How Innovation in the Retail Sector is Bridging the Gap Between Customers and Brands

The increased focus and impetus on the digital transformation of retailers, especially in the recent past, is the key driving trend in the retail sector that is bridging the gap between customers and brands.
How Innovation in the Retail Sector is Bridging the Gap Between Customers and Brands

Over the past five decades or so, the retail industry has undergone a phenomenal transformation, thanks to inventions and technological advancements. From cash registers, coupons, shopping carts, barcodes to e-commerce – the advancements have taken place in varied domains and verticals. These have not merely streamlined the shopping experience, but have in fact improved the lives of the customers. The outbreak and the prolonged impact of the pandemic too resulted in significant changes in which the retail sector used to function earlier, owing to the disruption caused in the supply chain.

The increased focus and impetus on the digital transformation of retailers, especially in the recent past, is the key driving trend in the retail sector that is bridging the gap between customers and brands. While traditionally the customers made their purchasing decision at the store shelf, thereby giving brick-and-mortar retailers the opportunity to get first-hand information of buyers’ preferences and behavior. Though the digital transformation initially came across as a roadblock for them, it has effectively improved the functioning of both online and offline customer management. The rise of e-commerce and practices such as mobile shopping has as a matter of fact given the retailers a better insight into what the buyers are actually looking for, and also how the buyer behavior has been changing in the new normal.

Another innovation that is playing a crucial role in bridging the customer-brand gap is a real-time query/ grievance resolution mechanism powered by tools like live chat for instant support. If any customer today has any query pertaining to a brand or specific product or service, they can simply make use of the 24x7 chat support offered on apps as well as web platforms. With newer technologies in place, the live chats are powered by advanced chatbots that practically function as virtual assistants. There are bots in place now that understand a query or suggestion even if the words are sort of convoluted or vary from the defined format, of course with the help of AI. Also, the bots are engineered to directly escalate an issue to a human agent at the backend if they are not programmed to address the same.

Conversational AI, which is basically a set of technologies powering automated messaging and speech-enabled applications, further enables human-like interactions between humans and computers. Conversational AI recognizes the text and speech while underlying the context to respond in a manner akin to human conversation. The various technologies used by conversational AI include automatic speech recognition, natural language processing, advanced dialogue management, and machine learning. The future of it also looks quite promising in the form of voice bots.

In addition to it, innovations like virtual dressing rooms and VR have made the retail and shopping experience more convenient and conducive to the norms of the pandemic-induced new normal. New-age tools like these allow the retailers to enable the live experience of products for the consumers. There is no need for the latter to take the pain and risk of heading to the market for buying any product, for they can try out the same and get a feel of it from the comfort of their home. For instance, the virtual dressing or fitting room overlays the selected item on the customer’s live video feed, giving them an idea of the fit, size, and style. Based on the same, the customers can decide whether or not they intend to buy the apparel or any other item whatsoever.

The other innovation in the retail sector bridging the gap is omnichannel engagement. Now the retailers have tools to leverage that can allow customers to reach out to brands, and vice versa, though not one defined channel but multiple channels, including SMS, email, social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, etc. Omnichannel engagement essentially refers to the integration of all internal channels over a single interface, so that the performance of agents can be streamlined and the best customer experience could be enabled digitally, thereby alleviating the need of the customers to visit stores. Also, sales and marketing go beyond the website with the integration of tools that make omnichannel engagement a reality. Any brand can reach out to more customers if the engagement is through multiple routes rather than one single platform like its own web outlet.

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