5 tips to deliver enhanced digital customer experiences in retail

Consumers have been conditioned by Amazon to expect high service levels, easy-to-use interfaces and customized buying experiences.

Much has been written about retailers striving to provide an omni-channel experience across multiple platforms and recent IDC data backs up the need. Some 71 percent of consumers prefer omni-channel retailers and those retailers now account for 35 percent of ecommerce growth.

While it’s encouraging news, omni-channel doesn’t simply mean the consumer can access the retailer on a mobile device, laptop, through a call center or in a store. For omni-channel to have real power, it means as the consumer moves from platform-to-platform, the buying experience improves.

Here’s an example. A business traveler knows she’s leaving for a week-long trip and wants to try the latest smart toothbrush. She uses her laptop to look online and puts a couple of options into her electronic shopping cart, but decides she wants to see them up close.

When she gets to the store, her smartphone recognizes she has already done some shopping and points her to the part of the store where the smart toothbrushes are sold. The phone will also identify some special offers for the toothbrushes and, recognizing that she is about to travel, send recommendations for other toiletry items she may need for the trip.

The consumer experience gets enhanced from the time she gets on the laptop, enters the store and logs on to her phone and conducts the shop. Here are five tips for retailers looking to deliver these and other enhanced, cross-platform digital customer experiences:

  1. Create a culture of collaboration and experimentation. Retailers have to create environments where they can try new digital products and features and have the ability to absorb them if they work or move on to the next feature if they don’t. This takes recruiting the right people and fostering a collaborative environment where they can experiment and sometimes fail.
  2. Build security into all new digital products. Much has been written about DevOps and agile development, but when pursuing digital transformation nothing moves forward without security. That’s why retailers have to focus on DevSecOps where security gets built into the core product or feature as they get rolled out.
  3. Understand the customer’s digital footprint. Retailers need to track their customers from a behavioral perspective. This means watching their buying patterns carefully. If a customer all of a sudden buys a lot of baby products, then it’s clear that they have either become parents or grandparents and the retailer should send special baby care offers the customer’s way.
  4. Track social media activity. People live on social media today. Customers are always giving opinions on products and retailers have to become a part of the conversation. This means at a minimum, retailers have to understand Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.
  5. Embrace new technologies. For example, 3D printers are more common in homes today, so retailers might consider giving customers the option of printing a 3D version of a product so they can see if they want to make a purchase. Retailers might also need to offer an augmented reality option on their sites so customers can see how the product might fit into a living room or kitchen. Drones are also gaining momentum as a viable delivery option. People don’t want to wait three to five days to receive a package from UPS or USPS. Drones can speed the delivery process and drop products off at the front door the way traditionally delivery companies would.

Turning a retailer into a digital enterprise requires all their back-end systems to be updated so they appear seamless to the end user. The consumer doesn’t care about the technical complexity of how to create a label for a return, they just want to have that option when an item comes to their home and they decide they want to don’t want it. Retailers have a great challenge in this area, because their systems have traditionally been point solutions that get rolled out one-by-one.

Going digital is hard work, but by creating a collaborative environment, focusing on DevSecOps, taking time to understand the customer’s digital footprint, being on top of social media and embracing new technologies, retailers can make it happen.

Rene-Aerdts-headshotRené Aerdts is a DXC Technology Distinguished Engineer and the chief technologist for a global consumer goods corporation client, for which he leads the technology strategy and provides the technical vision to advance the objectives of the business. Integral to that process, René drives innovation and inspires selective disruption to enable the client to thrive through accelerating change in the industry.

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