Cognitive Commerce

Customer Engagement in the Center Aisle of Retail

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A serious challenge is slowly brewing in the retail industry and will certainly be part of the buzz at next week’s National Retail Federation conference in New York City. As more consumers flock to brick & mortar stores for more personalized shopping experiences, a new study shows that the vast majority of retailers still do not offer in-store mobile services.

According to a new IBM Customer Experience report, which surveyed more than 500 brands in 24 countries, only 19 percent said they can provide a highly-personalized digital shopping experience. The same report showed found that 84 percent of retailers do not offer in-store mobile services.

These stats jumped off the page for me, as personalization may be the most important thing to consumers, regardless of age. And when it comes to providing a personal in-store shopping experience, a consumer’s mobile device is the critical enabler.

There are new and exciting ways, however, to overcome this challenge. For example, by integrating cloud-based cognitive capabilities into marketing, commerce and supply chain systems, retailers can begin accessing “brontobytes” of structured (e.g. customer’s past buying history) and unstructured data (e.g. everything from videos, images and sounds to the local weather) to gain contextual understanding of things like who the customer is, where they are, why they are there, and what they are trying to accomplish.

If a growing number of customers are beginning to shop in the store, cognitive, cloud-based solutions can help retailers anticipate the shift. With these insights, they can arm customer service reps with mobile devices to help them answer consumer questions; they can build mobile apps that help not only connect shoppers with deals on precisely the items they are looking for, but guide them to the precise aisle where they can find them.

The Ermes Group is the largest and most diversified retailer in Cyprus and is using IBM’s cloud-based Watson Commerce pricing optimization solutions to automatically determine which specific products in each store should be marked down due to stagnant sales, what the new price should be and when the reduction should take place. This allows Ermes to introduce product markdowns at a price that resonates with their customers while contributing to the profits. Since going live with IBM, Ermes has significantly streamlined its retail pricing strategy while increasing profits.

And then there’s HSN, Inc. HSN is comprised of a portfolio of brands that offer innovative, differentiated experiences on TV, online, via mobile devices, in catalogs, and in brick and mortar stores.  One of its operating segments, leading direct-to-consumer retailer HSN, uses Watson Marketing to enhance its commitment to delivering a personal and customized cross-platform customer experience.  By leveraging IBM’s cognitive marketing capabilities to gather data and uncover insights, HSN is able to create meaningful relationships that improve customer engagement and enhance loyalty.

If it feels like the entire retail world is changing it’s because it is. But that’s nothing new. What’s new is the abundance of new capabilities, technologies, solutions, and services, like cognitive and cloud that can be leveraged to help retailers meet the ever changing needs – and expectations – of their customers.

General Manager, IBM Watson Internet of Things, Customer Engagement and Education

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