Capgemini Study: Enhance Personalization, Omnichannel Integration To Grow Voice Commerce

Voice assistants are speaking up and being heard: 78% of global consumers have used them to research and buy products and services, create shopping lists or check order status, according to the Smart Talk: How organizations and consumers are embracing voice and chat assistants report from Capgemini. Additionally, 53% of consumers in the U.S., UK, France and Germany have already used a voice assistant to actually buy products in 2019, compared to 35% in 2017.

Despite this growth, just 23% of companies in the consumer products and retail space have deployed voice assistants. Their hesitation is somewhat understandable: 40% of those now using voice assistants started doing so in the last year, and another 43% started using them three or fewer years ago. It’s one thing to order a few small items through voice, and another entirely to make the channel a regular part of one’s shopping habits — but that will likely change with time.

"We strongly believe that the reason why people like voice is that it is probably the most natural way to interact and to convey your ideas,” said Genevieve Chamard, North American Partnership Strategy Leader, Digital Retail and Manufacturing at Capgemini in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The main challenge today is convincing the customer that the technology is really trustworthy and can actually do what they want it to do. They may be reticent to truly believe in and use voice, but as it gets better and better that will change.”

Chamard identified three building blocks retailers should focus on as they develop their voice commerce capabilities:

  • Natural Language Processing: The primary advantage voice has over other channels is that it lets shoppers communicate naturally rather than relying on rigid, carefully worded search queries. As this technology gets better, online ordering can become more fluid.
  • Machine Learning: Understanding plain language is just the first step; voice commerce systems also will need to understand context. For example, voice assistants will need to understand and respond properly when similar queries are asked in different contexts.
  • Personalization: More than any other channel, voice assistants will need to understand the customer who is speaking with them. Knowing a shoppers’ preferences can help the interaction feel like a conversation between friends rather than a transaction made through a machine.

Assistants Can Give AI Insights A Human Touch

Combining these building blocks will help create a humanized retail experience, which should be a key goal for voice commerce. Capgemini’s research found that nearly 64% of consumers want AI to be more human-like, with nearly half saying they would display greater loyalty to a company and a higher propensity to spend. With voice assistants specifically, 58% of consumers would like to personalize theirs, for example by defining its personality (53%), giving it a name (55%) or, most importantly for retailers, watching it learn and adapt to their own personality over time (60%).

Helping voice assistants develop more personality could make them better at their jobs. For simple purchases that only require a small number of questions, more shoppers trust product recommendations from voice assistants (54%) than salespeople (49%). But 55% trust salespeople compared to 48% who trust voice assistants when it comes high-involvement, high-consideration purchases. These trust numbers could change as the machines become more human-like and offer better recommendations backed by powerful insights.

“I feel there is a tremendous opportunity to invest in a strong artificial intelligence engine and be able to really talk to each and every customer in a very personalized way,” said Chamard. “It's one thing to use voice for basic research, but it's much more compelling if you can let someone research and then have it refer to their customer profile and start recommending products that are unique to this person.”

Voice Should Be Part Of An Omnichannel Ecosystem

While voice chat has a lot of potential, it’s never going to eliminate e-Commerce or brick-and-mortar. Retailers need to look at voice as another channel and option on the wider customer journey. For instance, a potential path to purchase may start with preliminary research through a car’s voice assistant, continue with in-depth product discovery through a tablet and end after try-on and purchase in-store.

This means voice can and should be used as part of an omnichannel approach to retail, and traditional e-Commerce elements are a natural fit: 63% of shoppers believe that related images on a nearby screen would improve the voice chat experience, while 64% feel the same way about video and 65% about textual information. Voice commerce leaders — companies that show high maturity in both organizational capability and customer centricity in their capabilities — recognize this potential: 71% offer images on associated screens, compared to 39% among all companies that have voice commerce capabilities.

