Choices and Voices

Posted in Retail
By Laura Leslie on August 12, 2014

 Girl on cell phone

Over the past few years, innovations in technologies have changed the way retailers do business. With each innovation, retailers have to scramble to adhere to the ever-changing landscape or fear being left behind.

We’ve seen things like social media force the highest standard for customer experience.  Now a displeased customer won’t be asking to speak to a manager, but rather tweeting the CEO demanding compensation for their dissatisfaction.  What was previously a conversation between a customer and a manager is now a conversation between that person and an entire online customer base. A few years back United Airlines learned that lesson the hard way when an irate customer wrote a song about his guitar they had broken. The humorous video was shared with over 14 million viewers who may now think twice about flying United.

Along with a voice – customers are given more choices than ever before. Spontaneous purchases are becoming a thing of the past, and price-compared, researched purchases are the new norm. Smartphones allow a customer to do product comparison as they’re standing in front of the product itself.

Choices and voices are adding challenges to a retailer’s ability to obtain and maintain customers, however, there are other ways retailers are reaping the benefits.

As customers are now involving technology in most of their purchases, may it be online shopping, email subscriptions, or social media presence they are leaving behind trails of useful information. This data being produced is helping retailers market to customers like never before. Retailers are watching and listening closely, learning to keep consumers happy and engaged. As big data becomes more and more prevalent – large retailers are able to have a memory for even the most insignificant details of your purchasing history. Their goal is to accurately identify a pattern that could help them optimize conversion rate and ultimately increase revenue.

As we see new technology constantly emerging, we can expect consistency in one thing – change. But change is good, for instance with the emergence of iBeacon  “retail listening” could easily be taken to the next level. iBeacon is Apple’s trademarked indoor proximity system. If we thought a personalized email campaign was intuitive marketing – iBeacon could be eerily close to home. Imagine walking into a store and heading toward the cosmetic aisle. Because you’ve used that store’s app in the past and made purchases online, it knows your preferred make-up brands. Before reaching the aisle a notification pops up on your phone informing you of sales and offering you coupons. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

The consumer/retailer relationship is expected to get more and more intense in the coming years. Things like 3D printing could mean customers could walk into a store and request custom-made merchandise on the spot.

Wearable technology is also expected to make its way into the mainstream world not only disrupting fashion, but also everything we do each day.  These are just a few things changing the landscape of the industry.

We are entering exciting times to be both a shopper and a storeowner. These technological advancements developed and hit the market quickly and it didn’t take long for customers to find their voice and demand more choices. All of this progression leaves us wondering – what’s next?