28 Nov, 2017

How Does Technology Shape Holiday Shopping Experiences?

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The holidays are a crucial time for retailers, as customers gear up to spend more than they usually do, compared to the rest of the year. Since more customers will be shopping more than usual, it means that the competition among retailers becomes intense. Retailers must connect to their customer and grab their attention, to push sales and increase foot traffic into their stores. Along with brick and mortar stores, online stores must go to great lengths to reach their audience.

In order to successfully conduct these practices, retailers turn to different tools. Since we are in the digital transformation era, these tools rely on technology and possess digital components. Many retailers have turned to tech tools, like artificial intelligence, to shape holiday shopping efforts. After all, customers are looking for the catchiest, most attention-grabbing source in order to make a purchasing decision.

“According to data from IFTTT, 60 percent of retailers have increased their technology budgets, planning to profit from the latest gadgets in the industry, such as artificial intelligence-driven chatbots.” Business News Daily reports. 

Organizations from Walmart to Macy’s, have turned to tech this holiday season, expanding its digital efforts. These digital efforts are put in place for many reasons, like optimizing inventory, reaching their customers, and overall prepare for what the holiday season brings forward.

The main attraction of the holiday season, Black Friday has passed, along with Cyber Monday, which made up the gist of the holiday season. Now, retailers are left with preparing for holiday shopping that will take place, well into the end of December.

“Now that we’ve moved beyond the two hype-iest days of the retail year, let’s bear in mind that there are still 27 shopping days left between now and Christmas and a lot can still happen. We should also remember that the week after Christmas is very important, where big volumes are posted, gift cards are redeemed, returns are processed and the trajectory for seasonal clearance starts to be set.” Forbes reports. 

What Customers Are Looking For

Before retailers can even begin to integrate tech tools into stores, they must first seek to understand what customers are looking for. This can be done by using data and analytics, which positions you at the center of your customer.

“Customer analytics enables organizations and enterprises to make data-driven business decisions for direct marketing, site selection, and customer relationship management. The result is a 360-degree view of customers,” says Molly Galetto, vice president of marketing communications at NGDATA.” Kissemtrics Blog reports. 

Some of the insights that you can learn from customer data have to do with finding out if your customer prefers to shop in store, or online, and what exactly they are shopping for. Once you find the answers to these questions, can position you to deliver the most successful customer experience for your audience.

For example, if you find out that your customers prefer to shop for electronics, you can automate notifications for the best products available in order to optimize the best shopping experience. If your shoppers tend to be last-minute shoppers, you can set up your strategies to target them at the time they will be shopping. Using mobile capacities to track your customers is one way to conduct your holiday strategies.

Shoppers search on mobile devices more than ever before, so retailers can leverage this opportunity to really target them.

“People were also looking up store hours – for forgotten ingredients as well as last minute gifts – on Christmas Day itself. Suffice to say, this is a prime example of the need for an excellent mobile experience to impact in-store sales.” Mobify reports. 

Since shoppers are reliant on digital tools to conduct holiday shopping, it is a clear testament to the fact that customers are used to using technology and may even want to see it in-stores while shopping.

Technology Creates Engaging Shopping Experiences

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has rolled out new technologies this holiday season in order to advance digital developments in stores. Some of these advancements include creating virtual reality training for employees which includes product searches, and how to deal with frazzled customers, which we all know can often get out of hand during the hectic holiday season.

“Virtual reality technology from a start-up called Strivr already was being used by the retailer in recent weeks to help Walmart employees prepare Black Friday by showing them virtual scenes of throngs of customers entering their stores and requiring assistance, according to MIT Technology Review.” RetailDive reports. 

Robots have also been trained to search shelves using automation to scan inventory for out of stock items, items that are placed incorrectly or even misplaced or labels. In-store pick up has been also integrated into many Wal-Mart stores, which further enables shoppers to combine both online and in-store shopping efforts.

Wal-Mart is integrating these digital tools in order to optimize inventory management processes, which are predicted to make the process easier and more seamless, as opposed to relying on humans, which takes a longer amount of time.

