TECHNOLOGY

Study: Innovation will drive the unified shopping experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

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.

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TECHNOLOGY

Target gets in bed with popular mattress-in-a-box brand

BY Marianne Wilson

An online start-up has turned to a traditional retailer to help grown its brand.

Target Corp. has entered into a partnership with Casper, an online brand credited with disrupting the mattress category. Target will start selling the brand’s mattresses and other products, including a few exclusive items, beginning on June 18.

Launched in 2014. Casper quickly developed a cult following for its mattress, which is made of memory and latex foams, and delivered in a box. The mattress, available in a variety of sizes, comes with a 100-day money-back trial. Prices range from $550 (twin) to $1,150 (king).

“At Target, we strive to bring guests amazing new products and exciting partnerships, said Jill Sando, senior VP, merchandising, home, Target. “We love Casper’s brand and innovative products — and we really love the idea of giving our guests a simple way to get a better night’s sleep, with everything they need in one convenient place.”

Target has sold mattresses online for a while, including brands such as Sleep Comfort, Serta and Sealy. But as part of this deal, Casper will become the only mattress brand available online through Target.com, said Amy Koch, a Target spokeswoman.

The Casper mattress will be available (online only) in a variety of sizes. But other Casper products, including pillows and sheets will be available in select Target stores and on the retailer’s website.

In addition, Target will be the exclusive vendor of two new Casper items: a mattress topper, called Casper Layer, and a flexible seat, called Casper Lounger. Both products will be sold in Target stores and on its website.

“Since our launch online three years ago, we’ve seen a huge demand from customers who want to experience the Casper brand in person,” said Philip Krim, CEO and co-founder of Casper. “Partnering with Target allows us to bring Casper products directly to consumers in-store on a national scale

Target has sold mattresses, including such brands as Serta and Sealy, online for some time. But as part of its new partnership, Casper will be the only mattress brand available online at Target.com, the Minneapolis StarTribune reported.

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TECHNOLOGY

So what do shoppers really want from technology?

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As consumers become increasingly digitally influenced, retailers are struggling to find the right mix of technology to drive engagement.

So what’s the solution? Here’s a hint: consumers desire a strong technology presence coupled with the familiarity of human interaction during a shopping experience, according to “What Shoppers Want from Retail Technology.” The study, from experiential retail marketing firm Interactions, a division of Daymon, surveyed more than 1,000 adult shoppers to further understand how to successfully integrate human and computerized interactions into a shopper’s retail journey.

According to the survey, today’s shoppers are influenced by both digital and human engagement. That said, 84% of shoppers expect retailers to successfully utilize technological features to improve their shopping experience, and 62% are motivated by an initial human greeting upon entering the store.

“Consumers want both digital and human interfaces today. They desire the integration of technology into their shopping experience, but nothing can truly replace the accessibility of a traditional store associate,” said Bharat Rupani, president of Interactions. “The key for retailers is to balance human interaction with technology to streamline and compliment the consumer’s overall retail journey.”

While consumers may require an in-person associate for guidance during their retail experience, they are also eager to fully integrate themselves into the technological advancements happening in the retail space. These include:

• Targeted notifications. Nearly 60% of consumers spend more money at stores that send mobile notifications, which can be received while they shop or while they’re at home. Retailers have the opportunity to influence purchase decisions through a consistent stream of communication, leading to unplanned purchases and motivation to visit a physical store or website.

• Customizable products. Thanks to technological advancements such as personalization and 3D printing, 95% of shoppers are looking forward to purchasing products created through 3D printing. Meanwhile, nearly 80% of shoppers say they are inclined to spend more at a retailer that can help create their own products through 3D printing.

• Efficiency and human interaction. Consumers want human interaction balanced with technological advancements to enhance the retail experience. Only 10% of shoppers want to interact with a store associate as part of the checkout process providing retailers the opportunity to employ alternative, more automated checkout methods. At the same time, over 60% want to be greeted in-store by an associate.

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