How New Technology Will Bring Magic to the Retail Customer Experience

Michael Colaneri, Vice President, Retail, Restaurant & Hospitality, At&T Business

Michael Colaneri, Vice President, Retail, Restaurant & Hospitality, At&T Business

Picture this: You’re passing a store when a notification pops up on your phone: 50 percent off shirts today only!

You step into the shop, you pick two shirts and head to the dressing room. The reflection in the mirror—which uses augmented reality (AR) to help you quickly “try on” other recommended items (like a tie and pants to match)—looks sharp, even in a size too small.

You use the store’s app to scan the price tag and learn that not only is the shirt from a new designer who uses sustainable manufacturing practices, but your size can be shipped to your home for free. What’s more, you can choose a custom embroidered monogram for just a few dollars more! Two days later, you get a package from your new favorite shop and are thoroughly delighted.

Start to finish, the above customer experience (CX) feels magical. You get a notification of a great deal, which leads to a seamless, tech-enhanced process of shopping, fitting and shipping, with the product delivered straight to your home. Next-level CX made the decision to buy convenient, fun and satisfying.

I recently talked to Lionesque Founder & CEO,Melissa Gonzalez about how technology can add magic to CX. “Technology can serve many purposes to enhance a customer's in-store experience from behind the scenes to front of house,” she says. “The right tools can keep sales staff educated and positioned to best serve with surprise and delight - this will be everything from having a holistic view of a customer's history with the brand to their path of purchase in the moment.”

The retail customer experience of the future is possible now, and even more magic is coming soon. Let’s explore what technology has in store to better serve customers and help retailers innovate, differentiate and win.

Digital Displays Will Light The Way

In-store marketing has evolved far beyond pricing and promotion to become another key factor that compels customers to walk through your doors.

Imagine walking by a store and, using data collected with your consent, the front window transforms to display images of you dressed in a new head-to-toe wardrobe. Once inside, dynamic digital displays guide your journey by making you aware of highly relevant pricing, special offers and personalized content that even transfers to or interacts with the store’s mobile app. Digital displays have also morphed into immersive AR experiences that let you “try on” virtual clothing, accessories, makeup and more.

Mobile Will Support An Even Richer Experience For Customers And Teams

App-based AR can help customers see how items will look in their home and easily access more product information and guidance to find more sizes, colors and styles online.

Customers will also enjoy the seamlessness of being able to browse both online and in-store inventory while they shop in the store. And apps can even serve up personalized offers when the customer is near a physical store. Gonzalez sees potential in using QR codes to offer experiences when customers scan everything from clothing tags to in-store signage: “From virtual consultation and product advisory to seamless checkout, QR codes are also just scratching the surface of possibilities,” she says.

One fun example of enhanced interactions via a mobile app is AT&T’s WarnerMedia Content Experiences, in which characters and content can transfer freely between the app and in-store signage, serving up a personalized, interactive experience for customers.

With A Capable 5g Network, Robots Will Be Your Partners

Robotic technologies can improve both store operations and CX. They work by collecting massive amounts of in-store data and images, and then applying onboard analytics to deliver timely and actionable insights about a variety of operational areas.

Take inventory management, for example. Part of great CX is ensuring customers can find the items they’re looking for, with reliable reporting on what’s in stock both online and in stores. Robotic technology like smart shelves that update inventory in real time can help avoid out-of-stocks and build trust with customers. Radio frequency identification (RFID) and image recognition can help prevent and correct inventory issues.

Robots can also locate and help organize misplaced items, and in the not-so-distant future, they could mitigate store hazards and reinvent the call for “clean-up in aisle 6” by detecting and removing spills.

By tackling these and other operational tasks more effectively and efficiently, robotic technology powered by 5G and MEC (multi-access edge computing) could free up your retail team so that they can focus on delivering personalized and responsive customer service.

Technology Will Help Boost Operational Excellence

The retail CX is only as good as your team’s capabilities to inform, assist and persuade your customers. This requires both time and training, and you can get more of both with digitization.

For example, both augmented and virtual reality can deliver enhanced training experiences that empower customer service professionals. Technology can also help equip virtual contact centers with customer data, empowering remote workers to deliver better experiences.

“In-Store Marketing Has Evolved Far Beyond Pricing And Promotion To Become Another Key Factor That Compels Customers To Walk Through Your Doors”

Mobile point-of-sale (PoS) technology and kiosks can also help operations run more smoothly and efficiently. Rather than creating a choke point at a register queue, sales associates can check out customers anywhere in the store.

Finally, technology can help retail stores manage the influx in online shopping, BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), and curbside shopping. Says Gonzalez, “Technologies that continue to make flexible fulfillment as frictionless as possible will also be essential in delivering on customer expectations, such as item level tracking and visibility to ensure brands and retailers are identifying and unlocking opportunities to optimize supply chain and getting product into customer's hands same day, or sooner.”

Start Creating Magic Today

The key to each of these exciting innovations— augmented reality, virtual reality, personalized digital signage, video pattern and shopper recognition, interactive mobile apps—is simple. Connectivity is the foundation that makes the magic possible.

To get your brand ready for the magical CX of the future, start by shoring up your connectivity through 5G, mobile broadband and Wi-Fi—all essential investments for building brand love and customer loyalty while ultimately increasing sales.

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