How the use of technology in retail stores are helping them withstand competition

A look at how the use of technology in retail stores are helping them outplay the e-Commerce giants

It’s no secret that retail businesses are going through a pivotal phase; an existential crisis triggered by skyrocketing rate of digital adoption and the burgeoning presence of biggies like Amazon and others. The pandemic with its perennial need to follow social distancing and stay-at-home mandates has strengthened the demand for eCommerce.

Just about one-third of U.S. consumers were willing to enter shopping malls again in April 2021 while 25-48% of European consumers from different countries were keen on avoiding brick and mortar stores even in the beginning of 20211

The decline in the demand and popularity of physical stores has had a crippling effect on several businesses. Some declared bankruptcy while others closed down a few units to shrink their business. The list of store closings is rather long – a record 12,200 stores2 to be precise in the U.S. alone in 2020.

At a time when profits are becoming elusive and footfall remains uncertain, the retail sector, especially boutiques and smaller businesses, are up for a major upheaval. The decline is evident but it’s definitely not the end for the traditional brick and mortar stores experience we’ve so thoroughly enjoyed all our life. As the legendary Mark Twain would have said, “the reports of the death of brick-and-mortar stores are greatly exaggerated.”

A lot can be done to shift the tide in their favor. The onus is on local and boutique retailers to ensure that the gratification continues albeit online for their customers. Luckily, it’s not so difficult if you identify the core areas that draw customers to the in-store experience and leverage the technology spectrum accordingly.  

Averting the retail apocalypse

A bit of a tweak in your approach and digital adoption can put you on the road to retail recovery. See how Nordstrom revamped their business model to serve its customers. Be it a quick fix for a leather jacket or getting pants hemmed in an hour, the sprawling flagship store offers everything from style tips to personal guidance for free to its customers. As Sonia Lapinsky, managing director at Alix Partners puts it, “Nordstrom is providing a reason for the customer to walk in the door.”

Relevance is the key here and all the resources, be it time, money, or efforts, should be used to elevate the customer experience. Ultimately, it’s all about the relationships you build with your customers especially when 56% of customers stay loyal to brands that ‘get them’.

Taking a cue from its biggest competitor Amazon for the digital maturity it has achieved in such a short time, Walmart too had transitioned to eCommerce in a big way. It has witnessed a 97 percent3 surge in eCommerce sales with total revenues increasing by 5.6 percent to $ 137.7 Billion. With the help of AI, Walmart is helping buyers make smarter substitutions for out-of-stock products by suggesting them the next available items. Their choices are analyzed and fed into learning algorithms to make more accurate recommendations in the future.

With artificial intelligence (AI) at the heart of all their initiatives, both brands are taking the eCommerce world by storm while underlining the potential of emerging technologies.

Retail with a digital edge

There are 7 areas of retail that are of paramount importance to ensure the most satisfactory shopping experience for buyers. These include:

  • Swift digital payments – As consumer faith in online transactions has grown, contactless, digital payments have become the norm.
  • Smooth navigation – With better search algorithms and smarter devices, the shopping experience is expected to be omnichannel.
  • Centralized inventory – Digital businesses enjoy greater economies of scale and improved turnover due to centralized inventory with smarter technologies and robotics at the helm.
  • Ease & convenience – The craving for something and the convenience to have it right away can translate into greater satisfaction.
  • Product experience – Through touch and feel, consumers want to physically experience the things they buy.
  • Immersive exploration – Consumers love to be involved in brand journeys and eagerly participate in activities that involve entertainment and engagement.
  • Personal advice – It is always heartening to know you are understood and expert advice is always welcome.

Leveraging new technologies to excel in these areas can help you regain strategic momentum and offer a uniquely differentiating customer experience.

Here’s how you can win the digital game.

Go BOPUS (BOPIS)

A lot of retailers are going the ‘buy online, pick up in store’ way to blend the speed and convenience of eCommerce with the in-store product experience. Nordstrom Local is leveraging it well to offer pickups and returns along with express alterations and a whole lot of services to walk that extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction.

Says eMarketer’s vice president of forecasting Martín Utreras, “BOPUS provides tangible benefits to both consumers and retailers. Consumers get convenience, instant gratification, and avoid shipping costs. Retailers reduce operational costs, and it gives them the opportunity to bring customers back to physical stores for additional purchase opportunities.”

Make sure that you offer speed and process efficiency like Amazon Go that bypasses the checkout altogether with a grab-and-go model or Target’s in-app shopping lists that offers aisle to aisle assistance to customers in the physical store.

Prioritize personalization

Thanks to AI, retailers now have the data and intelligence necessary to understand their customers’ shopping habits and choices. You can personalize marketing content, customize newsletters, and entice them with relevant ads on social media based on their social footprint, location, hobbies, and other factors. You can also make product recommendations via email marketing to generate leads and revenue.