Making voice commerce a standard part of the customer journey will take a combination of time and effort, but retailers don’t want to get left behind as the technology matures. Adoption has been steadily growing among consumers, and companies that get ahead of the curve will be the first to reap the benefits of this new retail channel.

"I think a lot of retailers thought that having a voice assistant meant just having the skill enabled on Alexa or Google Home, and they didn't invest in the customer experience,” said Chamard. “I like to go back to when we started to have smartphones: retailers thought that the smartphone itself would provide the optimal experience. Then they realized no, you have to design the mobile app in order for the customer to have the right experience and the right interactions. Now retailers need to invest a certain amount of money and time into ensuring voice assistants offer customers that right experience.”


BRP Study: 86% Of Retailers Offer Omnichannel Price Consistency, But How Well?

With 87% of shoppers having some expectation of a personalized, consistent experience across channels, it’s obvious that retailers can’t afford to skimp on unifying their technology capabilities. What isn’t as obvious for many retailers is which deficiencies to remedy, or how to do so. Case in point: 76% of consumers are likely to choose a retailer offering consistent pricing/promotions across channels, according to a report from BRP. While 86% of retailers say they offer some level of pricing/promotion consistency, half of these retailers also say they need to do even more in this area.

Historically, retailers have built their customer experiences via disparate systems or manual processes. This has created a disconnect between what promotions they can offer via various channels and whether the systems can support them, according to Jeffrey Neville, SVP and Practice Lead at BRP Consulting.


Mistakes That Could Be Tanking Your Omnichannel Retail Efforts

0aaaMohhamed Ali PrimasellerAbout 80% of consumers browse for product information while still inside a store. Brands that communicate instantly and intuitively through clear information have a better chance of making a sale. What’s more, the math really is simple — more channels lead to more streams of revenue from consumers who may be aware of the brand but have no way of buying from it.

Wherever you look, every fact and statistic points to the benefits of implementing an omnichannel retail strategy.

And yet, retailers big and small fail to do just that! Argos UK is a commonly cited example in this context. However, haven’t we all had experiences where we’ve received delivery feedback emails without the actual delivery having happened, or ended up trying to return the product, only to discover that we’d have to use the same route it came in through?

Which is why it is important that we discuss some common, and not-so-common, omnichannel mistakes that you could be making. We also discuss some ways to correct them.

Mistake #1: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

The premise of omnichannel retail has been widely misunderstood. Many retailers still believe that being present on all channels possible will result in more sales. While that’s not a bad idea in itself, there are two things to consider:

Do You Need To Be Present On All Channels?

The choice of which channels to use, and for what purpose, should depend only on what your customers want. For a young, Millennial audience, the option of shopping on or interacting on a social media platform like Instagram is almost second nature.

However, a more elderly demographic may not appreciate having to interact with a chatbot for problem resolution and would much rather be on the phone with an executive.

What would your customers like? What interaction modules have they shown a preference for? If they prefer to browse offline and purchase online, are you doing everything in the store to further encourage this habit?

You will soon discover that you don’t have to be present on every single sales channel there is.

The Operational Difficulties Of Being Everywhere

The operational issues with being present everywhere also need to be discussed here. Often, customers encounter a broken omnichannel experience. They make a purchase on a marketplace and then try to return it in a store. However, the store representatives have no clue how to process such a return, or a system to do so does not exist.

The Solution

If you are just starting with your omnichannel efforts, we strongly recommend choosing no more than three sales and two marketing channels to focus on. Over time, you can make adjustments to this strategy.

If you’ve already started and are having problems, remove those channels that give you the least sales/engagement and solve one problem at a time. Do not try and tackle all channels at once as this may lead to more difficulties.

Mistake #2: Segmenting Customers By Channel

Where does the customer belong?

Not on any one channel, that’s for sure. If you are preparing for them to shop on any channel, be prepared to be discovered, reviewed, scrutinized and contacted on any channel.

