When I talk to retail executives about making investments in digital transformation initiatives, they often ask me what impact the changes will have on the customer experience.
It’s understandable that retailers want to prioritize the customer when considering IT investments. However, retailers should reframe that question. With stiff competition from online retailers, and with other brick-and-mortar stores aggressively pursuing digital transformation strategies, retailers should be asking, “What impact will it have on the customer experience if we don’t make these investments?”
Despite the fact that retailers have compelling reasons to take full advantage of digital transformation, few of them are doing so. It’s important to realize, however, that customers’ expectations are changing quickly. Many shoppers already expect companies to offer seamless integration between online and physical transactions. But increasingly, customers also expect retailers to deliver an array of in-store experiences that also leverage digital connectivity.
The following initiatives can help retailers keep customers happy, while staying ahead of the IT curve.
1. Get Interactive
In a February 2017 consumer survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), 41 percent of shoppers said they were interested in interactive shelves that provide product information. More than half of them said that, by 2020, they expect stores to give them the ability to virtually see how home furnishings and accessories will fit into their homes before making a purchase.
The lesson: Many shoppers are no longer content to scan shelves, pick from what appears to be available and make a best guess as to whether items will be a good fit. They want more information, and they want stores to present it to them in an interactive manner.
2. Give Options
There’s simply no way for a brick-and-mortar store to stock the number of items that online retailers can offer. However, “endless aisle” features — shoppers can scroll through digital catalogues on tablets or kiosks — can help level the playing field. According to ICSC, 36 percent of shoppers say they’re interested in in-store tablets that show a larger offering of products to purchase.
3. Empower Shoppers
Although some customers crave a personal touch in retail, others want to simply get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, and they are happy to manage on their own. According to ISIC, 62 percent of shoppers expect that by 2020, they’ll be able to find out if products or sizes are in stock without asking a salesperson. And 54 percent expect that they’ll be able to input a shopping list of items on a store app and receive a map to easily locate products within seconds of walking into a store.
4. Help Customers Find a Fit
According to Harvard Business Review, retailers can lose nearly half of intended purchases when customers encounter stock-outs. It’s especially frustrating for shoppers when they find a piece of clothing they love, but it’s out-of-stock in their preferred size or color. Forty-three percent of shoppers say they want the ability to have a smart tablet in a dressing room to help them find sizes and colors when trying on clothes. Such a feature could help get the right item into a customer’s hands — potentially saving a sale.