Retail Customer Experiences Underwent a Reimagining, Frost & Sullivan Finds
Customer care in retail is an area teeming with significant growth opportunities, research firm Frost & Sullivan concluded in a recent report.
Despite being one of the most challenged markets at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disruption created many silver linings, the firm said, noting that the pandemic forced many companies out of competitive inertia. Retailers, it said, were forced almost overnight to deal with a host of new customer issues, such as contactless delivery and the sudden and dramatic rise in e-commerce. In short, retail establishments had to innovate or they faced closure permanently, the firm said.
The report notes that although digital transformation and the infusion of automation and artificial intelligence were well underway prior to COVID-19, they became business-critical in 2021 and 2022, and they continue to have a deep impact.
This trend fits well with consumer preferences for self-service options, researching, and getting feedback on goods and services before they engage with companies and wanting that information to flow seamlessly as they move from online to in-person experiences, according to Frost & Sullivan. Retail has entered the era of "phygital" experiences where consumers are allolwed to move fluidly between online and in-person interactions, the firm said.
The report details additional examples of retail transformation that helped businesses survive. They include the following:
- Adding new customer interaction channels, including SMS and social messaging (Facebook, Twitter, LINE, WhatsApp, Instagram).
- Adding artificial intelligence to maturing channels, such as chat and email.
- Adding conversational AI to self-service channels, including bots, interactive voice response systems, and intelligent virtual assistants.
- Enhancing proactive outbound contact with additional capabilities (voice and SMS).
- Extending proactive and interactive customer contact two-way, from the contact center to brick-and-mortar retail establishments.
- Integrating knowledge management systems to enhance self-service and back-up agents when self-service is not enough.
- Infusing newer technologies into the retail environment, including smart mirrors and smart shelves in stores as well as interactive mobile apps with conversational AI and knowledge management.
- Adopting advanced analytics for increased personalization and customization, customer sentiment, and preference management.