Many retailers make the mistake of treating an online sale as purely online, or an offline sale as a chance occurrence. Come to think of it, every sale event begins with awareness and that could have happened on any medium before the customer actually paid you (or your web site) a visit. If you segment people by sales channels, you lose valuable data on discovery and purchase intent.

The Solution

The easiest way to consolidate customer data is to keep a common record of transactions. If a customer bought from another channel earlier, use this data to promote products to them in-store. The truth is that you have their data, and you might as well use it to give them a better experience.

Maintain a common customer database. Match all old orders with the given phone number and email address. In a store, offer to send them an email receipt of purchase so you get access to their email address, which you can then map to past online purchases.

Mistake #3: Not Thinking About Uniformity In The Experience

Brett Bair says in an article on the Monetate blog that, “Both of my bad omnichannel experiences occurred when I found a product I wanted online, complete with an ‘available in a nearby store!’ badge, only to show up at the store to find that the item was definitely NOT available.”

More often than not, the biggest problems in omnichannel retail are these everyday issues. What’s worse — these are the issues that omnichannel retail was supposed to solve in the first place.

Simple elements like using colors other than the brand colors or a different logo on different channels can discourage people from buying. The same goes for all content and communication.

Another major aspect to consider here is the seamlessness between experiences. If a customer chooses to go BOPIS, their order needs to be packed and ready at the scheduled time. If they want to try in-store before a purchase, their cart must be ready for them at the dressing room. If these seem like indulgences, that’s exactly what consumers want today.

The Solution

Here are some things to try to fix this mistake:

  • Take a close look at all of your sales and communication channels to identify discrepancies in visuals, language or brand element usage. If there are issues here, fix them immediately.
  • Think like your customer — with every new omnichannel service you offer, what might be their expectation? Try and offer these benefits before they need to ask.
  • Consolidate your inventory across locations and channels so you never sell something that is actually out of stock. We will explore how technology can help you do this.

Mistake #4: Not Using Technology For A Better Omnichannel Experience

Today, it is safe to say that technology runs the world, and yet some retailers are hesitant to switch to new systems either due to legacy issues or because switching will take too long.

However, it is safe to say that an omnichannel strategy cannot be implemented successfully without using technology at all touch points. In some cases, not using technology means fragmentation among and within sales and marketing channels. In other cases, this can mean operational issues that arise due to poor visibility over stock levels.

The Solution

The best thing you can do for your retail business is use an omnichannel inventory management system. Such a system can help integrate all of your sales channels. You get one, consolidated view of inventory. You never have to worry about running out of stock, or even worse, not knowing until it is too late.

Using an omnichannel inventory management system also means that you can see which channels perform well and eliminate those that you think don’t keep up. Even as an omnichannel retailer, you can run your business using optimal inventory levels and software can help you achieve that through dynamic updates and low stock alerts.

It is also worth thinking about similar integrations for your marketing channels so that your messaging is uniform. Tools like HubSpot can be used for better marketing management, and you can set alerts for when someone messages your brand’s page on any social media network.

Mistake #5: Expecting Omnichannel Retail To Solve All Problems

Omnichannel retail has taken the retail world quite by surprise in just how pervasive it became, and how soon. However, it isn’t a magic pill that can solve all problems. For example, if you have a faulty product, there’s no retail method that can automatically improve your sales.

A common mistake that several retailers make is assuming that going omnichannel will automatically help improve their bottom line.

The Solution

Omnichannel retail only works when other aspects of your retail business are sound. Good sourcing practices, a strong orientation towards customer service and sound marketing understanding are absolutely necessary. Going omnichannel will not fix any of these issues — in fact, it may even make them worse.

So, if you have basic business issues, it is worth fixing them first before choosing to go omnichannel. Simply put, an omnichannel retail strategy can help a good retail business thrive even further.

Succeeding As An Omnichannel Retailer

Simply put, omnichannel retail is about bringing together the warmth of a local store, the convenience of an online store and the ease of choosing a channel based on the customer’s current needs. On a smaller scale, it may be easy to achieve, but in scaling this experience is where most retailers fail.

