A consumer’s retail shopping journey is no more like what it was a decade ago. Gone are the days of going through long and confusing catalogs, walking across markets on foot to compare prices, and negotiating hard with shopkeepers for a minuscule discount. Today, they have all the information about product specifications, pricing, and discounts at their fingertips to make informed decisions. For retailers, this is a highly competitive landscape as consumer loyalties are constantly moving and digital natives consumers are having expectations that go far beyond price, discounts, and convenience.
As KPMG termed it in a global retail report, ‘experience per square foot will be an important metric – the rise of the consumer experience economy as the prime measure of quality retail! Retail is one of the fastest-growing industries and is poised to witness a 2X growth by 2024 and will be valued at US$1.4 trillion.
Technology has become a key enabler to this. The growth of data-driven retail is accelerating further as the shift in consumer preferences and the need for a digital experience. AI, VR/AR, and chatbots are some of the examples in which this shift is already happening. We continue to see the adoption of technology as standard personalization tools for consumer interface. Voice assistants and chatbots have successfully established their relevance for customer support, while AI and data analytics is a powerful currency for services and experiences.
One of the best ways to sell products is to engage the customer on an emotional level and perhaps sell an experience. Today, many innovative companies have turned to Emotional AI and live videos to understand what is driving shopping experiences and purchasing decisions. Imagine you are at a salon for a haircut and perhaps a smart mirror technology is helping you visualize how each of the looks suits you before you pick one and get that done! This digitized and facial recognition AI tech has tremendous acceptance in the last few years for an enriching consumer experience but also helping marketers measure consumer sentiment and behavior.
Another usage of Emotional AI and Live Video is live video-stream shopping. It has become a reality and will be useful, more so in the current times when social distancing is the norm. AI-powered video-stream shopping solutions can help brands capture customer’s expressions, run them through Facial Analysis and Emotion Recognition AI to offer the right solutions to the right customers. Marketers, on the other hand, can test the success of the marketing campaigns and Ads by measuring their emotional responses. An example case is when AI detects shoppers’ gender, age, mood, and emotions as they browse on the digital signage screen. The smart screen ascertains shoppers’ interests based on the demographic, mood, and emotions and displays targeted and relevant ads and promotions. The system can further detect shoppers who have buying intent. It immediately gives them an option to speak to the sales agents for possible inquiries over a video call, by simply clicking on the screen. On the other side, the sales agent instantly gets the full context of the information and can provide accurate personalized support in real-time to the shoppers. Also, the emotional analysis data collected by the AI enables retailers to make future decisions and provide precision marketing. The entire journey also helps the retailers understand their customers’ issues and their pain points, devise the right marketing approach and strategy.
Experiential retail is set to take the smarter route and we will witness innovations and breakthroughs for customer engagement in the coming years. Whether it is via virtual reality, social commerce, artificial intelligence or new mobile technology, or a combination of all – the task for the retailer will be to transform even basic shopping into something like beer and skittles.
The world is changing every second, and with consumer expectations diverse, value chains already have become flexible and collaborative in nature, prioritizing experiential value and the need for more personalization. The experienced economy will thrive on technology, digital intimacy, and authenticity, anticipating and fulfilling the needs and aspirations of the future.