Executive ViewPoints

The retail industry is fortunate to include numerous executives with extensive experience — and they are willing to share their insights in the Retail TouchPoints ViewPoints section. These byline pieces focus on industry trends and do not include solution provider sales pitches. Many of the byline pieces receive the greatest number of clicks on the RTP site each year.

Want To Build Strong Relationships With Shoppers? Start With Identity Resolution.

With so many competing products and services, it can be challenging for retailers to stand out among the crowd. Shoppers are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of marketing messages daily, so retail marketers need to cut through the noise to reach loyal customers and attract new ones. This essentially comes down to relevancy. And relevancy starts with identity resolution. People are always on the go and constantly bounce between devices throughout the day. A person may start the morning by looking at their smartphone, move to a laptop or tablet at work, and then come home and unwind by watching the latest episode of their favorite show on their smart TV. As customers are constantly on the go, they also leave a trail of data in their wake that helps marketers know when and how to connect to have the most impact.

Self-Driving Cars Will Be An Economic Revival For Brick-And-Mortar Retailers

Google, Amazon, Tesla, major car manufacturers and countless other enterprising startups are racing to dominate the self-driving vehicle market. Everyone wants to be the first to launch mainstream sales and services built on autonomous technology. Rightfully so, the industry is projected to generate billions in sales, improve efficiency and cut delivery costs. The focus right now is to get these vehicles on the road, which according to Tesla and Toyota could happen as soon as later this year or early 2020. Self-driving cars are coming, now industries like retail and food service need to start thinking about how this will impact them.

Creating Simplicity From Complexity: Managing Returns Through SaaS, AI & Machine Learning

Consumer behavior is reshaping retail, ultimately challenging merchants to create enhanced solutions to their increasing demands. Managing returns without compromising the experience for customers or retailers alike is one of these challenges. But returns do not have to be perceived as an obstacle. Retailers should instead look at this historically complicated process as an opportunity to ease reverse logistics, optimize store operations and even strengthen customer engagement. To do this, however, retailers must recognize the value of integrating data-driven intelligent software into their return management strategies.

Unlocking The Value Of Artificial Intelligence For Retailers

At a recent Future Stores Miami conference, I attended a panel discussion focused on practical applications of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the in-store experience. One of my key takeaways from that discussionwas that retailers are struggling to find the right opportunities to deploy AI in stores. With AI still a nascent technology, many people across multiple sectors aren’t savvy on what’s even possible by using it. I’d like to offer a few insights to help get some ideas flowing. The oft-maligned retail landscape is certainly going through a significant evolution. Technology is playing a huge role in that, both good and not so good. The competition from e-Commerce that has drawn shoppers away from brick-and-mortar is forcing innovation of the in-store experience. AI presents a significant opportunity to transform that experience into one that is more satisfying for customers and more profitable for retailers.

Mass Customization Is Coming for E-Commerce — Here’s How Manufacturers Can Get It Right

Thanks to the immediacy of our digital age, shoppers have a growing desire for products that can be instantly customized exactly to their preferences. But the demand for customized goods does not align with the traditional e-Commerce model, where a customer can choose only from what is displayed on a retailer’s site. Mass customization demands a new approach. Luckily, with the rise of the B2B2C commerce model, manufacturers are now able to provide a B2C-like experience to the end customer. The right CPQ (configure, price, quote) solution streamlines the formerly complex process of customization, allowing customers to see the price they will pay for the product, and send necessary designs and specifications straight to the manufacturing facility.

Enriching The Customer Experience Through Journey Mapping And Personalization

Digital technologies have given customers unprecedented power to dictate the terms of purchase, to the point that instant gratification has become the norm. Customers expect the same kind of immediacy, personalization, and convenience in all their interactions with a brand. Therefore, companies must understand customer-behavior and be ready to cope with the demands created by multiple customer touch points. Failure to deliver personalized customer experiences at the right time, on the right channels can lead to customer churn and even business demise. The question is, how can personalized services be provided in a highly digital-driven world? How can an organization deliver a connected, consistent experience across all touch points? More importantly, how can companies balance human and digital interactions to deliver an enhanced user experience while strictly adhering to privacy regulations?

Retail-As-A-Service: The Next-Gen Wild West

For better or worse, Amazon has turned the retail industry upside down and redefined what it means to be a modern consumer. Increasingly, consumers turn to online channels to purchase everything from toilet paper to cars. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce recently reported that between the fourth quarter of 2017 to 2018, e-Commerce sales increased by 12.1%. Even more interesting? Amazon accounts for 49.1% of all online retail spend in the country, with eBay trailing at 6.6%. Brands that aren’t meeting consumers online are missing a key opportunity to compete. Companies looking for a silver bullet are turning to the emerging opportunity of Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS), which is paving the way forward for large brands and brick-and-mortar stores to compete in the digital era. Similar to Software-as-a-Service, where, for example, companies select services to improve timekeeping or payments, RaaS can be purchased to create a better experience for the customer and create a better user experience for both the front- and back-end operations that service the customer. The ability to purchase, rather than build custom solutions, significantly reduces overhead costs for companies and provides a heightened sense of service.

