Author: Suvrat Joshi
Chief Product Officer
For the first time in three years, Shoptalk U.S. was held live and in-person in Las Vegas recently. Over 10,000 retailers, exhibitors, analysts, attendees, and investors came together to discuss the state of retail in 2022. Hot topics at the conference included focusing on customer experience, technology and its growing impact on the retail industry, and incorporating sustainability into retail.
Digital Technology Reshaping Retail
Digital technology has grown tremendously in the past few years. Technology is helping to reshape the ways products can be delivered. Click-and-collect and other curbside delivery technologies became hugely popular during the pandemic. Continuing to innovate in the ways deliveries are made, one company in the United Kingdom is testing the use of delivery robots as brands try to utilize technology to adapt to changing consumer needs. Some retailers are also using robotics in stores to help solve the labor shortage.
Other technological innovations discussed include livestream shopping, the metaverse and Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL). Livestream shopping, or live shopping, utilizes a host who interacts with a live audience while demonstrating a product, allowing viewers to ask questions during the product demonstration. The consensus from retailers is that it must be authentic and direct in order to work.
The metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds, or virtual reality and is in its infancy in the retail world. Some retailers are on-board with using the metaverse to attract consumer attention and create excitement while others remain skeptical, waiting to see how consumers will react. Retailers viewed BNPL, or point of sale credit, positively because they believe it gives consumers more options and it has been used successfully in many countries, including Brazil.
While many technological innovations remain promising, retailers agree the one pain point they all share is the unpredictable supply chain. They want technology to help solve supply chain issues from moving raw materials to manufacturers and down the line to delivering packages to consumers in the last mile. Presenters at several sessions agreed last-mile delivery needs innovative solutions to help brands improve upon customer experience. Investors and analysts at the conference believe investing in supply chain and logistics is one of retail’s biggest growth opportunities.
Customer Experience is King
There used to be an expression in retail that the customer was king. Today, customer experience is king. Brands now recognize that customer experience is of paramount importance to their brand. Customer experience begins with the very first interaction with a brand, whether it’s online, in a virtual reality setting or in-person. From choosing a delivery date via e-commerce to being notified in real-time where the shipped product is, every part of the purchase reflects upon a brand. One bad customer experience may mean losing that consumer for life.
According to a survey by Supply and Demand Chain Executive, 84% of consumers won’t shop with a retailer again after having had a bad delivery experience. Retailers are taking note and recognizing how important consumer experience is to the entire process.
Appealing to consumers in new ways utilizing creative partnerships, innovations such as robots, and virtual reality while also creating the best possible experience through satisfying consumer delivery expectations is all at the heart of great customer experiences. Retailers at Shoptalk spoke about recognizing how personalized experiences please their consumers and encourage brand loyalty and may keep consumers coming back to them.
The Global Focus on Sustainability
Increased global focus on sustainability means retailers are trying to brand their products and delivery services as having a minimal impact on the environment. According to a study by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and IBM, 57% of consumers are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce negative environmental impact. Retailers are taking note.
A newer practice in retail is known as re-commerce. Retailers who sell previously owned items, and retailers who buy back, repair and reuse parts, recycle or resell them are engaging in sustainable re-commerce. New technology platforms are available to help retailers develop re-commerce strategies since the cost around raw materials remains high.
Shoptalk highlighted the changes retail has been through during the past two years and where retailers might go with technology and new ways for consumers to shop. Brands today are focusing more on consumer experience and its impact on their sales and consumer loyalty.
Conference participants were optimistic about opportunities for creative retail partnerships and came away with a better understanding of how omnichannel shopping and sustainable e-commerce solutions can satisfy consumer demand. Technology can bridge where we are and where the market is moving, including a shift towards sustainability and creating positive consumer experiences, while bringing deliveries to your front door.