High-speed connectivity at the forefront of the retail tech evolutionAug 21st, 2018
The role of digital marketing for customer experience in particular has become key with online and bricks-and-mortar retailers alike. The digital approach is helping them implement new strategic technologies to win new and retain existing customers.
Not only do these innovations significantly improve reach but, more importantly, they also make it possible for retailers to deliver customised experiences with a high level of personalisation. With permission, companies are now able to gain significant insights into the movements and habits of their customers, enabling contextual interactions and better recommendations. For example, retailers will be able to automatically send targeted advertising to a potential customer’s smartphone as they pass a store, tailoring the promotions based on products they may have viewed online.
One company that has used technology to enhance its customers’ experience is Amazon. Their Amazon Go concept store launched in 2016 in Seattle Washington and allows customers to simply take the items that they need and walk out, without the hassle of queueing at checkout counters.
Their model is simple: the Amazon Go app is linked to the customer’s Amazon.com account, and the cost of purchases are charged directly to the account. Multiple cameras installed all around the store monitor what a customer takes off the shelves, and the items get added to a virtual cart. If the customer decides to return an item to the shelf, it is removed from the virtual cart.
While this may seem far-fetched for a South African retail experience, we are increasingly seeing technology creeping into everyday stores. In-store interactive kiosks for example can provide customers with product details and even item availability. Smart point-of-sale (POS) terminals can print coupons and reports, calculate frequent shopper discounts, and schedule work hours for employees.
Further, we are seeing mobile POS systems – such as trolleys that scan your groceries as you load them – entering the fray. These add efficiency and scalability while enhancing both the customer experience and quality of service. Retailers are also making free Wi-Fi available for customers, aiming to entice them to enter the stores, increase in-store browsing time, and ultimately increase the likelihood of additional sales.
The technology ecosystem that enables most AI is based on massive inflows of data. This means that a fast, stable, and more secure connection will be critical in enabling retailers to make use of this and the other retail technologies that have been mentioned to entice and retain customers. Innovations such as these create not only a more personalised customer journey but also drive sales and enable data collection on shopper behaviour to help retailers optimise future operations.
Service is also an area that is increasingly being powered by AI. CLEVVA – a local company that specialises in AI solutions for businesses – has developed a way to build a digital service expert that staff and customers can engage with to resolve all known customer queries. The result is that with minimal training, service agents can be navigated through all service calls, with the customer getting an optimal resolution in the best possible time. Should they choose to engage via web or chat self-service, they will receive the same expert diagnostics and resolution. By effectively digitising service intelligence and using it to drive both assisted and self-service channels, CLEVVA allows large retailers to dramatically improve their service levels without having to recruit or train more staff.
For retailers that have not yet embraced these technologies, this might require a complete digital overhaul, involving new staff and skills, embedding new processes, and embracing new organizational structures and governance models. Although this will involve considerable effort, commitment, and investment, the benefit is clear: those companies that get ahead now stand a better chance of enjoying a sustained advantage for decades to come.
Key to this will be infrastructure that will not only support current high-speed connectivity demands, but also provide scalability and flexibility as businesses implements newer, better technologies. Fibre-based connectivity, as delivered by DFA, is a medium that supports the scalability to cope with future increases in data traffic. In addition to this, DFA’s open access model eliminates the need to duplicate infrastructure investments and achieves the economies of scale that makes fibre-based connectivity affordable and accessible.