The right product recommendations aligned with their tastes will not only enable the discovery of new products but also instill trust. Case in point – Hanes Australasia dramatically improved its revenue and grew across new and existing markets with AI-based personalized recommendations.

Provide 24/7 customer care with Conversational AI

Brands are increasingly leveraging chatbots to offer personalized assistance and customer service round the clock. Assistance can now be offered through speech and text in local languages with natural language interactions. The benefits of having chatbots are many – greater operational efficiency, minimized manual effort, increased customer satisfaction, and lower handling costs. Automated customer care does not take away the human connection but strengthens it by ensuring that customer concerns are heard and addressed on priority.

According to research4, 40% of shoppers don’t care whether they are assisted by a tool or human as long as they are attended to while 80% of consumers who have engaged with a chatbot claim to have had a positive experience.

Bolster the supply chain

Addressing supply chain challenges can be stressful for retailers and inefficiencies can result in loss of revenue and dissatisfied customers. Inventory optimization is crucial in this era of fast-changing demands. AI-powered inventory optimization helps businesses increase the accuracy and granularity of SKU and store-level stock planning, preparing them to handle sudden shifts in demand. Routing, end-to-end transaction visibility, and dashboards for inventory tracking are some of the many solutions you should consider to drive agility and maintain business continuity.

What’s more; it also helps analyze costs to create a pricing model that determines the right price for your products while staying on top of managing supplier costs. This kind of dynamic pricing is being used by Walmart and Amazon too due to the tons of data they have, with the latter reportedly changing its prices 2.5 million times a day.

Drive an omnichannel experience

To facilitate a seamless shopping experience both online and offline, it is important to ensure it’s omnichannel. Whether customers shop via mobile device, laptop, or a physical store, there has to be back-end integration of distribution, promotion, and communication channels for greater flexibility.

The same experience should be extended on social media too to enable a high level of customization. This also helps you provide targeted offers while creating more engaging ways to interact and connect with customers.

Starbucks struck a chord with patrons through its loyalty program that encouraged them to earn stars on their purchases. These stars could be redeemed for free products, top-ups, etc. through their app or website. The program not only served as a fine example of customer engagement but was responsible for 40% of its total sales.

Evaluate virtual fitting technology

The ‘try before you buy’ psyche is here to stay which explains why the global virtual fitting room (VFR) market is expected to touch $ 10 Billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 20.1%. Virtual try-on and fitting rooms enabled using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are catching on big time making both sellers and buyers very happy.

While apps like SneakerKit help you choose the right footwear, there are apps for virtually everything you wish to buy from hats and glasses to clothes and masks. Brands like Macy’s, Adidas, and many others allow users to upload a full-body photo and then try on clothes based on their body type. Getting a feel of what they are buying offers both comfort and confidence to buyers.

In closing

Business models need to be altered keeping the following objectives in mind:

  • Ensure convergence across channels and touchpoints as boundaries between the physical and digital worlds blur.
  • Customize the delivery format based on changing shopper behaviors through personalization
  • Collaborate instead of competing with other suppliers and retailers to enhance customer value
  • Improve the value proposition through interactions and communication in real-time.
  • Facilitate self-learning through AI-enabled data to enhance customer satisfaction.

Create a seamless customer experience with Trigent

As you gear up to deliver unique shopping journeys, we can help you with our broad range of offerings to build a technology stack that’s replete with features and functionality. With an array of pre-built as well as custom solutions for diverse retail use cases, we empower you to offer personalization and delightful digital experiences at scale.

We’d be happy to be your trusted technology partner on your digital transformation journey.

Call us today to book a business consultation.

References

1. https://www.statista.com/topics/6239/coronavirus-impact-on-the-retail-industry-worldwide/
2. https://fortune.com/2021/01/07/record-store-closings-bankruptcy-2020/
3. https://www.barrons.com/news/walmart-profits-jump-80-to-6-5-bn-on-strong-e-commerce-sales-01597749906
4. https://research.aimultiple.com/chatbot-stats/

Hybrid Apps or Cross-Platform? The right strategy for Retail Mobile Apps in 2021

In the digital world of today, it’s impossible to run any business without a mobile application. But developing multiple apps for different platforms is challenging and expensive. 2020 saw a surge in mobile adoption as consumers went mobile to learn, work, and shop to cope up with the pandemic. The spending on mobile apps touched a whopping $143 million indicating a 20% rise as compared to 2019.

But even before the pandemic, popular Dutch lingerie designer brand Marlies Dekkers saw more than 75% of their revenue through mobile. Brands like Nike and many others had already started diversifying business practices to avert the retail apocalypse. Walmart had begun consolidating multiple apps into a centralized one to bring in greater choice and diversity to consumers. Leading eCommerce major Shopify achieved 10 years’ worth of growth in just 90 days. Retailers are having to roll out new features faster in their mobile app experiences while ensuring feature parity across the different platforms. To meet this challenge, popular brands such as Amazon, Apple, Remote POS, and Baskin Robbins have gone the hybrid way.

