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6 latest retail innovations to ensure frictionless customer experience

By Jackie Mallon


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Technolgy on display at NRF 2023, Retail's Big Show. Ph Jason Dixson

The plateauing of the e-commerce boom is set to continue making an omnichannel strategy vital for retailers. Brick and mortar stores will get a leg up as a result but nowadays stores and can do more with less. The latest technology is designed to ensure that the transition between customer’s online and in-store shopping experience is seamless. Here is a round-up of the latest innovations presented at NRF 2023, Retail’s Big Show, that are coming soon to a store or platform near you.

Grab and go

Verizon is prioritizing an express shopping experience and the convenience of autonomous checkout using their 5G Edge Cashierless Checkout. Through computer vision and machine learning, every item the consumer lifts is recognized and logged (and removed if the customer puts it back on the shelf) while a digital receipt for purchases is sent within 2 minutes of the customer leaving the store. The idea is that consumer will breeze through the store, interacting with neither salesperson nor self-checkout nor having to stand in line. While the concept of Amazon Go was arguably the pilot, according to James Hughes, Managing Principal, Verizon Enterprise Solutions who spoke to FashionUnited at NRF, Verizon's sophisticated camera technology has been streamlined, is more accurate and cost-efficient for retailers. In pre-launch trials, Verizon reports that it cuts transaction time by half, increases transactions by 78 percent and revenue by 138 percent.

Buy Now Pay Later

Buy Now Pay Later is set to grow within apparel, helping to make consumers’ money go further without the need to resort to credit card debt. Square and Afterpay integrated a year ago and, according to Paige Fitzgerald, General Manager for Business Strategy and Partnerships at Afterpay and Cash App who spoke at NRF this week, Afterpay’s bread and butter is the fashion and beauty field. Alternative payment plans are an opportunity to connect with Gen Z, known as the “Generation of Realism” who have little tolerance for friction as digital natives, and are credit-averse having already experienced significant financial shocks in their lifetimes from the repercussions of 2008’s recession to a global pandemic and the recession currently looming. “It’s about bringing ecosystems together connecting merchants with high intent shoppers,” said Fitzgerald. “Customers are coming to the app to find merchants where they can use Buy Now Pay Later.”

Voice commerce

According to data, and despite the looming macro-economic turmoil, Black Friday and Cyber Monday revealed an air of excitement among shoppers and Gen Z is particularly resilient and not ready to scale back on spending. Gen Z’s consumption of content is forcing retailers to show up in new ways, one of which is expanding their omnichannel approach to include what is also known as “conversational commerce.” A seamless integration between mobile device and retail is key to satisfying customer expectation leading to an increased demand for shopping to be made available through apps such as Siri, Alexa or Cortana, which are firmly integrated into consumers’ daily lives, both during their work hours and leisure time.

Shopping via text or chat

It is estimated that retailers on average sell goods through four channels but they are increasingly expected to have a presence everywhere. Current winners are Youtube, TikTok and Instagram, but Arianne Parisi, SVP, Chief Digital Officer at JD North America told the NRF audience that retailers need to think of playing the long game. “Test and learn new channels,” she advised, although stick to ones that resonate with your brand. “It’s not always about ROI. Separate the commercial expectation from the need to participate.” Google Business Messages is intent on removing the frustrating loop in which customers often find themselves when chatting to bots. Their new technology allows conversations to stay open for 30 days and the customer’s history easily accessible which Google estimates make customers 77 percent more likely to make a purchase while their merchant-user dialog continues up to and beyond the moment of conversion leading to relationship building.

Loyalty programs

Customer retention is almost more important than new customer acquisition and retailers are advised to double down on holding onto their base. Acquisition is costly so rewarding and encouraging positive spending habits of existing customers is an important strategy. Loyalty programs which are effective in omnichannel engagement will appeal to younger consumers. Automation is going to be key this year and brands should look deep into personalized marketing, such as sending birthday discounts to customers. Partnerships are important and strategic alignment or leveraging partnerships can elevate a brand's voice among existing customers as well as helping reach new ones.

Live shopping

Live shopping gives sellers the ability to showcase their products, and customers the ability to learn about, ask questions, comment on and ultimately buy products in real-time while being entertained by lively hosts or influencers. According to Arianne Parisi, SVP, Chief Digital Officer at JD North America, live shopping is a way to bridge the gap between in store and online. A blend between Instagram Live and the Home Shopping Network model, events that are marketed successfully can lead to widespread exposure, promotions can be launched that are valid only as long as the livestream lasts, and the shopping experience can be a social opportunity for high engagement.