May 02, 2021Ed. Note: A version of this article originally appeared at Retail TouchPoints.
The fundamental shift in retail toward blended digital commerce has created several hurdles for retailers still clinging to traditional blueprints. At a time when brand interactions bridge digital and physical shopping, it is increasingly important for retailers to leverage technology to improve customer experiences and create value. Here are a few examples of how technology enhances customer experience and strengthens brand value.
Modern Warehouse and Production Management Systems for Product Customization
Following the rise of individualism, modern customers now seek customized products that connect directly with their lifestyles. A study by Deloitte revealed that customers are willing to pay 20 percent more than standard equivalents for customized products. Thanks to modern warehouse and production management systems, retailers can now satisfy individual customer preferences. These systems enable retailers to build tailor-made products at scale for each customer from a warehouse. For example, customers can create unique colorways for a pair of sneakers or add personalized text.
Allowing consumers to customize their orders creates a personalized retail customer experience and ultimately delights customers as they get to design products that suit their needs. Customization also helps retailers build an emotional connection with their customers through cocreation and improves customer loyalty.
Distributed Order Management Technology for a Unified Customer Experience
Customers expect a seamless omnichannel shopping experience that enables them to buy anywhere and pick up anywhere with the least cost and hassle. However, successfully delivering omnichannel fulfillment requires an up-to-the-millisecond view of inventory availability across channels. That is where distributed order management (DOM) technology comes into play.
Unlike static traditional order management systems that provide limited inventory visibility, DOM unifies disparate inventory pools across all channels and locations to give retailers visibility into available-to-promise inventory at eligible fulfillment locations and guarantees customers are promised what can be delivered. This creates a unified omnichannel experience that delights customers as products ordered online will be available in-store for pick-up. The ability to consistently honor customer promises improves the retail customer experience, builds trust and strengthens brand value as customers know they can depend on a retailer to deliver what they need.
Store-Fulfillment Technology for Flexible Fulfillment
As customers continue to demand convenient and free delivery, big retailers like Target are leveraging existing store networks to offer flexible fulfillment options. However, efficiently fulfilling orders from stores can be challenging due to inventory inaccuracy. Among retail executives surveyed by HRC Retail Advisory, 66 percent say that inventory inaccuracies make their “buy online, pickup in-store” (BOPIS) offerings inconsistent.
One technology engineered to help retailers efficiently manage inventory is a store-fulfillment solution. Such solutions improve store inventory availability accuracy and give retailers the ability to pick from store inventory efficiently, while keeping available inventory 100 percent accurate. Achieving this enables flexible fulfillment such as BOPIS and “buy online, pickup at curbside” in a time-efficient way.
With store-fulfillment solutions, sales associates can also locate inventory quickly and prepare it for delivery. Store-fulfillment solutions make omnichannel shopping a delightful experience for customers, as they can shop on their terms and satisfy their need for fast, free and convenient fulfillment.
Distributed Order Management System for Order Routing
Fast delivery remains an area of crucial importance for customers. Fifty-five percent of consumers switch to a competitor if that competitor offers faster service, according to a report from Capgemini. With distributed order management (DOM) systems, retailers can meet the customers’ need for fast fulfillment. DOM ensures speedy delivery by determining the most cost-effective and efficient shipping location to fulfill an order. This may be to the store closest to the customer or a distribution center with the largest volume of products.
The ability to intelligently route orders results in more positive post-purchase experiences as customers get their orders fulfilled accurately and fast. Rapid delivery delights customers, improves the retail customer experience and incentivizes customer loyalty. DOM also enables retailers to control shipping waste in packaging and reduce carbon footprint in the last mile through order routing and consolidation. By making the last mile ecofriendly, retailers create a great customer experience for sustainability-minded shoppers while still meeting financial goals.
Additionally, DOM has delivery-management capabilities that enable retailers to offer personalized home delivery, such as white-glove services and appointment-based in-home delivery using retailer-owned vehicles and personnel. For instance, a customer purchasing a home theater online can select white-glove delivery when placing an order and schedule a convenient appointment time for order delivery.
By offering this type of personalized experience, the customer has control over the transaction, and the shopping experience is a delightful one as customers get their orders according to their priorities. In all, DOM enables retailers to go beyond the standard expectation for delivery, enhances the retail customer experience and builds customer loyalty.
Teleconferencing for Seamless Digital Retail Experience
Despite the recent surge in digital adoption, human touch remains an integral element of the retail shopping experience. One technology retailers can use to mirror the human connection provided in-store is teleconferencing using live video technology.
Teleconferencing allows brands to offer contactless consultation from anywhere and interact with customers while respecting the need for social distancing. For example, Gucci is maintaining customer relationships by setting up a “faux luxury store” at its Gucci 9 hub in Florence, where store personnel livestream from a replica showroom, pulling items to the camera based on customer requests via cellphones or laptops.
Using teleconferencing, retailers provide customers with high-touch personalized interactions, tailored customer support and a human connection that delights customers. This translates to less customer-service related problems and more repeat business for retailers.
Augmented Reality for Seamless Digital Retail Customer Experience
The modern consumers’ desire for real-life experiences is gradually pushing augmented reality (AR) into retail. AR overlays digitally created content into a user’s real-world environment. Its superimposed computer-generated images change the perception of what a user sees in front of them, and 51 percent of consumers are willing to use AR technology to assess products.
In retail, AR technology enables customers to visualize products pre-purchase via a smartphone or on a website. This enhances the digital shopping experience by giving shoppers immersive and interactive experiences. For instance, with IKEA’s AR app, shoppers can virtually preview what a piece of furniture would look like in their homes before they make a purchase.
Consequently, with AR, customers can make personalized product selections and informed buying decisions wherever they are. This reduces friction in the purchasing journey, makes shopping an exciting experience for customers and leads to increased satisfaction AR provides retailers with new opportunities to offer new and exciting value propositions to customers, differentiate themselves from the competition and drive customer retention.
Let Technology Be Your Secret Weapon
In a world where customers face no shortage of choice, technology will play an important role in how retailers meet the needs of customers. Retailers must invest in technology to make their supply chain agile, deliver seamless omnichannel customer experiences, build customer loyalty and stay ahead of the competition.
Laurie McGrath serves as the chief marketing officer at Tecsys, a global software firm specializing in supply chain and omnichannel commerce. She brings more than 20 years of executive insight and deep domain knowledge into supply chains and the technologies that power them. McGrath is passionate about brand messaging and customer experience, and in using the levers of digital marketing to drive business results.