'Customer is King' is an adage that has been etched in our minds since time immemorial, and it could not be further from the truth. Be it any business; if one does not keep their customers at the front and center, success will remain a far-fetched dream.
The retail industry traditionally consisted of independent brick-and-mortar stores and structures with a few shops and food outlets. As years passed, these structures became bigger in square foot space. They started mushrooming in strategic locations, housed more brands, experiential zones, fancy food courts, and even cinema multiplexes. Each of these elements was brought about by constantly evolving customer needs.
That said, there has been a giant technology wave seeping into every industry. The retail sector identified this wave and decided it was time to go 'phygital' and embraced technology with the advent of e-commerce. This shift compelled retailers to adopt new ways of serving customers. One cannot ignore the clout of technology, and now our country has its own Digital India mission, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Retailers are already stepping up their game by innovating and embracing technology to offer experiences that are attuned to the customers' needs. From supply chain management to targeted marketing, technology unlocks retail value. The debate of pure play brick-and-mortar stores v/s e-commerce will always remain. However, retailers can amalgamate the best of both and offer an unmatched customer experience through digitization in their businesses.
The most important digital tool for the retail industry is a distinctive omnichannel experience that provides seamless customer shopping from discovery to purchase. The numbers are telling, and according to Nielsen data, omnichannel shopping has grown by 50 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, an eConsultancy report states that 67 percent of shoppers start their journey on one device and complete purchases on another. Retailers must continue to identify where their customers are actively present, map their journeys, and then carry out seamless integration of channels. Offering a click-and-block option can also help customers see the inventory online, block it, and make the final purchase at the physical store.
Another trend that can genuinely enhance customer delight is making in-store shopping more convenient. Only some brands need to be selling online; sometimes, a shopper may need more time to walk and browse through the entire store. However, with interactive directories, digital kiosks, and digital product category brochures, customers can virtually browse products within stores and make their decision. This extra-mile approach will incentivize the customer to keep coming back.
In today's world, digital advertising and experiential marketing are imperative. By optimally using in-store LED screens, brands can communicate with their customers for a more personalized approach. Further, by leveraging AI-powered tools and out-of-store or Wi-Fi analytics, retailers can aim to deliver customized recommendations by understanding the customers' journey across brick-and-mortar and online channels. This data can also be used to enhance product options, create tempting window displays, decide price points, discounts, and an ideal tenant or brand mix that can suit the needs of all types of shoppers. Even by using VR, one can offer a much more personalized experience, thus cementing customer loyalty.
Another powerful tool that retailers have at their disposal is social commerce. By blending the best of marketing and e-commerce through social media apps, retailers can create interactive customer experiences. Curated shopping guides, AR lenses, product pins, shop tabs, and more on social media platforms can help customers feel more engaged and connected to a brand. While the social commerce market is still nascent, it is poised to reshape market dimensions over the next few years.
To deliver the right product to the right customer at the right price, retailers must keep an eye on their inventory. No customer wants to walk into a store to realize the product they want is out of stock. This is where data-driven algorithms for real-time inventory management and store assessment planning can become critical.
Technology has the world wrapped around its fingers, and we're now witnessing an Industry 4.0 revolution. Implementing tech-backed initiatives to delight the customer can unlock a plethora of opportunities, catalyze an uptick in revenues, and augment customer loyalty. If retailers aren't riding the tech wave already, there is still time to start your digital transformation journey to offer a memorable customer experience.