The Future is Unified — and You Should Be Too

Customer experience is everything. In fact, Accenture found that 45% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. It’s also what gets customers into the physical store. With more consumers turning to the ease of online ordering and straight-to-door shipping, retailers are in a bigger crunch than ever before to not only increase footfall, but to keep customers coming back. 
 
So what can retailers do to turn first time visitors into loyal customers? Get unified. 
 
Build the Digital Experience
Smart homes, autonomous cars, the internet of everything. The digital age is not only all around us, it’s advancing rapidly. And retailers are taking notice. 
 
To get shoppers through the doors, retailers should be committed to bringing the digital experience in-store. For example, connected dressing rooms with interactive touchscreens can create customer convenience, comfort and the ability to reach sales associates without ever having to leave the fitting room. Arming sales associates with mobile devices give them instant access to point-of-sale data, customer loyalty programs and even inventory visibility, allowing them to provide insights to customers accurately and immediately. And beacon technology gives retailers the ability to push meaningful promotions to customers in-the-moment, as soon as they walk in the door. 
 
Bringing the digital experience in-store, however, doesn’t mean ignoring your online presence. Far from it. In fact, shoppers are already accustomed to getting a personalized experience online. Whether its recommendations for products that match your shopper’s buying preferences or complement items they already own, digital platforms and physical stores must create a parallel environment that enhances the customer experience.
 
Bridge the Connection Gap
Today’s shoppers browse in store, look at websites, and scroll through apps on their phone. They expect retailers to be everywhere they are, and they want every channel they touch to be inter-connected. For example, if a customer buys online, they want the option to receive anywhere and return anywhere. And if the shopper goes into a store to purchase a product and finds out it’s out of stock, they want a sales associate to be able to order it for them online and have it shipped to their door. 
 
Additionally, shoppers expect accurate inventory when shopping in-store and online. And it should be available across all of the retailer’s locations and be consistent across channels. Whether shopping in-store, online, on a mobile app, kiosk or even across social channels, product descriptions must be consistent, and personalized recommendations must be relevant and timely. 
 
While this level of retailer knowledge and customer experience can be difficult to achieve, technology advancements are helping retailers stand out from the crowd. 
 
Get Unified
The key is applying technology that is both unified and flexible. Every customer journey is unique. It can be simple or demanding. And it can change with every interaction and purchase a customer makes. So creating a technology infrastructure that gets to “know” your customers and can react in real time to behaviors is important. 
 
One way to do this is through unified commerce (UC) solutions. UC can centralize inventory management, streamline order management, integrate CRM capabilities and provide real-time data reporting, analysis and predictive analytics. But most importantly, UC platforms provide visibility into the complete customer journey by eliminating siloes and disconnected systems and unifying all interaction and information channels under a single technology platform. 
 
UC also empowers sales associates and managers with behavioral insights – not just purchase data. Giving retail associates access to a customer’s interactions across channels provides them with the knowledge of past purchases, browsing history and even promotions that have already been sent. In turn, this empowers sales associates to make even more informed sales decisions, cross-sell and upsell confidently and provide personalized attention. Additionally, providing consistent information across channels improves communication between retailer and customer. This becomes especially important when making purchases across channels, and ensuring returns are hassle-free.  
 
Today’s brands live or die by their customers’ experiences. And retailers that want to make a splash must get unified. Connecting channels allows retailers to create more meaningful connections with customers, tailor the shopping experience to the way of the future, and cater to every customer’s needs and expectations – all without any extra effort.
 

Brad Fick is president of Direct Source, a nationwide technology solutions provider that offers hardware and software solutions designed to help retailers maintain a competitive edge, while improving productivity and customer service.

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