Amazon Serves Up CX Lessons
This year looks to be a big one for introducing modern technology into the retail experience. And as usual, Amazon is leading the way by demonstrating how these new tools can provide customers with better experiences—whether they’re online or in line at stores.
According to NetSuite’s “Future of Retail” report published in January, despite the popularity of online shopping, 97 percent of consumers surveyed agree there is a need to go to physical stores, and 70 percent of them say the most appealing stores have streamlined shopping experiences. This makes what Amazon is doing with Go stores so interesting.
I recently had a chance to check out an Amazon Go store in San Francisco, and it was quite the experience. (For another take, see “Where Is Amazon Go-ing With This?” in our January-February issue.) Using artificial intelligence, mounted censors, and cameras all over their walls and ceilings, Go stores can see and track what goes on inside, including where shoppers go, what they look at, and what they carry out of the store.
The Amazon Go mobile app let me access the store after I scanned myself in. Once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the look and feel of the store. It felt like a regular convenience store. I saw lots of familiar food options at good prices, including some surprising fresh/healthy food options. After about five minutes of exploring and shopping—during which I encountered Go store employees who were friendly and willing to help—I picked up a few items and exited the store. It felt a bit strange to just walk out, but it also felt liberating. And within a couple of minutes I could see on the Go app that the transaction went through. I had become a “just walk out” shopper, and I liked it so much I went back later that day to JWO with a few more things.
Just as removing friction while maintaining a trustworthy shopping experience remains critical to online commerce, JWO stores like Amazon Go can do something similar by removing the standing-in-line part of physical retail.
The NetSuite study shows that while 98 percent of retail executives believe having augmented reality (AR) and AI in stores will increase foot traffic, only 14 percent of consumers say the two technologies will significantly impact their purchase decisions. But the key to using these technologies might very well be to focus initially on online shopping, then connect that to in-store shopping.
Amazon recently filed patents for technology that can grab selfies from smartphones, as well as look at online calendars, to predict in real time the clothes a person might want to buy. An app would analyze photographs, appointments, location, and other available information to come up with recommendations on outfits and accessories. It would use pictures saved on devices to create augmented images of the shopper wearing the clothes recommended by AI.
Now, all of this sounds cool, but it requires approval from users to mine their data to provide these AR recommendations. As a number of studies have pointed out, consumers are open to retailers using their personal data if it means providing them better, more personalized experiences.
THE CX DISCONNECT BETWEEN CONSUMERS AND RETAILERS
There’s a wide gap in how retailers and consumers think when it comes to the impact technology can have on shopping experiences and outcomes. A few data points from the NetSuite survey provide some context:
- 80 percent of consumers don’t feel they are provided with a personalized shopping experience both in stores and online;
- 58 percent of consumers are uncomfortable with the way stores use tech to improve personalization; and
- 45 percent reported negative emotions when receiving personalized offers online.
If technology is not applied in ways that tangibly improve efficiencies in the shopping process or provide additional value to the experience—as defined by the consumer—it will not be viewed positively. But those who can leverage the capabilities new technologies offer can improve customer journeys and their overall relationships with shoppers—whether it’s getting shoppers quickly in and out of a store or enabling them to skip the store altogether.
Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsize businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.