Enhancing the experience further with cross-platform

A hybrid app is your best bet if you wish to launch your mobile app quickly. According to a recent report, 74% of the top iOS retail apps are hybrid apps. These statistics might defy the conventional wisdom that was once in the favor of native apps for their superlative performance and the seamless user experience. After perfecting the infrastructure built for the web for several years, it didn’t make much sense to rebuild it for mobile. That would duplicate effort and result in a huge loss of time and resources. But then, the game changed altogether with hybrid apps. While offering total value for your investments, hybrid proved to be a smart choice thanks to low-code development tools. A hybrid app would mean 60-80% savings as compared to a native app with a 234% ROI.

But despite being a time and money savior, hybrid does pose a challenge in achieving the ideal UI and UX. These overheads of having to develop separate native apps for iOS and Android are effectively addressed by cross-platform apps that offer an elegant means to code once for both platforms.

Today, there is a growing inclination towards cross-platform apps that ensure feature parity and work equally well for all platforms such as Android, iOS, and Windows. Hybrid apps followed by cross-platform apps have ushered in so much functionality that both strategies are adopted as needed. The world clearly cannot stop raving about cross-platform apps. So if you are wondering if a cross-platform app is right for your retail business, here’s what you should know.

The shift to cross-platform

The truth is that you get to experience just the tip of the iceberg when you download an app. The infrastructure behind the app is evident only after you start using it as you browse through product catalogs, access purchase history, view shipping information, etc. The modern cross-platform apps now respond and react as quickly as their native counterparts providing users everything they need. With a full-fledged native-quality mobile experience, retailers are now jumping onto the cross-platform app bandwagon.

Experience matters

A bad mobile experience will drive away customers. A cross-platform app offers the perfect solution to the changing needs of businesses. It is a single-codebase app created using tools like Flutter, Kotlin, Xamarin, React Native, etc. and common examples of this app include Facebook Ads Manager, Airbnb, Reddit, and Zipcar. Cross-platform app development is now gaining a lot of momentum allowing hybrid mobile app development companies to create cross-platform apps that deliver exceedingly well on the performance front too.

Benefits for migrating toward cross-platform:

  • Efficient use of developer resources – Developers need to maintain just a single code base when building these apps thereby saving a huge amount of time typically required by native apps
  • Maintain Feature Parity across platforms. Brands can ensure common experience and functionality independent of the platform capabilities
  • Faster Time To Market: Once app development teams learn how to handle the OS differences or platform-specific store publication procedures effectively, the design-to-launch time will drastically reduce. Cross-platform apps also enable simpler and quicker updates, a boon considering the speed with which updates keep coming up.
  • Lower development and maintenance cost – They are easy to create and maintain with simple tools that can be used in-house thereby eliminating the need for hiring new talent for the job.
  • Consistent User experience – Due to the cross-platform approach with just one codebase running on desktop, web, and mobile, redundancies across channels are removed ensuring better design and UX consistency across platforms.

Wrapping up

A mobile app is rarely made for just one platform since users would want to use them across devices and platforms. Unlike a native approach that requires separate apps for each mobile platform and sometimes with very specific customization for tablets and smartphones, the cross-platform approach offers adaptive styling to ensure that the look and feel of your retail app automatically adapts to each platform. It enables retailers to reach out to a wider audience while saving cost and ensuring platform consistency. With immense potential, it serves as the perfect gateway to opportunities for custom mobile app development companies. Accelerating your mobile app development with cross-platform therefore makes a lot of sense.

Build with Trigent

As you re-evaluate your Mobile App strategy to address the scale and speed expected by your consumers, consider the Hybrid & Cross Platform alternatives. We, at Trigent, have powered apps for some of the coolest companies out there. We choose the right architecture, the ideal cloud computing platform, and an appropriate technology stack to ensure that the cost of building and maintaining an app is minimal while the experience is seamless. We also pay a lot of attention to security and compliance testing to ensure you get a secure, high-performing cross-functional app.

Embark on a software development journey with our experts. Contact us today to give your retail business a digital high.

Rich-Immersive Experiences Driven by AR/VR

2020 has taught us a lot, and among the lessons learned the biggest was the one on social cohesion. It taught us how important it was to restore the in-person sentiment albeit digitally to keep the customer experience delightfully engaging even in these trying times. Brands like Whole Foods for instance, recently went digital to empower customers with that familiar in-store feel. 

Retailers are now adopting advanced tools and technologies with AR/VR (augmented reality) and (virtual reality) at the helm to offer rich, immersive experiences to their customers.

The ground reality

There are countless examples of AR/VR changing customer experiences dramatically for the better. While AR digitally displays information to make sense of the real world, VR helps us understand and experience environments that could otherwise be costly or risky to experience physically. As per the ‘Seeing is believing’ report by PwC, virtual and augmented reality will reach $1.5 trillion and 23 million people globally by 2030 taking the number of people working with AR/VR support to 23.4 million.

