Trends and innovations in 2017 will be centred around the connected consumer. As shoppers purchase through multiple channels and grow used to the convenience of online shopping, they are beginning to expect a similar service in physical retail stores. This is leading to an increasing need for retailers to connect the customer experience across all consumer touch points effectively and seamlessly.
As the new year approaches, many retailers will be left licking their wounds following a competitive peak trading price battle. With budgets taking a knock during this period we expect to see more retailers looking to invest in technology that can help boost the customer experience to drive high value brand loyalty – which will pay off in the long run. As a result, retail technology investment – although cautious – will take off as the New Year arrives.
But as retailers hold on tighter to their purse strings, retail technology will have to work harder than ever before to prove its return on investment and show how it can directly encourage consumer spend during such turbulent economic times. Considering this worrying backdrop, here are the areas of technology that I predict will see an influx as 2017 approaches.
I predict that a big move towards achieving a better connected customer experience will be through the adoption of machine learning technology. More retailers will look to implement machine learning to automate the purchasing process and make online shopping even more convenient for the customer. Machine learning technology will ‘learn’ and predict the customer’s most likely next action, preloading pages to speed up browsing, or providing the best channel for them to complete the action effortlessly. As a result, machine learning will play a part in influencing a customer’s buying decisions and paths.
SQLI’s lab is currently working on chat bots and while this technology has typically been used in the finance sector, it would also work very well for retail. Chat bots could, in the future, be installed in the consumer’s home and when they run out of an item the shopper can say “add milk and bread to my basket” and ask, “when can I get my basket delivered?” Retailers such as Amazon – with Amazon Echo – are already implementing this technology and I expect to see this become increasingly mainstream as more consumers grow used to the idea.
More innovations will connect together as IoT really gets underway, for example, car applications will be able to ping notifications to drivers if they approach a store that has promotions on their favourite products. The app will also be able to notify the driver that the car has free spaces available, tapping into the growing need for retailers to provide a convenient customer experience. In conclusion, 2017 is going to be a tough year for retailers – and they know it. B2B technology suppliers will have an equally hard time selling services and products to the penny-pinched retailers and will have to work hard to prove the worth of their services.
Technology will need to improve the connected customer experience, working to bridge the gap between the online and the offline experience, providing a convenient, quick and enjoyable path to purchase to encourage brand loyalty and boost the bottom line.
CEO at SQLI UK