Is tech enough to improve the customer experience?

BY Australian Retailers Association
24 January 2019

By harnessing the right technology, retailers can enhance the overall experience for their customers

You could argue that customer experience in the online landscape has not fundamentally changed in recent years, despite the rise of new and recycled offerings, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and a whole lot of other ‘virtual’ buzzwords.

Is this what customers want? And if so, how are these tools improving the overall experience?

Retailers need to strip down these virtual technologies into the components that make an actual, positive difference to their customers and their experience.

By using technology to gain a better, more unified view of the customer, along with advanced customer behaviour analysis, retailers can vastly improve the overall customer experience.

The buzzword technologies themselves are not the differentiators. It’s the application and combination of these technologies that will drive the next major changes in our in-store and online experiences.

Step 1: Convergence

What used to be called omni-channel is changing, as it becomes relevant in real-world scenarios and refined in practise.

Transactional channels (in-store and online) are becoming unified, providing a single view of customers, full-breadth of product range and improvements around returns, extended ranges, aisle functions and Click &- Collect capabilities.

As things continue to progress, there will be an emergence of ‘commerce systems’ to replace the current separate point of sale (POS) and e-commerce systems. Once these channels are unified, the buying history of online customers will be available for analysis, again influencing the future experience that shoppers will have.

Step 2: Artificial intelligence, pattern recognition and machine learning

Going a step further, there will finally be some progress in the use of AI, which has been promoted as the next big thing for decades.

In addition to the more traditional applications of AI, such as trend identification, insight generation and reporting, more exciting applications are becoming possible, including facial recognition, visual search and customer behaviour analysis.

Applied to retail, these features create opportunities to improve the customer experience. Visual search, for instance, makes it easier for customers to find what they are looking for, since they no longer need to try to describe it, or understand how a retailer might have tagged a product.

Retailers like THE ICONIC and ASOS have already embraced visual search. They allow customers to upload an image of something they want to purchase and display products that look similar to that image, irrespective of any text descriptions or classifications in their back end systems.

Focus on the ‘actual’ within the ‘virtual’

Retailers will need to strip down ‘virtual’ technologies into the components that make an ‘actual’, positive difference to their customers and their experience. By using technology to gain a better, more unified view of the customer, along with advanced customer behaviour analysis, you can vastly improve the customer experience.

It’s not the buzzword technologies that are the differentiator, it’s the application and combination of them that drives the next major changes to our in-store and online experiences.

eStar is Australasia's leading specialist e-commerce solutions provider, delivering outstanding experiences with some of the region's best brands, through a combination of thought leadership, user experience, development, design and partners. Learn more at estaronline.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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