For many years now “personalization” and “experience” have been the buzz in both online and offline retail. While retailers have been playing a game of catch-up, their customers have become far more digitally connected than we could have ever imagined 10 years ago.
The core need of the customer may or may not have changed, but what has evolved is the technology available to meet those needs. The need to touch and feel a product, or interact with it, hasn’t changed since the dawn of retail. But now we are entering a very exciting time where emerging technology can provide interactive experiences that are starting to mirror the customer’s natural behaviour. For example, some retailers are putting touchscreens in fitting rooms where customers can connect live with a friend and receive real-time feedback about an item they are trying on. How many times have you taken a picture of something and sent it to a friend for advice before you purchased it? The same goes for providing product information – complete with ratings and reviews – on the shelf behind a product using an interactive digital display. What these technologies are doing is enabling an interaction that is already happening, while also building loyalty and trust with customers.
I love what Intel is doing; it brings an innate human experience to life. Truth of the matter is if retailers aren’t providing their customers with the digital tools and transparency to discover products, check prices and inventory, and read reviews, the customers will do it on their own. Without joining that priceless conversation, retailers are practically handing their customers over to the competition.
Most retailers know that digital connectivity is about more than just having a Facebook page; customers are smarter than that. The trick is to understand each retailer’s unique mix of customers and tailor digital solutions to fit their needs and lifestyle. Customers today see a brand or a retailer as one, regardless of channel or business model, and are demanding that they adjust to fit the way they would like to shop. We never really left the era of “the customer is king” and that sentiment only grows stronger.
One thing I am certain of is that technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Many years from now we will be having this same conversation, only around a new type of medium. At its heart, retail is about meeting a customer’s needs. And when that happens, it’s a win-win.