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Personalizing the retail experience across touchpoints

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In modern times, smooth internet connectivity has enabled mobile devices to not only streamline retail processes, but also make them simpler and increase transparency from start to finish. In so doing, the number of touchpoints has also increased. The following article explains why retailers should provide personalised and streamlined experiences in a bid to gain customer loyalty.

For decades, retail consisted of just one avenue: physical stores. Then came the mail order catalogues that allowed consumers to call and order a handful of items by mail. Soon there were a couple TV networks dedicated to the same thing, paving the way for 24-hour shopping. Infomercials brought another dimension to the process, focusing on key products that, initially, were not available anywhere else.

The Internet changed all that. Consumers no longer need to call a hotline to order from the comfort of their home, nor are they easily persuaded by products hyped through infomercials. Websites have made it possible for anyone to look up reviews, watch videos and compare products before making a purchase. And with so many dot-com retailers now in operation, it can be difficult to maintain a reliable customer base.

That’s why it is so important for brick-and-mortar shops to focus on customer appeal. It starts at the retail level, to be certain, but it can’t end the minute a customer walks out the door. The entire shopping experience – from purchase to exchange, return, complaint or inquiry – must be handled with the utmost care. AI can help achieve that by allowing retailers to refine, improve and perfect their customer service with data retrieval and analysis. By using technology to show customers that they care, retailers will be better equipped to handle the challenges they face during this modern era of shopping.

Many more touchpoints

The evolution of retail means there are more touchpoints than ever. It starts before consumers even enter the store as they search online for information and ratings (product reviews, word-of-mouth praise, social media chatter). This is an important part of the brick-and-mortar sales cycle.

When a desired product is located, consumers then enter the purchasing phase, which could involve a retailer’s physical location or its app/website. During this period, shoppers may communicate with in-store staff or dot-com representatives. They may call a customer agent if they have a question before the purchase is finalized. In all cases, they expect the experience to be universally appealing, endearing and wholeheartedly helpful.

The final phase leads straight to backbone of every retailer: customer service. Whether delivered over the phone, via email or messaging, consumers want service that is truly helpful. To fulfill that desire, retailers need to think about providing a personalized, streamlined experience that can serve as a catalyst for customer loyalty. Only then will they be able to foster (or rebuild) the level of commitment that’s necessary to survive this difficult phase in retail.

There may be some companies that are tempted to rely on gimmicks to lure customers (e.g., an in-store virtual reality display), but they won’t work forever, if at all. What consumers really want is a better way to shop and a superior way to interact with their favorite stores. Now, more than ever, it’s time for retailers to provide just that.

Custom-made just for you

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been getting a lot of attention lately, primarily for its ability to automate virtually anything. But beyond the hoopla and futuristic fantasies, there are real, tangible use cases for AI – particularly for retailers.

The technology will become a fundamental component of any retail strategy as outlets, both big and small, search for ways to better optimize the customer experience. Instead of relying on chatbots alone – which can create a disappointing, robotic and potentially isolating customer experience – retailers can use AI to broaden their insights into customer desires and preferences.

Most consumers are familiar with the Amazon Echo, which introduced the world to Alexa. Many have interacted with similar products from Google and other tech companies. They have also encountered numerous chatbots, both online and over the phone, that have attempted to emulate human communication without human involvement. But there are bigger things already happening behind the scenes, including the implementation of AI technology that analyzes calls, deciphers vital data and digests it for the retailer.

One exciting example involves what happens when an existing customer calls back. AI technology can determine who the customer is and immediately relay that information to a retail representative. Past product purchases, previous call data and other key information can also be retrieved, making AI a valuable assistant to the representative, who will then be better equipped to speak to the customer.

Inspire your customers

Retail has entered an inflection point. There’s no going back to the way things were before the Internet, smartphones and technology entered the fray. Thus, it’s time for retailers – even mom-and-pop shops – to embrace the modern era of commerce and technology. By using AI in a way that assists in achieving better customer service results, retailers can provide a superior, more personalized experience that will inspire consumers to return.

This article was written by Tim Beeson from Retail Customer Experience. News Features and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.