The online shopping experience is evolving faster than ever before. Today’s omni-channel retailers — whether they’re an exclusively online shop or bridging digital and physical experiences — need to master a host of different elements that translate into a fluid, dynamic shopping experience. Digitally empowered consumers want seamless experiences across all touch points and expect retailers to be on the cutting edge of pricing and products. If companies fail to deliver, finding a lower price, a better checkout experience or immediate product availability is as simple as making a few clicks. What are the most common challenges retailers struggle with, and how can the right strategy help?
The way that people shop has changed. A consumer might research a product on her smartphone, stop in at her nearest physical location to try on an item, see promotions for the item on dynamic in-store signage, and then purchase the item online via her desktop. For retailers, this makes it critical to decipher customer and business data to deliver a personalized experience that engages shoppers and inspires them to buy. Omni-channel personalization has to bridge in-store, online, mobile, IOT and social apps in a fluid way.
The National Retail Federation has found that although retailers recognize personalization as a top concern, many struggle with cross-business collaboration and IT challenges for closing the personalization gap. Today, cognitive-powered technology is making it possible to recognize customers across devices and personalize their experience — whether it’s greeting them by name or ensuring the product they looked at on one device retargets them on another. Investing in the right technology brings customization to a deeper level, from how products display to which promotions and content each customer sees.
Understanding What Drives Customer Behavior and Conversions
For retailers, numerous changes can be made to influence consumer behavior. However, how can you tell if the online merchandising actions you’re taking are moving the needle and helping you achieve your business goals?
For example, a markdown optimization system lets omni-channel retailers look at demand, seasonal trends, traffic, and cart abandonments to determine how best to position markdowns and promotions to increase sales and maximize margin. When a retailer is phasing out a line or moving last season’s inventory, this capability can help optimize which changes — from adjustments in pricing to product presentation and sequencing — help drive conversions and align online presentation with business goals.
Mastering Pricing Strategy
According to Statista, 93 percent of consumers will use discounts, coupons or promotions throughout the year. In digital commerce, pricing is dynamic. When consumers can check competitive pricing in real time, it’s important that retailers have a strategy that tracks and adapts pricing planning to broader market forces.
Cognitive technologies are helping retailers systematically evaluate a range of different data points to build and execute their pricing strategy. When dramatic changes in demand or aggressive promotions from competitors hit the market, it’s possible to immediately know and automatically orchestrate prices across channels — ensuring consistency and a positive brand experience at every customer touch point.
Balancing Strategy and Tactics
Running a successful omni-channel business requires the ability to balance both strategy and tactics. However, retail leaders often feel they don’t have the time to be strategic and innovative when it comes to commerce services and the digital customer experience because their focus is stuck on day-to-day business reporting, site management and IT related activities.
Cognitive systems can monitor and quickly understand the vast amounts of structured, unstructured and dark data that retailers generate, and surface insights about your business that previously went unnoticed. For example, cognitive systems can detect points of friction in the customer journey and help retailers eliminate that friction before it impacts conversions and sales. Cognitive systems can view images and read text to automatically tag content and help you effectively use content throughout the customer experience to engage and inspire shoppers.
With retail-focused cognitive tools, it’s easy to monitor your categories for under-performance, discover what customers are doing through a unified view, and determine which areas of your business need your most urgent attention now.
Speed and Agility
One of the biggest challenges to staying competitive and relevant with customers is being agile and keeping up with rapidly changing markets, customer preferences and technology. Retailers often feel like they’re always behind and late to the game with new commerce technology, customer experiences and modes of engagement.
As we enter an era of AI-enabled chatbots, virtual personal assistants and being connected IoT devices, new models for customer engagement, shopper interaction, and transactions will challenge retailers. Set the foundation for long-term competitive advantages now. The winning retailers will be the ones that invest in an agile customer experience platform. Today’s leading retail technology includes a real-time integration layer based on microservices, an open architecture that integrates both existing enterprise systems and partner ecosystem services with the platform, and an AI layer that can support the entire business with insights and orchestrate actions across the entire customer journey.
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