AR and VR are adding immense value to the retail sector making way for more immersive storytelling. Jeremy Dalton Head of PwC’s AR/VR team in his book, Reality Check: How Immersive Technologies can Transform your Business says, “AR sacrifices full immersion for a direct connection to the physical world.” It can be helpful in revealing hidden information such as the components that go inside a product. “VR offers the best of all worlds: the ability to create a believable, engaging, and easily repeatable scenario but without the associated cost, disruption, or danger of the real thing,” he adds further.  

The product launch of OnePlus Nord in July 2020 was the first product launch in the world that used the power of AR, and the live cross-continent VR product launch of Jaguar’s all-electric I-PACE wowed one and all. Brands are now looking for more creative ways to integrate AR/VR into their marketing mix. Nike Japan too recently took the imagination of fans to the next level with Create with Air Max – an AR-powered coloring book that allows them to decorate black and white drawings of the shoes and watch their 3-D images float in real-time. 

The retail landscape

A rich, immersive shopping experience is now becoming a retail industry standard. Retailers can absolutely shake up customer experience through AR/VR by personalizing offers and empowering customers to visualize their favorite products in virtual settings. Says Sylvain Fabre, senior research director at Gartner, “Gartner expects that the implementation of 5G and AR/VR in stores will transform not only customer engagement but also the entire product management cycle of brands. 5G can optimize warehouse resources, enhance store traffic analytics and enable beacons that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones.” 

As per the global forecast to 2025 by ResearchAndMarkets.com, the VR market is predicted to grow from USD 6.1 billion in 2020 to USD 20.9 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 27.9% while the AR market is projected to grow from USD 15.3 billion in 2020 to USD 77.0 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 38.1% from 2020 to 2025. Research by Vibrant Media had revealed earlier that 67% of media buyers are keen on using AR/VR in their campaigns while GetApp indicated that 1 in 2 consumers in the UK are willing to use AR technology for shopping. With Apple rumored to be working on the next big thing – a VR headset and AR glasses – AR and VR clearly seem to be on everyone’s mind as they build digital transformation roadmaps. 

AR and VR together are contributing towards rich, immersive, unforgettable customer experiences. They empower retailers to offer:

Virtual try-ons – Prominent fashion labels Gucci and Hilfiger embedded AR into their apps to offer customers greater clarity while shopping by allowing them to digitally superimpose clothes and accessories onto themselves using their smartphone camera. The ability to scale products on their bodies or in their homes gives them better judgment and helps make informed buying decisions. IKEA Place app, for instance, allows customers to virtually place their true-to-scale 3D models in their space to give them the exact feeling of size, design, and functionality. In a crowded retail marketplace, this ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience could be the game-changer you may be looking for. 

In-store experience – It’s something customers are unable to enjoy in current times and a little attention can go a long way. It is the key to forging deeper connections. Retailers need to include AR/VR displays, kiosks, magic mirrors, smart carts, virtual store assistants, and digital fitting rooms depending on the products they sell to make the shopping experience efficient, enjoyable, but contactless. Remember how Levi’s came up with the co-watching video app allowing friends to share screen and shop together? This makes the whole experience not just engaging, but very emotional and intimate. 

Personalization – AR/VR allows unprecedented personalization. By employing marketing strategies that work well for mobile, desktop as well as web platforms, retailers can now offer 3D graphics-rich content for better customer engagement. Retailers can now offer more personalized products, and catalogs with detailed views keeping the individual preferences of customers in mind. Personalization also increases the likelihood of the customer returning to the same retailer for more and the possibility of product returns is also less.

Social media marketing – Social media filters are being used frequently now and Facebook investing heavily in AR/VR is proof that immersive experiences are now part of social media engagement. When used correctly on social media, AR/VR can help create new trends, increase impulse buys, and improve brand engagement. 

Customer engagement – VR has been helping brands offer simulated experiences to customers through different initiatives such as the one by Volvo where they offered a virtual test drive to customers. This initiative provides the brand a fresh engagement touchpoint to connect without having to wait for them to come down for a visit. This kind of positive engagement is just what is needed as we embrace the New Normal.

Productivity – A study published in The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology stated that warehouse pickers could complete orders 37% faster using an AR tool. DHL now has expanded its AR-based ‘vision picking’ program to its warehouses across the globe and those who are already part of the program are seeing 15% greater productivity. Time and cost savings in warehouse operations would mean faster fulfillment of orders, fewer complaints, and lower operational costs.

Create a magical customer experience with Trigent

AR and VR have demonstrated a clear return on investment while offering retailers the means and ways to connect and converse with their customers. At Trigent, we help you create immersive experiences that are intuitive and data-rich while putting your customer needs at the core of every initiative. It’s time you embraced the many possibilities AR and VR have to offer to unlock moments of delight for your customers. Allow us to help you push the standards a little higher.

Call us today for a consultation.

