New Year, new you right? That’s where most forward-thinking companies’ minds are at as we kick off 2018. Where can we go from here and how do we make this year better than the last? This year, many predict that retailers are going to work towards getting shoppers back in stores and will put strategies in place to make the shopping experience a better one.
In a recent article in Forbes, Richard Kestenbaum takes a look at a few emerging trends in the retail space that are sure to impact every in-store experience moving forward. In his piece, he sets the stage by making the extremely important point that technology is not the center of the shopping experience, but the catalyst for a more enjoyable one for today’s shopper.
“Technology is never going to be the point of most retail stores. The most important thing will always be the products and services offered for sale in the store. Technology can facilitate the connection between the product and the consumer and I don’t mean to minimize that, a retailer’s mission fails if that connection isn’t made,” explained Kestenbaum. “But the main event is always going to be whether the consumer and the product are right for each other. Technology can help a lot but some retailers who are focusing on technology as the answer to everything are missing the point. Technology is a tool.”
With a firm grasp on that, it’s easier to understand that it doesn’t matter how cool and shiny your technology is if it doesn’t work well for delivering a superior shopping experience to the customer, especially with an in-store encounter. But bridging that gap between utilizing technologies, namely artificial intelligence, that work very well for online retailers and implementing them into a brick-and-mortar store has been a bit elusive for retailers.
What if 2018 is finally their year though? The year they can truly bring that level of personalization to the physical store front. Kestenbaum posed, “Imagine this: you walk into a store, their systems know who you are, they know what you’ve bought in the past, they know what you’ll pay, they know your body shape by the clothes you own, they know what fits you and they know your price range. They also know what you’d like that you would never find on your own.”
A shopper’s paradise right? You might also be thinking, “This sounds extremely tricky and/or expensive to implement.” That might be the case right now, but Kestenbaum and other industry experts are confident that embracing something like what PSFK calls a “Living Database” or “Ambient Assistance” into your retail sales floor is something that can be accomplished on a large scale in the very near future.
And even the most wary of Big Brother critics are likely to cave and appreciate the benefits of technologies like this. “My anecdotal research is that when you describe it to consumers they don’t like it, the word “creepy” often comes up. But when it’s actually in use, they like the benefit it brings and they’re willing to give up their anonymity to get the benefit once they experience it,” Kestenbaum stated.
Frankly, if integrating AI into your retail strategy is not already underway or isn’t very soon, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Kestenbaum said, “By 2020, if a store doesn’t have it or doesn’t have an implementation plan, they’ll be on a path to failure.” Very similar sentiments to what Mike Mack of Fract shared when we spoke with him in June of 2017. Moving towards the implementation of technologies like AI are only going to benefit you and your customers’s shopping experience moving forward.