Co-author: Karthicknethaji Kaleeswaran
Retail shopping has undergone a phenomenal transformation over the past two decades, thanks to technology, customer notion, and digital innovation. It might be nostalgic for people of the 90s to recollect the in-store shopping experience with limited choices and information, while getting used to longer lines of checkout. The shopping was more of a necessity as compared to social activity. Fast forward to the dot com era supported by card payments and online shopping, digital shopping is a different ball game altogether.
The Digital transformation is growing at an alarming rate. Even before we get used to the retail world of Omni channel, there has been more buzzing jargons like beacons, RFID IoT NFC, 3D printing, endless aisle, etc. waiting in line for the next gen. While it has been a typical journey for a brick-and-mortar retailer to go online first and then enable Omni-channel as part of digital transformation, the need of the hour calls for much more.
Exploring the digital explosion
The key to embrace digital transformation starts with understanding the customers as they are no longer digital customers. They are digitally connected customers and in fact they are connected through multiple devices. These digitally connected customers are supported with more information and choice than ever before, thereby increasing consumer expectations and their intensified demands. The emerging tag line for customers is “I want more” and the expectations grow with every innovation related to digital technology that is coming up in view of real time tracking, same day delivery, queue-less checkouts, and personalized promotion.
By using digital technology to connect with customer expectations, retailers should create a new kind of shopping experience, reigniting the excitement of customers to shop more. Retailers need to meet the requirements of customers by creating a platform-agnostic shopping experience (seamless shopping experience across the channels) to engage customers where both online shopping and physical shopping intersect. However the catch would be to find an ideal approach to deliver a connected retail experience by combining in-store shopping and online shopping.
This transformation is not just about bringing the online shopping experience to the stores, but is more about helping customers to simplify their shopping experiences with relevant information (even before they ask for it), personalized promotions (through dynamic pricing), and simple checkouts (by accounting in-built scan, pay, and go option). The final target should be to make their shopping experience more intuitive and attractive.
Retailers should simplify the shopping for customers with digital technology, digital innovations, and as much information as possible, so that it is easier for them to just step in and step out of the store with what they want. By efficiently doing so, retailers should be able to provide the best retail shopping experience through digital transformation. While there are many such cases being tested out by retailers in their digital labs such as virtual fitting for fashion, augmented reality for home furnishing, endless aisles for limitless product listing, and scan & go for faster checkouts, the prophecy for “shopping of the future” is visualized below to aid shopping through digital transformation.
Experiencing the avatar of digital shopping
You can imagine me as an avid shopper or a geek or a technophile, whatsoever it is, but I am so passionate about photography that I need to find a suitable DSLR for me. My web browser is completely filled with contextual advertising which summons the extensive market research that I have been doing so far on the prospective models. As I gear myself up to walk into a nearby store, I also equip myself for the behavioural advertising and targeted campaigns that the retailer might surprise me with (thanks to all digital innovations).
I was warmly welcomed by Ilia, a robot (not the fictional one from Star Trek, a real one indeed!). No wonder being a robot, she has already scanned my information and directs me to the aisle where I can find the DSLR. Even before I thank Ilia for her help, she drifts away to help another customer and I wouldn’t blame her for being a machine. I start looking at the various products that are on display. The digital shelf provides me all the details about various models just on a touch. As expected, I received the recommendations along with the personalized discount on my smartphone. I was so happy with Canon EOS 5D and the service provided that I added the product to my digital cart for checkout.
But then I felt the need to lift the product to check if it’s comfortable for me to move around with it. I went back to the aisle to test it again, but I was not literally able to feel anything. Is it completely weightless or have I gone out of senses? I pinched myself and yes, it pained! So I was not day dreaming but why was I still not able to feel the product? Damn, I just realized that I still have my VR goggles on, thanks to the doorbell to bring back my senses! The retailer has just delivered my Canon as I preferred instant delivery during my digital checkout. Click!
Sounds fascinating, isn’t it? Neither the customer is Luke Skywalker of Starwars nor are you reading a fictional story. This is how digital innovations and digital transformation can help to improve retail shopping experience.
The digital transformation market is huge and is poised to reach $798 billion by 2025 as per “Research and Markets”. Gartner has recognized Intelligent, Digital & Mesh as the top strategic technology trends for 2017. And CIO.com’s prediction of top 5 digital retail trends goes as: mobile commerce, chatbots, social shopping, personalized retargeting, and virtual retail. As the leading analyst firms confirm baseline digital transformation to be the emerging strategy, retailers have to be highly experimental and innovative to go beyond Omni channel and mobility to become truly customer-centric.
Digital transformation is the key to success
The ex-masters of camera industry, Kodak and Konica were unable to re-position themselves amidst the likes of Sony and Canon when the transformation happened towards digital camera. Time is ticking, where digitization is transforming the entire shopping journey. Having a blended digital approach to retail is the core to retain customers and the retailers who understand its importance should utilize digital transformation to stay competitive.
The stage is not too far where the retailers could deliver what the customers thought of purchasing, but only in their dreams!