Why retail should dovetail cloud for success?

The year 2020 has been a year of learning for all industries. The unprecedented scale and reach of the pandemic encompassing the world impacted every region and industry. Retail in the United States is no different. Sales dropped from $5.47 trillion in 2019 to $4.89 trillion in 2020 due to the virus and restrictions to curb the pandemic. The prevailing condition demands that the retail industry, like every other industry, initiate or increase its speed of adopting technologies that enable businesses to face the new normal. Cloud plays an essential role in this transformational journey. A major driver set to act as the backbone, enabling the adoption of technologies and delivering desired business results. The global retail cloud market that stood at $11.89 billion will touch 39.63 billion by 2026, emphasizing cloud as a significant driving force that will propel the retail sector in the future.

Here are some of the factors that make the cloud a lucrative proposition for retailers.

In-sync operation

Many brick and mortar stores or offline stores still depend on legacy systems. Dependence on legacy impacts the integration of various business operations such as inventory, shipping, development, and POS. Migrating to the cloud enables retailers to get the different business operations in sync and get a consolidated view of all departments and locations in real-time. A real-time view of the inventory, shipment, and other business processes enables an in-sync seamless functioning across the organization.

Superior Customer Experience (CX) and convenience

The experience-driven economy has furthered the emphasis on personalization. Not only is there a demand for superior, seamless experiences, but users also want these experiences to be personalized. 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that provides personalized experiences. Retailers are well placed to provide to their customers what they demand. With a gold mine of customer and sales data, retailers can utilize cloud-enabled computing capabilities to analyze data. Cloud allows retailers to get a unified view of data from multiple sources, enabling the retailers to make data-driven, timely decisions. Moving to the cloud also boosts the performance of web applications ensuring that users do not abandon the site due to slow performance and a poor experience.

Scalability

Many reasons impact the sale of products. It could be the launch of a new product from a renowned brand or end of season sale that causes a spike in sales. The retail industry is also impacted by peak demand during particular seasons, such as the holiday season. As per Adobe Analytics, online retail sales grew 32.2% from 2019 to touch $188.2 billion during the holiday season. Similarly, the sales could also dip owing to low demand and other factors. Cloud helps retailers to prepare for such eventuality. Cloud-enabled systems can be programmed for scalability, meaning they can be automated to meet the requirements in case of a surge and limit the use of resources in case of a dip. Retailers can also save big on infrastructure investments and costs by using many cloud service providers’ pay per use model.

Retailers are looking for technologies that can immediately impact their business. They are either already experimenting or looking to build solutions that enhance customer experience and drive growth. Cloud works as the perfect catalyst in this transformational journey for retailers as it powers agility and provides the platform to build modern apps faster and at scale, anytime-anywhere.

Explore the latest trends in technology that are shaping the future of retail. Learn how Trigent’s expertise can help you conquer the cloud and get an edge over the new normal.

Incorporate the latest capabilities in cloud technology with Trigent’s team of certified cloud experts. Our suite of cloud services encompassing cloud advisory, cloud-native application development, cloud architecture, migration services, and cloud management is equipped to support you at every stage of your cloud journey.

5 Ways to Improve Customer Experience with AI in Retail in 2021

From the very beginning, businesses have always aimed to deliver the finest customer experience. Conversations between brands and consumers got more personal with time and modern technologies provided them the much-needed platform to connect and communicate. So much so that brands now know you like the back of their hand. Businesses worldwide have been leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) in retail to offer a personalized experience to consumers. They are now talking to you through AI-powered chatbots.

As consumers continue to juggle priorities at home and work amidst the pandemic, their expectations have gone through the roof. Time is precious and they are willing to indulge provided you anticipate their needs and fulfill them in the most efficient manner. As Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research recently wrote, “Customers expect more from customer service organizations. They expect you to value their time, to make engagement easy, and to deliver answers and resolutions in a highly personal manner and in the context of their actions and journeys.”

Clearly, AI and automation have become customer service fundamentals of the modern age. Chatbot conversations, automated answers, customization are all driving factors. The AI-powered BMW factory in Germany stands testimony to the growing popularity of AI in the retail industry. The company has leveraged it well not only to ensure flawless perfection in its production processes but to also achieve 100% reliability for the cars that roll out from this particular setup.

Veritone’s The State of Artificial Intelligence in 2020 report predicts groundbreaking advances in machine learning and AI and expects 75% of commercial enterprise applications to use AI by 2021.

If you wish to level up your game in 2021, it’s time you transform customer experience with AI and chatbots. Here’s a quick sneak peek into the world of AI and chatbots and how it will transform retail in 2021.

1. Personalization with AI

AI has made it possible for retailers to predict the shopping behavior of consumers. They know what they like and exactly what’s on their mind. From wishlists to recommended products on Amazon and movies on Netflix to music on Spotify, they follow their digital footprints all the time. And that’s not all; they are now curating personalized content too. So now consumers are more pampered with promotional messages and customized deals targeted directly to them.

