picking up on the trend and adding it to their growing list of services to provide a better customer experience.

When done successfully, it’s a win-win. For the customer, subscription services provide a convenient, customized shopping experience. For retailers, this concept provides additional shoppers and their data, and can also help identify which items customers are responding well to, and which inventory should be phased out.

Takeaway: Subscription services provide an effective way to streamline shopping for busy customers — if it’s done right. The key is to consistently keep the offerings relevant, engaging and valuable, and to ensure the reorder and cancellation processes are seamless.

Today’s Retail Technology Trends Can Benefit Brands and Consumers

It’s no secret that technology is revolutionizing the retail industry and will likely continue to do so, as both brands and shoppers seek a more frictionless experience. While it’s important to keep these current retail technology trends on your radar heading into 2019, it’s also essential to understand which ones are most relevant for your organization and your customers, in order to gain the most value.

CCG’s retail CRM and loyalty marketing experts have successfully helped retail clients identify and implement the right technology solutions to build stronger, more profitable customer relationships. See how our comprehensive suite of retail marketing services can help you gain better insights into your customers, reach your retention goals and grow your bottom line. Contact one of our retail marketing consultants for a complimentary review: Complete our online contact form or call 800.525.0313 today.

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