In January, New York City drew over 36,000 retail industry professionals from across the globe to learn about the latest industry trends for National Retail Federation’s BIG Show, NRF 2018. Retail industry volatility paired with changing technology began discussions on what’s to come for the world’s retail industry leaders.
The future of retail is already here. It’s clear that the adoption of new business strategies incorporating technology for the retail customer experience is at the forefront of the industry’s mind. Voice technology, omni-channel streamlining, and an unprecedented focus on the well-being of retail employees are trends we expect to see flourish and mature throughout 2018.
Improving the Customer Experience through Voice Technology and Omni-Channel Processes
53% of retailers say using technology to improve the customer shopping experience is their priority for 2018, according to research by Zynstra. Playing up conveniences, such as self-checkout options, is one example of a tool retailers can use to enhance their customer experience. A recent study conducted by SOTI revealed that 66% of shoppers prefer self-service technology over interacting with a retail sales associate. Retail innovator Amazon is already taking measures to implement these new findings with their recent shift to Amazon Go, a cashier-less store.
The convenience of self-checkout technology isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. Retailers are increasingly aware of the need to improve their omni-channel shopping carts. Customers typically use more than one device to research products making streamlined shopping carts between devices more essential than ever.
Shoppers want to put something in their “cart” on their laptop at work or use voice technology through Echo or Google home devices while running around the house, then use their mobile device to find the same shopping cart list they’ve been compiling elsewhere. When retailers connect these touch points, it decreases the likelihood of abandoned shopping carts. Again, Amazon leads the market with their streamlined omni-channel process, as well as using technology to send reminders to shoppers with items in their “carts” for a prolonged period.
Retailers who create consistent, holistic experiences can attract new shoppers and encourage deeper engagement with the brand, regardless of when or where the purchase is completed.
Focus on Employees Through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Human Capital Management (HCM)
Jennifer Johnson, head of retail industry marketing at Kronos, reveals that the industry is changing just as much as the people driving the retail change. "What drives innovation today? Technology and capital — yes to an extent. But it's really the ideas and the creativity of people that propel innovation. Workforce and Human Capital Management is a much-needed catalyst for today's digital transformation: to help improve the employee experience so a positive customer experience can be delivered,” Johnson said. Johnson also predicts AI will be used as a differentiator as retailers tap more human capital power "to innovate and collaborate" in the crowded omni-channel space.
AI and HCM drastically reduces time spent training and coaching employees and redeploying that time to be spent on customers, she illuminated. "This is the future of work in retail — it's leveraging AI, machine learning, and advanced technology, but at the end it's also back to basics — take care of your people,” Johnson explained.
Imagine if your employees and managers could create their ideal schedules with the help of schedule optimization on any device, anywhere, at any time. While considering employee preferences alongside customer demand, machine learning makes schedule creation more accurate, meaning retailers no longer imagine this feat, they are living it, and if they aren't - they’re falling behind.
The reinvention of retail through technology is here. As retailers consider a somewhat uncertain future, they are armed with new technologies, opportunities, and ideas to fight back from the “retail apocalypse” that branded 2017.