2. Data-driven predictions and insights

AI is bridging the gap between humans and machines like never before. Predictive models are being deployed to improve efficiency – be it to reduce energy consumption based on usage or avoid machine breakdowns by reminding consumers of car maintenance. AI gives a perspective on things ensuring growth in savings, performance, and efficiency.

3. A smarter world

As per Statistica, the number of digital voice assistants will touch 8.4 billion units by 2024 underlining their immense scope. Almost 60,000 smart devices support Alexa and the United States alone has more than 110 million virtual assistant users thanks to the increasing use of smartphones and other smart devices. Virtually everything from homes to vehicles is now connected and in turn, monitored. Voice-based searches are now part of our daily life and our best bet for digital searches on the go. Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa have raised the benchmark for voice-based applications that are breaking new ground in different sectors including retail, banking, fashion, IT, eCommerce, and healthcare. In fact, voice interface is expected to be a driving factor for the retail sector in 2021 and beyond as most retail applications will have voice assistant capabilities to enhance experience and engagement.

4. Enhanced customer support

Chatbots will ensure that customers do not suffer even in non-working hours. While driving business revenues, they bring down operational costs and offer complete peace of mind to consumers. Juniper Research expects the number of successful retail chatbot interactions globally to go from 2.6 billion in 2019 to a whopping 22 billion by 2023.

5. Greater conversions through conversational commerce

Walk-in customers that were now forced to be at home due to the pandemic made contactless conversational commerce a runaway hit. Customers that used self-service as the first point of contact with a retailer were now eagerly lapping product catalogs through WhatsApp and Facebook, and other platforms. Omnichannel presence has now become the key for greater customer satisfaction and ‘my shopping my way’ has become the new mantra. Consumers now want to talk to their brands and have engaging conversations.

The LivePerson’s 2020 Consumer Preferences for Conversational Commerce report said 85% of global consumers are getting on to messaging brands and 75% were ready to spend more on brands that came up with the messaging option. Explained Robert LoCascio, founder and CEO of LivePerson, in the press release, “The evidence is clear: AI-powered messaging experiences are more in demand than ever before. Consumers around the world are clamoring for them, and they’ll even spend more money with brands that give them what they want. Brands that embrace conversational AI and infuse it with human qualities like empathy, love, and understanding will outperform their competitors and reach the cutting edge of customer service, marketing, and sales.”

Challenges of AI adoption in Retail

The potential of AI and chatbots however remains largely untapped despite its popularity. As per a 2018 U.S. Census Bureau survey, only 2.8% of companies in the U.S used machine learning indicating the achingly slow speed of technology adoption. Of course, things have changed radically now due to the pandemic. According to an exclusive study by Isobar based on inputs from 1350 global CMOs, 64% of them had completely or moderately changed their CX strategy to respond to changing needs in the Covid-19 crisis. While the focus remains on eliminating friction and pain points, building differentiation has become extremely important.

Successful AI adoption needs an understanding of what AI can and cannot do. AI will no doubt require skills that enterprises may lack as of now. Besides, there is the anxiety of adopting something new and the nagging fear of the unknown. Enterprises need to take into account both tangible and intangible benefits to determine the return on investment. No doubt AI will eliminate jobs but it will create many more jobs too. Gartner terms AI as a net-positive job motivator that will create 2.3 million jobs while eliminating 1.8 million jobs.

It is important to collate quality data that can help identify patterns, prevent errors, and lead to more positive outcomes. Data and skill deficit are in fact major hurdles to the successful adoption of AI. But with a little training and planning, AI adoption will prove to be a perfect investment.

Take the technological leap with Trigent

As consumers move from bricks to clicks, we urge you to embark on a journey of digital transformation with us. AI is the disruption modern organizations are gladly embracing to improve their bottom lines. At Trigent, we’ve packed tons of experience and value into easy-to-use intuitive solutions that can be easily deployed in your enterprise.

We will help you tide over implementation challenges and equip you with AI know-how. We will assess your needs and help you choose the right type of chatbot for your business. We will also help you create your own roadmap to ensure better business outcomes and a delightful customer experience.

Allow us to be your partners in progress. Call us today.

Technology Trends That Will Reshape Retail in 2021

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2020 pivoted the world to everything digital. Everything-from-home became the new norm, and we reimagined new ways to function this year. It was no different for shopping – eCommerce came to everybody’s rescue. Although online shopping is not new, it took center stage. Consumer-facing technology saved the day, and digital payments, telehealth, cloud-native apps, etc., are now mainstream in the AI-driven world.

Adobe recently revealed comprehensive insights on consumer spending and eCommerce based on some of the top retailers’ eCommerce transactions in real-time. The Black Friday sales figures touched a whopping $9.0 billion, a record high indicating an increase of 21.6% compared to last year. Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights, stated, “We are seeing strong growth as consumers continue to move shopping from offline to online this year. New consoles, phones, smart devices, and TVs that are traditional Black Friday purchases are sharing online shopping cart space this year with unorthodox Black Friday purchases such as groceries, clothes, and alcohol, that are usually purchased in-store.”

