TECHNOLOGY

Shoppers are most creeped out by…

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Consumers want a more personalized shopping experience, but some of the related solutions still creep them out.

Wearables and artificial intelligence were ranked as the top “creepy” technologies among consumers in the fourth annual “Creepy or Cool” report from RichRelevance. The study surveyed 1,037 consumers in the United States.

Clothing and wearables with sensors/tracking devices that allow retailers to track users in exchange for a discount ranked as the most creepy technology (according to 76% of consumers), followed by artificial intelligence (69%). Consumers (61%) were also put off by facial recognition technology that identifies a loyal customer as soon as they enter, and relays preferences to the in-store salesperson.

The top cool technologies are robots that can guide shoppers to specific products within store aisles upon request, according to the report. Also cool: fingerprint scanning that allows shoppers to pay for items, and get automatic home delivery, all from the store floor.

Younger shoppers (ages 18-29) are more willing to embrace some of the newer technologies. For example, younger shoppers feel that AI-based personalization is valuable (66%), and are less likely to find innovation creepy than older shoppers. In related findings:

• When it comes to computer programs (such as chatbots) that use AI to help users answer customer service questions rather than a real person, overall 41% of customers find these creepy, compared to a mere 27% of Millennials.

• Thirty-six percent of consumers consider augmented reality apps that allow them to view products in a store, and then display associated information and recommendations, including whether to replenish what you have at home, as creepy. Only 26% of Millennials agree.

• Similarly, 41% are creeped out by home-based voice assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Home) that provide personalized product information and suggested products. Only 32% of Millennials agree.

The survey also reveals that AI has entered the mainstream with 67% of Americans reporting that they’re at least somewhat familiar with the term.

“Consumers generally know that data is being collected about them and that they are benefiting from AI,” said Mike Ni, chief marketing officer of RichRelevance. “However, consumers are increasingly expecting brands and retailers to be transparent about when and how they’re using AI in their interactions. As a result, companies are increasingly under pres-sure to adopt explainable and open AI systems that provide clear insight into how and why decisions are being made. Traditional black box, closed AI solutions are just not an option anymore.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: The store of the future is digitized, and now it needs a network

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As retailers infuse more digital features into the store experience, they need robust networks to support their digital offerings.

A majority (79%) of consumers prefer to shop in stores, however mobility is playing a stronger role in these visits. In fact, 29% of consumer plan to increase their mobile shopping experiences in the next 24 months, according to “The Future Retail Network Manifesto,” a study from Boston Retail Partners.

According to data, 41% of shoppers utilize their mobile device in the store to look up product information, and 39% use their smartphone to compare prices and availability with the competition.

As consumers rely on mobile devices to research, communicate and purchase in a non-linear shopping journey, retailers are being forced rethink the networks they use to support the evolving store experience. As retailers make a move toward the store of the future, they need to embrace new network imperatives:

Simple. Many retailers have network decisions and costs that are spread across multiple departments or divisions within the company. Simplifying infrastructures can make network maintenance easier and reduce costs. A simple environment with fewer devices and less maintenance is the best solution to ensure the network can be easily managed and updated regularly as new and enhanced technologies are introduced.

Fast. Delivering high-performance applications for both customers and employees is critical as retailers transform their stores to compete in today’s market environment, and sluggish apps and systems are unacceptable. A seamless bandwidth and faster connectivity within today’s distributed enterprise is a necessity, especially as demand for bandwidth continues to double globally every 18 months.

Agile. Improved IT agility and efficiency through automated and agile service provisioning and reduced complexity is necessary. Centralized provisioning of enhanced connectivity options for each application, customized by store, optimizes traffic flow across all network connections to ensure a good application experience for users in the store. Central provisioning also reduces the management of in- store network equipment and functions at the store, and significantly increases the speed of provisioning new sites.

Reliable. Delivering an enhanced store shopping experience to meet elevated customer expectations requires a wide range of technical resources, including cloud-based applications, real-time data, the ability to leverage mobile devices, and other mission-critical network capabilities. Dependence on the network and its available bandwidth will only increase in the near future as more data is migrated to the cloud. Thus, the retail industry needs a reliable network that can help guarantee a constantly available network.

Secure. While the attention of IT resources and business owners are occupied with the challenge of executing initiatives to drive store transformations, extra focus on security is imperative as the implementation of each touch point increases the threat of security breaches. With the move of many applications out of the physical store and into the cloud, the security of the network is more critical. In the store of the future, the store won’t house the technology, the network will.

“We are in the midst of a retail renaissance, as the way customers shop has transformed the traditional store model,” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

“To meet consumers’ demand for the future store requires the adoption of real-time, cloud-based technologies enabled by a powerful network,” he said. “Now is the time to transform the network to support the store of the future.”

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Aerie wants its customers’ selfies—flaws and all

BY CSA Staff

Aerie is using a new social media campaign to drive body acceptance.

The intimate apparel brand owned by American Eagle Outfitters features a social media campaign that enables its shoppers to upload selfies of themselves — and all their flaws — using the hashtag “AerieReal,” according to CNBC.

The move coincides with the retailer’s long-time efforts to drive positive body acceptance among its customer base. A forerunner in promoting the visibility of women with a range of shapes and sizes, Aerie began its no-airbrushing, “Aerie Real” campaign that featured “regular-looking” models, in 2014.

In addition, Aerie is promoting its digital presence by partnering with British model Iskra Lawrence; gymnast Aly Raisman; actress Yara Shahidi, and singer Rachel Platten. All four women have significant social media followings — about 9 million combined on Instagram — and promote Aerie on their platforms, according to the report.

The campaign is a drastic contrast from other lingerie brands that showcase near-flawless models.

To read more, click here.

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