Study: Innovation will drive the unified shopping experience


E-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail environments continue to merge, and retailers are in the hot seat to optimize the customer experience.

As a result, the need to adopt innovative technologies to engage shoppers has never been stronger. This was according to the “2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey” from Boston Retail Partners.

The priority for 55% of retailers is to increase customer loyalty. They are doing so by improving mobile shopping and creating a unified experience across all channels, the study revealed.

“The customer experience in a unified commerce world is much more complex than it is in a pure play e-commerce or brick-and-mortar retail environment. We are seeing retailers map out the entire customer journey to design the optimal customer experience,” said Perry Kramer, VP and practice lead at BRP. “This complexity expands exponentially as the proliferation of social media, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning influence the retail world and more specifically, the customer journey.”

That said, stores must now blend the best of both retail worlds. This includes meshing the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, such as touching and feeling merchandise and personally interacting with a knowledgeable associate — whether simply with an individual or a combination of AI and human characteristics – alongside the unique and personalized shopping experience that is commonplace in the digital world. As the physical and digital worlds merge, they will be forever intertwined as the industry moves into the future, the study said.

To reach this goal however, retailers must adopt the following customer experience capabilities:

Educate. One of the areas of greatest improvement is the offering of social media as a research option for customers to learn more about the brand and products. Overall utilization is up from 73% of retailers utilizing it last year to 92% this year. However, many retailers indicate that their current social media offerings need improvement.

Engage. Most retailers have plans to implement new technologies to identify customers via their smartphones, mobile applications and other emerging technologies. Within three years, 59% of retailers plan to use Wi-Fi and 63% plan to use mobile apps to identify customers in their stores.

Execute. A majority (67%) of retailers are offering a consistent product assortment across channels; however, many retailers are still struggling with manual processes as 43% indicate the processes need improvement.

Enhance. Retailers realize the importance of utilizing customer insights gathered from social media as 89% of retailers are now using social comments as a critical customer satisfaction measurement, up from 59% last year.

Enablers. Enhanced networks are a critical requirement for a unified commerce environment, and 76% of retailers plan to enhance or replace their network within the next three years.