It comes as no surprise that Wal-Mart is integrating technology into stores more than ever. The retail giant has been in competition with an online store, Amazon. Remember Amazon? The tiny little e-commerce store that has not caused any disruption at all in the retail sector. (You can sense my sarcasm, right?)

Well, Wal-Mart and Amazon have been neck-in-neck trying to compete for the spotlight, which customers are not shy to shine. especially during this holiday season. Since Amazon has rolled out many digital tools itself, Wal-Mart is attempting to stay a step above the competition and roll out different tools to set themselves apart.

Wal-Mart is dedicated to making a great customer experience, not just for holidays, but year-round.

Target

Target is jumping on the technology bandwagon, with in-store technology tools. In recent reports, Target created a new mobile app called myCheckout. The concept behind the app allows employees to search Target.com for customers during in-store engagements. It can show what is out-of-stock and can even process payments. This will keep customers engaged and creates a higher level of customer service.

“Helping customers find and quickly order and pay for things online that might be out of stock during a store visit is a nice way to add value to any engagement between a store associate and customer. The hope is that fewer customers will walk into a store and then walk out 20 minutes later with nothing to show for it.” RetailDive reports. 

Target has been dedicated to making in-store experiences easier, like upgrading its self-checkout process. Everyone knows that during the holidays, lines can get burdensome and inconvenient. By upgrading its self-checkout software system customers are able to use the system in a less complex way.

The tech team at Target has been dedicated to creating solutions that combat in-store IT issues, which ultimately slow down customers in-store, which can be a major problem, especially during the holiday season. Software-based bots have been created to tackle these issues, which carry out tasks like troubleshooting computer issues and fixing other problems that may occur. This will save employees time and spare customer frustration.

Pinterest

Pinterest, a web and mobile application that possesses a software system in order to find things on the web, is rolling out a new feature that will enable users to share gift ideas among friends and family. The feature will be called Pinterest Secret Santa, and the goal is to make gift giving a little less stressful and more thoughtful.

The brand partners that will be associated with this tool include Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, and CVS Pharmacy which will showcase gifting supplies that are available in stores.

“Holiday shoppers already use Pinterest for gifting inspiration and Pinterest Secret Santa is a new way to find fun ideas for the holidays,” said Joe Eibert, VP Digital Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “We’re excited to bring “Despicable Me 3” to life for the whole family through the personalized Secret Santa gifting tool.” Pinterest reports in a blog post. 

The idea behind this new feature allows customers to create different idea boards, which stays true to their original concept, but instead of pinning likes and interests, you can pin what your friends and family would want for Christmas, based on what they are saying on social media platforms. This is done by using a custom Pinterest API. If the person you are shopping for does not have a Pinterest account, you can find gifts based on people’s interests and hobbies.

Although Pinterest is not a retailer, the sheer fact that this platform is working with different brands in order to deliver users an engaging shopping experience proves that technology is driving the way people shop during the holiday season.

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Digital Retail Transformation AssemblyC-Level experts from across North America’s retail industry are coming together February 15-16, 2018 at The Park Hyatt Aviara in San Diego, CA to anticipate the highly complex digital environment that will develop over the next few years.

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Retailers are uniquely positioned to leverage new digital technology such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and more to deliver enhanced, personalized customer experiences.

Technology creates engaging customer experiences by offering new tools that position brands to be at the frontline of the customer’s vision. Between Wal-Mart, Target and social media platform Pinterest integrating brands into its app, it comes as no surprise that technology is shaping the way we engage with brands today. In order to successfully target an audience and create a successful, unforgettable and often times seamless customer experience, it is important to stay up to date with the trends that are emerging in this sector.

As a brand during the holiday season, it is important to stay ahead of the competition by adopting new digital techniques into business strategies. From robotics to mobile apps, and virtual reality, it is clear that brands are rolling out new tools to stay up to date with technology. Through a cutting-edge program designed by the industry, for the industry, we will provide a fresh and up-to-date insight to help move your organization to the next level of digital leadership. A series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations, collaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions will offer industry-specific topics and trends to ensure your company sustains its competitive advantage.

This is not just another “Retail” event. Spaces are reserved for the best in the business. Enquire about attendance here!

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