Digital penetration is now irreversible and will continue to navigate retail trends through 2021 and beyond. Here’s a quick lowdown on technology trends that will reshape retail in 2021.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will ensure an immersive consumer experience

Retailers leverage augmented reality to shift the focus from features and benefits to an immersive retail experience enabling young and restless millennials to choose better. While apparel companies went all out with their AR fitting rooms to help choose according to body type, beauty technology leader Sephora came up with magic mirrors in stores and mobile apps to enable consumers to see how the myriad make-up treatments and colors looked on them.

On the other hand, IKEA allowed consumers to place catalog items at scale in their homes to make better buying decisions. In a technology-driven world, the augmented reality and virtual reality market are predicted to touch 16.1 billion by 2025 globally, underlining a 48.8% CAGR for the forecast period 2020-2025.

Having tasted a shift in consumer behaviors, One Aldwych Hotel in London, in collaboration with Dalmore Whisky, treated their consumers to a distillery experience with VR. They offered a VR whisky cocktail that allowed them to visit the distillery, albeit virtually to see the barrels and the water and the fields that went into its making. To ensure deeper engagement and take out the loneliness from virtual shopping, brands now allow you to co-shop with your friends by helping consumers share product views and experiences. Popular brand Lego has created digital shopping assistants to make the whole experience a lot more exciting. These assistants even make personalized gift recommendations to take the digital shopping experience a notch higher.

After launching its Shopify AR to help businesses curate more immersive shopping experiences, Shopify also confirmed that interactions with products having 3D/A.R. content have a 94% higher conversion rate compared to those without it.

Retailers are also becoming more experiential, indulging in what we call ‘retailtainment’ where experience becomes immersive and memorable. For instance, Marvel invited fans into their cinematic world through interactive displays and real-life movie props at their touring Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

Virtual Assistants for 24×7 Customer Service

Retailers are leveraging chatbots and virtual assistants to interact with their consumers while robots lurk outside warehouses to manage inventory. AI-powered voice recognition technology is also playing a significant role in adding value to the whole shopping experience.

Retailers are also deploying mobile CRM to engage consumers with offers, discounts, reward points, loyalty programs, style alerts, etc. According to Forrester statistics, 50% of teams saw an increase in productivity after using mobile CRM. An IDC study predicts AI-powered CRM activities could increase global business revenues by $1.1 trillion by 2021, drawing attention to the extensive role AI plays in driving customer conversations and influencing customer behavior.

Hybrid Apps enable retailers to reach a wider audience, grow the market

As consumers continue to rely on smartphones for all their needs, hybrid apps play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between brands and consumers. They are pocket-friendly and work exceedingly well for small businesses too. Brands are now relying on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to engage with customers.

Hybrid apps have caught the fancy of retailers because they are a multi-platform app development option, unlike native, that focus on a single platform. Hybrid apps have a single code that applies to both Android and iOS, saving developers valuable time. Besides, it is also advantageous as developers can maintain, update, and upgrade by making changes in just one set of code instead of multiple code sets, delivering an at par customer experience across platforms.

Social Commerce and influencer marketing will enhance reach and value

A recent survey revealed 41% of respondents admitted to shopping online for stuff they would normally buy in stores. The recent introduction of Facebook shops is a classic example of the growing popularity of social commerce in the personalized shopping arena in the digital world. Social commerce is now becoming an integral part of ecommerce and is clearly here to stay.

With social commerce on the rise, the influencer game is stronger than ever. It has now transitioned from selfies and clever photo edits to unique influencer video content that connects, educates, and entertains. IGTV, Instagram Reels, and Instagram Live are all playing a major role in helping brands build solid digital communities through shared interests. Fitness experts for instance conduct live workout sessions on Instagram Live and then publish the same on IGTV for those who couldn’t tune into livestream.

Contactless is the buzzword now

A safe, seamless, frictionless experience is what we need. Contactless payments, contactless delivery and pickup, seamless checkouts, 1:1 in-store appointments, contactless checkout and delivery, and click-and-collect services are all crucial steps in that direction. Also, the fear of contamination has encouraged retailers to deploy drone technology to ensure the fastest delivery. Retailers are working in tandem with fintech companies to build better transactional models for quick, contactless payments.

Contactless mobile payments are in high demand, especially in this period of crisis. Consumers carrying their cards tend to spend more than those with cash in their wallets that often limit their purchasing power. Contactless payments are not just a fad but have greater staying power for the sheer speed, security, and convenience they offer. Those who have failed to adopt them have lost business. As per the 2020 Holiday Spending Insights Report by NMI, 43% of consumers avoided retailers that did not offer contactless payments. Tap-to-pay cards are popular, so are mobile wallets such as Google Pay and Apple Pay.