Mohammed Ali is the Founder and CEO of Primaseller — a multichannel inventory management software that helps sellers manage inventory better and fulfil orders on time, with nifty integrations that make business better. When not running a startup, Ali is often caught lapping up the latest book in fantasy fiction.


Mastering Omnichannel Buying Journeys With Predictive Analytics

0aaaSean Kendall TetraVXTo compete with Amazon, Walmart has invested heavily in automation. Just recently, the company recruited a fleet of autonomous floor scrubbers and more than doubled the number of conveyor belts in its shipping processes.

But automating operations is unlikely to give Walmart stores a significant leg up on Amazon. Although increasing efficiency and reducing costs have a place in retail, those strategies do little to encourage customer engagement and loyalty.


Omnichannel Returns Are No Longer Optional

0aaaRob Zomok InmarAs online sellers find themselves deluged with returns, it’s understandable that, because of the resultant logistics burden, the prevailing perception of the situation would trend toward the negative. The truth, however, is that returns are neither a necessary evil nor indication of customer dissatisfaction.

They are a critical element of a new online sales cycle that is seeing shoppers employing a “buy and try” approach to acquiring the products they want and expecting sellers to fully enable their behavior. And while there’s no changing shoppers, what sellers can do — now — is shape their supply chain to optimize the customer experience and maximize buyer satisfaction.


Retailers: Here’s Why It’s Time To Be ‘All In’ For Omnichannel Inventory

Chris Shaw ManhattanFor retailers, the pressure to provide an omnichannel shopping experience is inescapable. Many companies have gone to great lengths to adapt systems and processes to meet omnichannel demand and deliver a high-quality shopping experienceacross channels. While only four or five years ago cross-channel retail was considered innovative, today it is table stakes — no longer a “nice to have,” but a “must have” for retailers to remain competitive. And as consumers’ expectations for shopping continue to evolve, the importance of successful omnichannel adoption — and the urgency with which that adoption must take place — is heightened.

Most retailers have invested in omnichannel in some capacity, but many brands have taken a piecemeal approach, with targeted investments or platform upgrades to enable specific functionalities. However, the retail industry is nearing an inflection point: brands that don’t go “all-in” on omnichannel will see a negative effect on sales, and those that fully adapt their systems and processes to the new omnichannel way of doing business will be much more likely to retain and grow market share.


Mass Merchandisers Poised To Thrive During The Final Stretch Of Back-To-School

Prime Day and e-Commerce may have defined the start of the back-to-school (BTS) season, but brick-and-mortar retailers — particularly omnichannel mass merchandisers — are poised to grab their fair share as the start of school approaches. Parents are expected to spend $14.5 billion in the weeks following Aug. 1, according to data from Deloitte; that’s more than half of the $27.8 billion in spending predicted for the entire season.

Shoppers plan to spend approximately 56% of their total BTS budgets in-store, a total of $15.7 billion across the entire season, according to a survey by Deloitte. In comparison, 29% of the average budget will be spent online, accounting for $8.1 billion. The remaining $4 billion is undecided and will be split between both channels, with online expected to hold an edge.


ICSC Study: ‘Halo Effect’ Shows Physical Stores Boost Online Sales…And Vice Versa

A single online or in-store transaction is rarely an isolated occurrence. Usually, it stems from, and leads to, a series of transactions, emphasizing the role of the “halo effect” — how a purchase in one channel directly impacts the purchases in another. Retailers must take this halo effect seriously when planning future stores or even reducing store counts, according to a survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). The study, titled The Halo Effect II: Quantifying the Impact of Omnichannel, revealed:

  • Shoppers that spend $100 in store and then buy online at the same retailer within a 15-day period average a net spend of $267; and
  • Shoppers that spend $100 online and then buy in-store at the same retailer within a 15-day period average a net spend of $231.

