In 2015, Amazon introduced Dash Buttons. They’re digital buttons embedded in your tablet, phone, or devices around your house. And they give you instant access to the products you order regularly. Need more laundry detergent? Out of dog food? Click your Dash Button and a day later it’s at your door.
Retail’s an industry that once lagged behind in digital – kind of like contact centers who are slower to adopt new tech. But now, it’s hard to find a retail brand that doesn’t have some kind of virtual presence.
Apart from the revolution of change Amazon brought to retail, every brand has to have a digital presence if they want to be able to compete. When was the last time you went to the mall? Sure, every once in a while a day of shopping is therapeutic. But, the crowds, the traffic, the parking lots…just the amount of time shopping takes can feel overwhelming.
Our favorite retail brands know these pains and are acting on it. Digitalization is changing every industry. It’s coming for your contact center, too. And, when it comes to retail, it’s hard to ignore the shifts and changes happening in the wake of increased competition. Consider how many apps on your phone are devoted to some kind of restaurant, retail brand, or another form of e-commerce.
All I have to do is open my Starbucks app, make an order, and walk into the nearest store to grab my drink, already paid for and already made. Just a few days ago I was leaving a fitness class at my local YMCA thinking how I should buy my own yoga mat instead of borrowing one every time. I opened an app, searched for the best-reviewed yoga mat, and bought it before even leaving the parking lot.
Digital transformation, as defined by Microsoft, is about reimagining how you bring together people, data, and processes to create value for your customers.
It’s about using innovative tools and technology to engage your customers at every touchpoint. And new trends in retail are showing up as a beneficial model for anyone to follow – yes, even your contact center.
Let’s explore some of the ways top stores are leading the charge in retail digital transformation for their customers. Then, take these ideas and apply them to your contact center’s transformation.
Thinking outside the shopping channel box
Customer expectations continue to shift quickly as new technology and digital tools become the norm. Companies have to be two steps ahead of the common customer just to deliver the quality of service people expect these days. The retail industry has to move almost faster than any other, as e-commerce completely changes the way customers shop.
Retailers have to start making strategic decisions to evolve with customers. Customers today expect a business to be seamless and connected. They won’t tolerate divided or siloed departments. If your business and your service aren’t connected, you’re missing out on a key opportunity to have a 360-degree view of your company. This includes your web, mobile, social, digital, and in-store presence.
Let’s look at how some brands are taking omnichannel service to the next level:
Starbucks has one of the most successful digital transformations in food-and-drinks retail. The Starbucks mobile app became an integral part of the Starbucks digital transformation. Their mobile platform attracts more customers, builds brand loyalty, and increases revenue. With a convenient loyalty system, customers earn and redeem their loyalty points, called “stars” within the app itself.
They ditched the old-fashioned membership cards and their loyalty program became a huge success. It currently has over 12 million customers in the US!
Another major innovation introduced by Starbucks is its Mobile Order & Pay (MOP) feature. This allows customers to order their drinks in advance, pay directly within the app, and pick up their orders at the store. Forget waiting in line! This also reallocates labor from the register. This system helps the staff in each store properly prepare for orders ahead of time and increase productivity. As a result, 6 million orders and transactions are served by this feature every month.
Home Depot has a strong mobile app experience that truly benefits the consumer. The app, rated number one in a 2019 Forrester report, was celebrated for its innovation in placing the customer in main focus. It integrates channels seamlessly into the app interface.
The app uses in-store visual item mapping and data to tell customers what inventory is available. They have in-store barcode scanning that sends customers to specific product pages. This feature empowers shoppers to get the information they’re seeking — fast. Obviously, this is a useful tool when store associates aren’t available.
Omnichannel solutions are changing the way people shop. Within a store, your customers can use a variety of channels directly from their phone. They can check inventory, see prices, contact customer service, or check out ahead of time.
Consider adopting omnichannel solutions for your customer service experience to make your customer-facing channels just as smooth as a modern shopping experience.
Imagining new realities: AI and VR move into the retail space
Automation and virtual reality technology allows retailers to show customers new realities with their products. Just think of how much easier it is to commit to an article of clothing if you try it on in the store!
Apply that concept to furniture in your home and you’ve got what the famous Swedish brand IKEA offers now. IKEA has taken a step into the future of user experience with the help of augmented reality (AR) directly on your smartphone. Their app IKEA Place helps you to seemingly “fit” pieces of furniture in your house. With the help of your phone camera, you can imagine how a piece of furniture would look and feel in the ambiance of a room.
Olay and Sephora
These makeup companies take advantage of artificial intelligence to help customers match the best makeup for their skin type. This is revolutionary for an industry where consumers used to have to commit to what they purchase with full trust in the product. Sephora’s Color IQ has in-store mirrors that pull information from your face to suggest the perfect products for you. Similarly, Olay uses selfies with their Skin Advisor feature to help match skincare products to the exact shades of color on your face.
H&M is breaking into artificial intelligence with its Perfect Fit app, being tested now. This app allows you to take your personal selfies, adapt them to an avatar figure, and virtually try on clothes in the mobile app or on the online store. Not sure if something would fit you well? Try it out on your avatar to test if the shirt will be too short or the pants too long. This app meets customers where they are, whether or not they live near a physical H&M store.
These three retailers are just some of the fun examples of VR and AI in the retail world. Exploring innovative technology is the future of all retail, and really, of every service industry.
Leading the Charge
Innovative retailers are setting the bar high for newcomers and established market players. IDC predicts that by next year, 55% of all organizations will go digital. This will transform markets and whole industries with new digital tools and business processes. Top retailers are setting the stage, using digitalization in creative ways and preparing customers for the next era of technology.
These changes aren’t confined to a single industry, though. With new technology at consumer’s fingertips, contact centers need to move quickly (and strategically) to update their experiences, too.
Tons of big-box stores who’ve never changed or reshaped their customer experience go out of business. And that reality rings true across industry lines. The key players who prioritize technology, cohesive customer experiences, and seamless transactions are the ones thriving.