Make your retail business future-ready with Trigent

The retail environment is changing at a rapid pace. Clearly, brands are going out of the way to redefine the possible and are winning the game in the midst of the pandemic. It is important to go omnichannel to provide best-in-class experiences to consumers across touchpoints because the online and offline worlds converge.

Serve your customers efficiently by accelerating the adoption of the latest developments in technology. Capitalize on Trigent’s market experience to incorporate the best practices and implement solutions right the first time. With its comprehensive suite of IT Services offerings, Trigent is your go-to partner for all your IT digital evolution requirements.

Contact our Solutions Specialists today. Request a demo now.

Back to the Store – New Opportunities for Retail ISVs

With the change in consumer palettes for healthier food options, smaller convenience stores and retail outlets are seeing a surge in demand for healthy, organic, hot and cold food, and grocery choices. During the 1990’s, multinational grocers took over the retail market and most believed that the small family-owned, mom & pop shops would die out. The presumption was that in spite of cultural differences, full line supermarkets and hypermarkets would flourish.

Fast forward to 2019, and globally, traditional trade has been resilient. One of the reasons for this lies in the purchasing behavior of customers: hypermarkets store groceries and daily requirements. But finding them, buying them and transporting them is a hassle in comparison to picking up stuff from a local grocery store.

According to Nielsen’s 2018 National Grocery Shoppers Survey conducted in partnership with the National Grocers Association (NGA), about 21% of grocery dollars go to independent grocery stores. While that may be a small percentage of the overall grocery market, among people who classify themselves as independent shoppers, Nielsen found that loyal, independent grocery shoppers spend more than 40% more on groceries than the average shopper.

The New York Times in its article `The Freshest Ideas are in small grocery stores’ says, `Most North Americans still buy their food at the classic supermarket, with its wide aisles and seemingly limitless choices. But stores like Kroger, the nation’s largest chain with more than $105 billion in sales in 2017, are being cannibalized by a host of discount competitors like Dollar General and Aldi on one side, and by the growing dominance of Amazon and online delivery on the other’.

While the hypermarkets are not perceived as an ideal choice for dailies, there is also a growing demand for all things natural, healthy, and fresh. Food-shopping habits are mostly localized, and people prefer to prepare their meals and cook more.

Small retailers can use this change in buyer behavior to their advantage. To differentiate themselves in the eyes of their customers, they need to think differently. Think differently not in terms of food or products but more in terms of understanding the way customers have changed and matching their expectations in terms of product options, turnaround time, and pricing. This would require retailers to revisit their existing applications and modernize them to match requirements. For example, how would a small supermarket promote his products during the holiday season? Could he use a mobile app for advertising to a target audience?

Similarly, there are several technology options available for retailers to maximize the growing surge in requirements:

Supply chain management – the supply chain is often seen in terms of large manufacturing chains. However, for retailers, a customized supply chain application will ensure that customers always get what they want, when they want and how they want it.

The supply chain also helps with maximizing the available space by stocking fast moving products and reducing stocks of slow moving products. Freed up space translates into new business opportunities for retailers.

Similar to the example of supply chain software, smart and highly customizable technology that captures SKUs and pricing at the POS is essential to success for retailers.

According to Deloitte, small retailers are holding back from digital adoption. However, the benefits of adoption are significant:

  • Earned two times as much revenue per employee
  • Experienced revenue growth over the previous year that was nearly four times as high
  • Were almost three times as likely to be creating jobs from a year earlier
  • Had an average employment growth rate that was more than six times as high

For ISVS, this is an opportunity as the reason for holding back is not as much about budget as about relevance. How will technology benefit us? How will it be useful for us? How about privacy and security?

Software Unification

Most retailers already have an application in place. Adding new features or integrating new functionalities is an area that needs to be explored. “Connecting software to work with other software is hard,” said Roy Mann, CEO, and co-founder for Monday.com. “There is going to be a breakthrough with integration platforms that will allow any software to connect well with any other software.”

Cyber-security

Many small businesses believe that they are immune to cyber attacks. However, research indicates that over 60 percent of attacks occur at small businesses. Viewing security from an enterprise perspective is essential for retailers going forward.

Personalized marketing

Along with shopping, customers look for personalized services which only smaller supermarkets can give. By using technology, for marketing, customized services can be taken to the next level. Chatbots, for example, will be able to guide buyers on their online purchases.

Artificial Intelligence and SMBs

“While artificial intelligence may sound like something that only enterprise companies use, in 2019 we’ll see it make big inroads into small businesses,” said Meredith Schmidt, executive vice president, and general manager of small business and essentials at Salesforce. “AI will help small businesses offer more personalized experiences to their customers by maximizing their time and automating manual tasks.”

To summarize, for ISVs, size should not matter, and the challenges they face in their businesses are similar. However, while larger retailers display a technology dependency, for small companies, it is still early days. The point to be noted is, the opportunities are there!