Retail today has become about far more than buying things; it has reached a stage where a retailer’s success no longer depends on the transaction alone. It is certainly important to have a well-stocked online product page and a smooth checkout process but, in the age of Amazon, even these are not enough. Indeed, we have seen two high-profile retailers – Toys R Us and Maplin – go out of business in the first few months of 2018 despite ticking both of these boxes.
The future of retail, for now at least, lies in the ability to surprise and delight shoppers. So how can retailers go about this in practice?
Catching shoppers’ attention
We have seen retailers replacing areas used for transactional footfall with experiential space. A fashion retailer, for example, may have a live catwalk in store which, while having nothing to do with direct transactional engagement, will certainly capture shoppers’ attention; they stay, they watch, they’re surprised and delighted. Morrisons has introduced dry cleaning pick-up and drop-off services, and Target in the US has started putting barber shops in its stores. Both are additional reasons to stay in the store. I can get a haircut and shave while the family does the shopping? I’m surprised and delighted.
Online, there has been a lot of talk about augmented reality (AR). But how can this emerging technology drive sales? How can it surprise and delight online shoppers?
Amazon recently released an AR app that enables shoppers to snap one of around 15,000 products and place it on themselves or their home – essentially a virtual approach to ‘try before you buy’ – and IKEA and online home goods retailer Wayfair are doing something similar too. So, AR certainly has the potential to surprise and delight, and itis something we will be investing in as the technology matures over the next year.
Making it personal
Everyone shops in different ways, with different things influencing their purchasing decisions. One person might use an Android device and is happy to view as much content as possible. Another might use an iPad and isn’t interested in recommendations or user reviews. A third might use a desktop and is influenced by nothing more than brand information and product videos.
Most retailers’ websites, however, tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach which, unfortunately, isn’t likely to cut it for much longer. We see a need for personalised shopping so that as a retailer gets more information about a customer, such as what devices they use and what influences them, it then uses that information to serve a personalised page to that customer the next time they visit. Indeed, we’re working on a single line of code that retailers can add to their website, which will enable them to deliver personalised shopping experiences based on the attributes of the visiting shopper.
However, personalisation shopping should not just be limited to an online experience; it should be deployed on a much larger scale. Data gleaned from mobile devices can be used to link an online experience to an in-store visit, for example, allowing forward-thinking retailers to better understand and, in turn, inform a customer’s journey.
In the future, facial analytics could be key to personalised shopping. And with Amazon’s recent $1bn (£708m) acquisition of video doorbell company Ring, which is reported to be developing facial recognition technology, this future may not be too far off.
Whether online or in-store, allowing customers to have their own personalised shopping experience is not only bound to surprise and delight, it is necessary for retailers to thrive and survive.
Scott Lester is CEO at Flixmedia