How to strategically choose, deploy, adopt and embrace in-store technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and queue management and appointment scheduling software, to provide a superior customer experience is something many retailers are struggling to iniatiate.
How to strategically choose, deploy, adopt and embrace the right in-store technologies for retail environments was the main question raised by delegates at this year’s RBTE in London’s Olympia. With the landscape becoming increasingly competitive due to the proliferation of customer touch points at the disposal of consumers, brands have had to rethink the way they interact with their customers and adopt a 360 view of their stores, blurring the lines between the physical and virtual.
Key decision-makers have had to deep delve into their business models which focus on three main areas: customer experience, operational efficiency and cost effectiveness. They have had to use data analytics to extrapolate the core pain points of the business, adopt technologies based on stakeholder feedback such as store walkouts, low conversion rates, poor customer service and rectify these problem areas – often within a relatively short time frame while trying to minimise costs.
Some of the pain points revealed at the event included the difficulty in trying to align these technologies to match and exceed customer expectations. Others included trying to empower employees to embrace this technology and find ways to help them increase operational efficiency and optimise customer service.
Balancing stakeholder expectations and aligning expectations with store objectives
With different company, cultures, management and in-store environments to contend with, stakeholder expectations can often be difficult to balance. Recent survey from Fujitsu revealed that half of shoppers felt that the quality of in-store technology directly affects their loyalty to a retailer (61%) and that they have proactively chosen to buy an item from one store over another because they knew they would enjoy a better technology experience.
Adopting this approach can have a negative impact on financial returns and can be costly if colleagues are unable to work the technology and customers are unsatisfied. Choosing to implement a customer experience management platform or deploying digital signage, or queue management system virtual and augmented reality solutions cannot be viewed or treated in isolation.
An in-store technology strategy should be a key driver used by retailers and brands to transform their existing shop floors and develop their businesses, whilst also curating consumer experiences of their brand. Depending on the retailer’s business model, this can be everything from transforming the supply chain, reducing costs and focusing on: ‘where does the business need to accelerate growth?’ and ascertaining ‘what is holding it back?’.
Gap analysis between consumers and retailers
An objective mind-set is required in conducting a gap analysis, to understand: the discrepancies between how consumers want to interact with brands and what retailers think their customers want. To put it in context, it is considering the requirements of how consumers are interacting with so called displays in these environments, how are they moving around your store, is there anything which can be done to help them fulfil their requirements and to enable them to have an immersive experience which helps them to choose recipes in-store tailored to their habits, know what outfit might work and where to find these in-store. It’s helping them visualise what it might be like to visit a certain destination. Can you enable consumers to make the most out of their time in your store and keep their family, friends and colleagues engaged?
For many, it is finding ways to be able to fulfil a need without having to contend with poor customer service, rude staff, badly organised queues and having difficulty trying to find someone who works in-store to give them a bit of an insight into what furniture might work in a certain room. Nothing annoys customers more than paying for bad service and the cost to the business goes far beyond that pot of paint.
How to bridge the gap between virtual and physical experiences to create a connected 360 retail experience
In-store technology has always presented challenges for retailers and there is no one size fits all solution. Fujitsu suggests that what succeeds for one retailer may be completely wrong for another, and that every implementation should be mapped to the customer’s needs to deliver the greatest chance of success. The boundary lines between physical and digital retail have never been thinner. As time goes by, consumers will increasingly come to treat the physical store simply as an extension of the digital brand, a continuation of their online journey that allows them to interact and engage with products in the flesh before making their buying decisions. For physical retail to survive that shift, it needs to strive or the same levels of convenience and personalisation that those shoppers enjoy online. With a third of consumers suggesting that substandard experiences with in-store technology are because of poorly trained staff, retailers need to ensure that employees are trained not only in line with their own expectations, but with the customers’ too.
The Fujitsu white paper goes on to highlight that the primary demand for consumers isn’t for innovation, but for certainty that legacy systems will perform to their expectations. Stores that invest in bright new ideas while leaving existing services unfinished or running poorly are likely to draw the ire of their customers.
Listen to your customers and futureproof your shop floor
Listening to your customers is key! Helping retailers to change their mind-sets and adapt to customer needs is not just a requirement anymore, it’s a necessity. I for one found it insightful to listen to how brands such as B&Q amongst others are adopting technologies. It was also fascinating to find out how retailers go about selecting providers and how they can transform their shop floors into in-store experiential hubs in line with their respective business model focuses on customer experience, operational efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Qudini collaborates with retailers and brands to transform the customer journey for retailers and brands alike using its innovative technology. It has enabled brands to reduce operational costs and increase conversions using its virtual queue management software, appointment booking system, retail event management software and click and collect check-in system software.
Over the course of the show, our team had the pleasure of speaking to an array of stakeholders across the retail spectrum and got to learn more about what solutions they are looking for in trying to optimise their business operations and change the shop floor. We certainly noticed the lines blurring between the physical and virtual!