Creating an experience beyond shopping

By Roger Bannister, Business Development Director, Timico

The retail sector is facing unprecedented change and challenges like no other. However, technology could be the key to creating an experience beyond shopping, to keep customers coming through the doors.

Tech investment needs to centre on two key areas – the enhancement of Customer Experience (CX) and the provision of an omnichannel offer.

AI, the enabler and exceeder

The capabilities and possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are limitless, as are the business benefits for the retailers deploying them. AI is helping brands rethink, reimagine and reinvent the retail store. With consumers changing how they purchase and engage with retailers, now is the time to re-engineer purchasing spaces and experiences.

This includes enabling customer service-facilitating technologies, which will help serve buyers whilst humans are freed up to conduct higher-value tasks. Within a few years, we could be seeing an era of stores having an AI chatbot at their store entrance, informing shoppers about the location of products, what tills are open and if human support needs to be given.

Taking customer service to a whole new level has been in discussion for years, but now the time has come for action. Tech can support tangible benefits that not only support shoppers, but staff too.

The further development of self-service is also inevitable as the checkout and paying process remains the most time-consuming aspect of shopping in the physical world. It is inevitable the checkout process will become nearly entirely robotic.

The multi-channel maze

While bricks-and-mortar stores and online operations bring their own benefits and pain points, an omnichannel strategy can help retailers boost their business.

Having a multi-channel presence and joining them up means better opportunities to cross-promote. For example, online can showcase offline with virtual tours and images, whilst also providing helpful information like opening hours, events, etc. Offline can utilise online for in-store ordering and facilitate functional benefits like click and collect.

It’s all about you

Retail has changed from being product-focussed to customer-focussed, and shoppers now want an experience that goes beyond shopping. Creative an immersive retail experience can be powered by augmented reality (AR), which enhances what a customer sees and experiences within a retail environment.

The underlying technology

Underpinning these technologies and tools will be a reliable, resilient network that facilitates and supports them. Retailers must have a robust IT infrastructure that supports their variable business demands – whilst keeping costs down, to avoid eradicating profitability. Data maintenance is also essential for businesses, as is minimising system downtime.

In order to survive in today’s challenging high street, be it physical or online, retailers must create an experience that goes beyond shopping – or risk business failure.

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