TECHNOLOGY

Wayfair lets consumers design rooms via mixed reality

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Wayfair has debuted an immersive shopping experience that lets consumers play with, and visualize, a multitude of professional design options – all within their own space.

The online furniture retailer has launched Wayfair Spaces, an interior design and room planning app that is powered by Magic Leap’s spatial computing platform. Consumers can use the app to visualize items from professionally designed rooms in their homes at scale through mixed reality.

Wayfair Spaces offers a palette of three dimensional rooms curated by Wayfair’s own 3D artists and stylists. Consumers can browse the curated spaces, and then drag individual true-to-scale furniture items into their real space. Product information and reviews supplement the experience.

“At Wayfair, we know that visual inspiration and discovery are key to creating the best possible shopping experience for home,” said Steve Conine, co-chairman and co-founder, Wayfair. “Alongside Magic Leap, we’re excited to be on the forefront of one of the most visionary explorations of what’s possible in retail, as mixed reality and spatial computing influence the future of the customer experience.”

This is not Wayfair’s first mixed reality tool. Through a partnership with Magic Leap, the online furniture retailer in August launched what it described as the first-ever spatial computing web browser, called Helio. The solution creates a new visual environment that integrates physical and digital objects in real-time.

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This is why online retailers need to improve the post-purchase experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Retailers say customer loyalty is critical to their business, yet few actually measure retention.

This was according to “Best Practices for Enhancing the Post-Purchase Experience,” a study from Boston Retail Partners. While it is no secret that a returning customer is less expensive to convert and has a higher average order value than a new shopper, the e-commerce industry continues to be mainly focused on the acquisition of new customers — a strategy that requires adopting the latest technologies and marketing strategies.

By crafting a post-purchase experience that minimizes customer stress and maximizes convenience, retailers will be making an investment in a sustained relationship with their customer.

These best practices include:

• Setting customer expectations before they click “buy.” While your customers are shopping on your website, make sure shipping and return information is clear, concise and conveniently displayed. It is important to show an accurate delivery date range on the product page and throughout the checkout process. If expedited delivery is an option, outline the offering and make any requirements easy to find and understand.

• Communicating tirelessly. From the moment of checkout until the order is at their doorstep, your customers will be anxiously waiting for updates on their order. Providing notifications at the five major stages in the delivery process — order confirmation, item dispatch, transit, out for delivery and successfully delivered — will keep the customer engaged and informed.

• Setting a fair and competitive return policy. Digital commerce has enabled shopping to take place any place, at any time. However, not being able to touch and feel items has its downfalls. It’s the reason why e-commerce has an average return rate of 30%, compared to 8% with brick and mortar, according to another study, “Why the E-commerce Boom Has Increased Customer Return Rates,” from Optoro.

Useful descriptions and accurate photos from different angles are necessary to help shoppers feel more confident about their purchase without being able to touch and feel the item.

• Simplifying the returns process. Including a prepaid shipping label with an adhesive back can dramatically simplify the customer’s return experience and ensure that the return is as easy as possible. Customers should also be able to generate a shipping label through their account page, in the event one was missing or damaged.

• Delivering your products in professional packaging. The shipping package should also enhance the brand experience, and should be appropriately sized and reflect the style of your brand.

• Turning a digital experience into an omni-channel experience. Driving customers into your stores not only gives them another chance to shop, but also can improve your brand equity and keep your store top-of-mind. For example, e-commerce returns handled in physical stores are about 50% less expensive to process than those that are mailed back, plus stores can make a returned item ready for resale more quickly, according to another study, “Many happy returns for retailers,” from AlixPartners.

• Using your stores for something more. Many retailers are retooling their brick-and-mortar locations to serve as miniature distribution centers. Shipping from a store near the customer instead of a centralized warehouse saves on both shipping costs and delivery time. Many brick-and-mortar retailers have locations in close proximity to a large percentage of their customer base, which allows for quicker processing and delivery.

• Gathering customer feedback. Reviews are an important part of making a shopping experience as trustworthy as possible. Asking for feedback on different characteristics also allows for a more thorough review and segmenting the feedback into categories can be useful for future customers to review.

“By crafting a post-purchase experience to minimize stress and maximize convenience, retailers make an investment in a sustained relationship with their customer,” the study revealed. “Enhancing your post-purchase customer experience doesn’t necessarily mean investing heavily in the latest technologies. We believe [our best practices] can create a welcome and trusting experience for your customers to return time after time.”

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Here’s what Gen Z wants from retailers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Gen Z consumers want to be awarded points for walking into a brand’s location.

This was according to “Loyalty Research: Gen Z, Millennials and Beyond,” a study from CrowdTwist, which revealed that 87% of digital natives want omnichannel loyalty programs from retailers, restaurants, and gyms. A majority (77%) of this demographic is also willing to pay a premium to participate if they will be rewarded with valuable perks like free shipping (for example, Amazon Prime). The Silent Generation (those born 1945 and earlier) was the only group where the majority (55%) answered no to paying a fee for a loyalty program.

Gen X participates most in loyalty programs with 82% of these consumers responding that they are active in at least one loyalty program. They also redeem more than other generations, as 77% of Gen X program members redeem rewards at least once a quarter. The least active group is the Silent Generation, with 35% responded that they don’t participate in any loyalty program.

Loyalty programs provide brands with younger target audiences a competitive advantage. For example, 72% of Gen Z and Gen X respondents said that they could be persuaded to choose one brand over another due to the presence of a loyalty program. This is followed by 68% of Millennials, 56% of Baby Boomers, and 42% of the Silent Generation.

However, there has been a decline in brand trust. Only 46% of Gen Z consumers and 55% of Millennials (the most trusting generation according to this year’s research) are willing to share their data in exchange for personalized experiences. The biggest skeptics are members of the Silent Generation, as only 21% said they were willing to share personal information in exchange for personalized experiences.

One issue that could be taking a toll on trust is a lack of brands’ personalization efforts. The majority of consumers want a personalized experience, with 70% of Gen Z respondents, 64% of Gen X respondents, and 63% of Millennials expecting to receive personalized recommendations via an app while browsing in-store.

However, many brands’ current personalization efforts are missing the mark. Only 42% of Millennials, 37% of Gen X consumers, 33% of Gen Z consumers, 29% of Baby Boomers, and 23% of the Silent Generation have purchased something that was recommended to them by a brand in the past six months. This is indicative that brand execution utilizing predictive analytics, while growing in popularity, is not meeting full potential, the study revealed.

“This insight is helpful for brands to understand where opportunities lie in engaging different consumer groups, and how to remove barriers and frustrations and demonstrate an understanding of who their customers are,” said Scott Matthews, CEO of CrowdTwist. “Participation in loyalty programs remains high and has the potential to influence brand selection, but it’s evident that there are opportunities for brands to create better value.”

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