Cloud Computing

It’s Time to Catch Up and Deliver Customers the Shopping Experience They Want

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The trend of “uberization” or industry disruption, a dominant concern of the C-suite this year, has extended beyond the corner office into what customers’ expect of their brick and click shopping experience. A new IBM study finds retailers’ strategies to innovate and meet those expectations are not keeping pace.

The IBM 2016 Customer Experience Index Global Survey finds only 40 percent of retailers are providing the integrated on and off-line shopping experience customers anticipate.  Empowering store associates—brick and mortar retailers’ most valuable assets to compete with digital pure plays—as well as leveraging personalized offerings, remain the most substantial challenges.

The study included 550 retailers in 23 countries visited by mystery shoppers over the 2015 holiday season.  We found that 81 percent of those retailers do not have store associates with mobile devices or kiosks to help customers compare products based on individual criteria such as price, style or color. And more than half of customers —55 percent —could not get additional product information without a store associate assisting them.  This is a significant issue given TimeTrade found 90 percent of consumers leave stores without making a purchase if they can’t find the help they need.  In contrast, 93 percent are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable associate.

Less than half of retailers in the IBM study provide customers access to product availability at the store location of their choice—and though used widely in other industries, 67 percent of retailers do not have live chat capabilities in their online stores. This means consumers are inconvenienced and have to call a customer service line or physically visit a store to see if the retailer has what they need in stock.

Additionally, many retailers encourage customers to provide personal information so they can offer custom product recommendations and effectively target marketing campaigns, but our study found that many fail to use this opt-in information to benefit the customer and, ultimately, the businesses’ bottom line.  Only 57 percent of retailers in our study sent personalized messages through at least one digital channel —such as an app, online store or email —but even then, the content was usually limited to “welcome back customer name.” For example, if a customer wears a size eight and prefers boots to tennis shoes, that specific product content was typically not reflected in promotions.

Retail brands need to engage consumers at every touch point with more than just their first name.  The reality is that retailers are struggling to deliver a contextually relevant, convenient and personalized shopping experience.  Cognitive computing, advanced analytics and mobile technologies can help bridge these gaps.

Cognitive computing can help retailers customize offerings and provide the support they need for a more enjoyable brand experience. Based on patterns and insights gleaned from unstructured and structured consumer data, retailers know customers’ brand, color and other preferences—as well as the context of their lives such as big events (i.e. birthdays) to deliver communications at exactly the right time, place and medium to secure a sale and increase brand loyalty.

Some leading retailers are providing employees made-for-business apps that place actionable information into the palm of their hands.  This includes accessing basic information like inventory to more advanced predictive analytics to help store associates understand customer’s unique preferences.  For example, China’s popular high-end furniture and home brand, Markor, teamed up with IBM retail on new IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps to improve its customers’ in-store shopping experience.

Today, the bar is high and consumers expect retailers to provide information tailored personally just for them.  Thanks to cognitive computing, analytics and advances in mobile solutions, retailers are in a position to deliver just that.

For more information on the new IBM 2016 Customer Experience Index Global Survey, you can tune in to this webinar on March 30 at 12:00 pm ET:

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