Nov 24 2023

Retailers Will Use Tech to Create a Seamless Black Friday Shopping Experience

For retailers to succeed this season, they will need to make the omnichannel shopping experience as seamless as possible.

Omnichannel retail doesn’t just mean connecting the online and in-store experiences — it means making the in-store experience itself connected.

Stand-alone in-store technology might give retailers some toys to play with; for example, automated pickups, QR codes with product information or smart shelves. But when retailers integrate various tech solutions, they give themselves a chance to build stronger relationships with customers, improve inventory management and problem-solve in ways that weren’t possible before.

As Kate Ancketill, founder and CEO of  business futurist consultancy GDR, told BizTech magazine about tech advances in retail, “It’s not just a shop for the people who happen to be walking by; it’s now part of your e-commerce platform.” This central idea — that the brand is what customers want, not merely a storefront or online experience — reinforces the brand value to the customer, ultimately driving loyalty and sales.

RELATED: Find out how a national retail chain improved its customer experience.

A Connected Experience Builds Stronger Customer Relationships

Connecting all your technology in-store positions retailers to deliver stellar customer service, a priority spotlighted this year during a Microsoft session at the  National Retail Foundation’s 2023 conference.

By integrating tools such as interactive in-store displays, mobile apps, augmented reality and frictionless checkout, retailers can give customers what they want: easily accessible product information (including price comparisons and reviews), inventory data, and convenience. A Nike store in South Korea even built a green-screen content studio onsite, allowing customers to immediately show off their wares in a playful way via social media.

Most of all, though, an integrated experience empowers consumers at a time when they’re ready to spend, albeit at a slower rate than usual; June 2023 saw consumer growth at 5 percent year over year, compared with June 2022’s 9 percent, according to Forrester.

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Connect Your Tech and Solve Inventory Problems

In-store tech, such as smart shelves and digital twinning, allows for real-time inventory accounting, which is crucial in an omnichannel retail environment.

Seamless connectivity between in-store and online inventory systems helps prevent stock shortages, one of the chief frustrations of shoppers both online and in-person. Such connectivity marries the convenience of online browsing with the immediacy of in-store shopping, as Zara stores in the U.K. learned when the Zara app started offering a “store mode” that allowed users to see what was in stock at any given location, reserve the item and pick it up within 30 minutes.

When there is an in-store inventory gap, customers can have the item delivered at their convenience. This builds confidence in the brand, turning customers into repeat visitors.

EXPLORE: Get the tools to perform your holiday readiness assessment this season.

Seamless Problem Resolution Makes for Seamless Shopping

Artificial intelligence and connected tech can’t replace the human insight that drives people to shop in-store, with 27 percent of respondents to a PwC survey saying that access to helpful salespeople is the top factor that would improve their onsite experience. But it can support staff as they respond to customers, particularly at a time of retail staffing shortages.

Take, for example,  Microsoft’s Store Operations Assist technology, which amplifies frontline productivity, giving staff more time to connect with customers on the retail floor. It gives on-the-ground salespeople insight into day-to-day activities and supplies tools for assistive selling — and the customer still benefits from the human touch, all boosted by integrated technology.

Integrated technology also enables proactive maintenance and issue detection. Real-time alerts and remote diagnostics mean that problems can be resolved promptly, minimizing downtime and ensuring a seamless shopping experience.

Connected experiences help retailers demonstrate value to their customers, ultimately developing brand loyalty and deepening a lasting relationship. For retailers who’ve only deployed one or two tech solutions — such as a QR code or an Internet of Things inventory management system — a few more may be necessary, because it’s the variety of devices working in unison that enable seamless shopping.

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