5 CX Trends To Consider In 2019

Brands are being inundated with talk about consumers’ increasing expectations when it comes to customer experience (CX). And as businesses deliver more creative and engaging experiences, forming impactful customer relationships becomes more difficult. The 2019 CX Trends Report conducted by InMoment suggests that despite evolving conversations around CX, companies are struggling to balance their own needs and changing customer preferences. While 50% of brands say they’re “definitely” doing better at delivering excellent customer experience, just 11% of customers agree.

Three Essential Tips In Preserving Next-Gen Customers

What’s the secret behind the success of today’s best young consumer-facing brands? Authenticity and personalized experience curation. Realistically, the customer isn’t always right, but without servicing them in a way that resonates, businesses won’t thrive. Seems logical, doesn’t it? Apparently not. Almost daily one could find headlines about the disconnect between legacy brands and their consumer base, whether it’s ethical discrepancies (Hey Facebook!) or basic customer service needs (à la United Airlines). While it’s difficult to quantify how much budget is allocated on average to bettering customer service across industries, clearly it’s not a top priority for many companies. If nothing else, 2018 taught us that customer service is integral to attracting and retaining today’s more discerning and fickle consumers, and that without a personalized approach your business will take both a financial and public relations hit.

Myths Vs. Facts: Debunking Myths In Retail Payments

In our bustling retail landscape — today’s most competitive market — it’s hard to believe that many online merchants, particularly those based in the U.S., avoid access to global transactions. When considering U.S. cross border e-Commerce is expected to bring in $203 billion by 2021, it should be a no-brainer for online retailers to consider capitalizing on the growth potential that exists beyond American borders. But even with online transactions being more popular than ever before, payments fraud and security scams run rampant across the online commerce exchange — a paramount concern for merchants apprehensive about expanding to international markets.

What The Modern Grocery Store Can Teach Other Brick-And-Mortar Businesses

On a recent family visit to upstate New York I found myself in DeCicco & Sons, the local grocery store chain, when my niece suggested we grab a drink. I was enthusiastic but a bit befuddled as she led me through the frozen section until I saw that, lo and behold, this grocery store had a microbrewery right on the premises. Sipping my IPA and watching the shopping carts drift by got me thinking that few industries are innovating on their brick-and-mortar experience at the pace of grocery stores, and there’s a lot that restaurants, banks and any other businesses with physical locations can learn about attracting and maintaining relationships with digital-native consumers.

Technology In Retail; Dynamic Pricing In Store — One Possible Future

John Russo, our Retail leader, and I recently visited Amazon’s 4 Star store in New York City. The concept is simple enough — popular items, biased towards gifts/specialty items, with 4-star reviews or higher on Amazon.  I walked in expecting to see a lot of the technology innovations that we’ve come to expect from an Amazon Go or similar concept… but realistically it looked like a nice, normal gift shop…no crazy ceiling with a million cameras or other loads of unusual hardware. What the store did have was Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs). At Eversight we’re a big fan of ESLs and their breakthrough capabilities when it comes to digitizing the physical shelf. But a big dilemma that we wonder about is how ESLs will realistically support dynamic pricing in store. 

E-Commerce Search Is On The Verge Of A New Era

After Baymard Institute completed a large-scale usability study on e-Commerce search in 2014, the web usability research firm declared it was “tempted to declare the current state of e-Commerce search ‘broken.’” When test subjects were assigned product-finding tasks on various sites, they were unable to locate the item almost one-third (31%) of the time. When shoppers can’t find what they want within the first set of results, they don’t rethink their searching behavior and try different strategies. After all, these people have high expectations for the search experience after years of using Google’s AI-powered engine.

Data As Currency: Personalization With Permission Increases Share Of Wallet

The scales of power are tipped in favor of the consumer. With a single click or tap of a button, consumers can order anything they want and have it delivered in mere minutes to their doorstep. But it’s no longer enough for brands and retailers to have a one-way conversation with customers. The majority of individuals demand a two-way dialogue. That means companies must not only streamline the checkout process, they also have to provide consumers with a personalized experience along the way. The shift from transactional to meaningful customer relationships requires data from the consumer to personalize the process. But just as consumers are in control of their path to purchase, they are also in charge of their personally identifiable information (PII). They can enable push notifications or text messages to alert them about the next best offer, and they can certainly choose which data they want to allow brands and retailers to have access to. They expect that brands will request permission to use their data — and if/when they hand over their information, they want it to be used to enhance their experience. These new levers of consumer power are driving changes in marketing behavior.

Minimizing Legal Risks For Retailers That Use Biometric Data

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools offer retailers large chunks of data that are helpful in creating robust customer profiles, as well as curated and frictionless customer experiences. Many retailers are aware of the benefits offered by the subset of AI tools that involve biometric data. Facial recognition technology is automating and improving the customer experience in both the online (mobile try-on features) and brick-and-mortar (cashierless stores) sales environments. Some retailers use it as an asset protection measure (to identify known shoplifters). Fingerprinting employees is likewise automating retail timekeeping and jumpstarting wellness programs. Third-party vendors are out in the marketplace aggressively pitching retailers on the exciting benefits of cutting-edge technology tools. Yet retailers’ use of biometric data in certain jurisdictions presents legal and compliance challenges distinct from other types of data. Select state privacy statutes and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impose additional requirements on businesses that collect or utilize biometric data from either customers or employees. While no federal law preempts those state statutes, the Federal Trade Commission has issued guidance on facial recognition technology that cites its authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act to police unfair or deceptive biometric data practices.
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