ICSC analyzed more than $31 billion in consumer spending with consumer insights firm 1010data during 2016, 2017 and 2018 at retailers across several categories, including apparel, beauty, discount and traditional department stores, home goods and emerging digital native retailers.


Study: 33% Of In-Store Purchases Start Online — And 25% Of Online Purchases Start In-Store

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that online activity influences consumers’ brick-and-mortar purchases, but the traffic isn’t all one-way. While one in three in-store purchases start online, one in four online purchases start in-store, according to the Month in the Life of a Shopper 2019 report from The Hershey Company. Additionally, the average shopper makes a combined 60 online and offline trips per month across 17 retailers — so capturing a larger share of these trips means maximizing the value proposition in both channels.

“First and foremost, it's important to evaluate how you're performing across the core tenets of what we've defined as the shopper value equation: spend, time and experience,” said Tony Mardegain, Director, Retail Snacking Experience Team (ReSET) at Hershey in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “What is your unique place in shoppers' lives? What are the areas where you're already doing well? Can you lean in further?”

ReSET advises against a one-size-fits all approach, but the start of every retailer’s journey is recognizing that overall, 87% of all purchases start online — an environment where shoppers will quickly abandon a retailer if they can’t find what they’re looking for.

“Navigation helps consumers browse the digital and physical shelf,” said Mardegain. “Category management fundamentals like aisle flow, usage occasion and brand placement are applicable both online and in-store. Transposing aisle flow and shelf organization from the physical world to digital environments is key to creating a seamless experience.”

Make Shopping Seamless, Or Customers Will Move On

The similarities between e-Commerce and brick-and-mortar still hold for impulse purchases made without research beforehand. Shoppers see the retailer they are purchasing from, not the individual channels they are using, even when their journey doesn’t involve multiple touch points. Companies need to keep their teams connected to ensure a consistent pay point experience across the entire business.

“Shoppers aren't going to pick up their favorite snack at the end of a shopping trip, be it online or off, if what they are looking for isn't there,” said Mardegain.

The need for a seamless environment continues after the time of purchase as well. Retailers should encourage reviews by making the process quick and simple, regardless of where the purchase was made. User-generated content is an important part of the overall decision-making process in both channels:

  • 56% of shoppers read reviews before making an online purchase; and
  • 46% of shoppers read reviews before making an in-store purchase.

Making it easy for shoppers to write, read and share reviews helps improve engagement for returning customers, and encourages newcomers to check out retailers they haven’t used before. Conversion rates are nearly 30% higher when sites contain user-generated content.

In-Store Displays Benefit From Online Practices

One area that is particularly important in-store but still involves e-Commerce is presenting memorable displays. They must be designed with the shopper at the center, combining categories to create a coherent and memorable experience rather than focusing on promoting certain goods.

“We draw a lot of inspiration from our owned Hershey's Chocolate World retail locations, and they have seen success building displays around occasions, like ‘hot cocoa sipping’ in the winter,” said Mardegain. “There are food items on the display, but there are also fuzzy socks, blankets, fun stirrers and more. In this case, you are building a full experience for the shopper and inspiring them to have fun and build connection with their families.”

This is an area where brick-and-mortar retailers have room for improvement: only 24% of shoppers rated their usual stores highly on the metric of “retailer I look forward to shopping at.” Mardegain suggested that these retailers take a cue from their e-Commerce counterparts, and build out displays based on recommendations that go along with the centerpiece product.

Retailers also can benefit from increased collaboration with manufacturers. The combination of insights derived from retail loyalty programs and manufacturer marketing data can help retailers set up their stores and web sites in a way that maximizes their impact.

“Unlocking growth in this competitive marketplace is going to take next-level collaboration, including insights and data sharing,” said Mardegain. “We’re investing in deeper snacking insights to position our retail partners for success. Understanding how and why consumers snack is shaping our innovations in products, packaging, services and shopper experiences.”

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