A session at NRF 2024: Retail's Big Show about advancing omnichannel commerce with Scott Rankin principal, global head of strategy and US strategy leader KPMG LLP and Seemantini Godbole, executive vice president, chief digital and information officer at Lowe's.

Jan 19 2024

NRF 2024: Innovative Retailers Are Using AI and AR to Elevate Omnichannel Commerce

To give consumers the immersive experience they expect, retailers are turning to artificial intelligence, augmented reality and analytics to bring shopping to life.

Retailers are enhancing omnichannel experiences through the strategic integration of cutting-edge technologies. From artificial intelligence (AI) to augmented reality (AR), retailers are taking a wide view of their operations to make sure that the in-store experience is as exceptional as the one on the mobile app.

Omnichannel commerce is also redefining the act of shopping itself. “We really need to think of shopping as less of a discrete activity and more about how it’s integrated into everyday life,” says Seemantini Godbole, executive vice president and chief digital and information officer at Lowe’s.  

This also means integrating tech at scale, whether that includes merging simulated and physical worlds with AR devices in-store or bringing a personal touch to digital shopping.

“It’s online, it’s offline, it’s everywhere in between. And that’s the future of retail,” said Shopify President Harley Finkelstein.

At NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show, hosted at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, experts including Godbole and Finkelstein shared why these technologies are set to redefine commerce. Here are a few of the most successful ways retailers are reimagining the shopping experience.

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Restructure the Physical Store to Reinforce the Customer Journey

The role of the store is more important than ever. It even has the power to augment customer lifetime value. “We changed the layout of our store” Godbole said, noting that this was an important turning point in Lowe’s multiyear omnichannel journey. This meant creating a more organized store flow so that each category of home supplies escorted consumers to the point of sale.

Representatives from retailers including Sephora, Macy’s, PacSun and Estee Lauder also said that using sensory immersion at the entry of a store can make a big impact. Consumers can then travel through the store, exploring products and elements of surprise such as AI chatbots, digital signage and AR stations.

To unify the experience on every channel, Godbole explained, the online and in-store experiences must have “the same technology running underneath.” This is what helped Lowe’s achieve a cohesive and consistent omnichannel experience.

Layer AI, AR, IoT and Data Analytics to Drive Growth

The more operational excellence a retailer achieves, the better the omnichannel experience. This is where combining AI, AR, machine learning, the Internet of Things and data analytics is key. Experts at NRF 2024 cited these as among the most successful strategies to drive competitive growth across the enterprise:

  • Use AI to personalize customer interactions, whether on mobile apps or at in-store stations. AI-powered chatbots help customers navigate shopping spaces and answer queries fast.
  • Leverage AR to let customers try on products virtually before making a purchase. With AR glasses, customers can connect the real world to a simulated one.
  • Employ ML to analyze consumer behavior and preferences to offer personalized product recommendations.
  • Connect IoT devices for smart inventory management, smart shelves and smart cameras. The IoT can support seamless connections between online and physical stores.
  • Harness data analytics to gain valuable insights into customer trends to optimize inventory, pricing and marketing strategies.

WATCH: Experts share how generative AI is improving the customer service and in-store experience.



Leverage Your Data to Shift to a Customer-Centric Approach

For many retailers, every customer interaction is a touchpoint to collect data. “Data inserts a healthy dose of objectivity. Many times, I have an assumption or hypothesis and I am proven wrong,” Godbole said. In short, let data be your guide.

As retailers shift from a channel-specific approach to a customer-centric one, experts said that IT leaders must make sure that channels are talking to each other.

UP NEXT: Check out these use cases for augmented reality in retail.

Once data is routed to where it needs to go, retailers can use it to segment their omnichannel audience so that each “type” can be identified and targeted with more precision. The result, said Scott Rankin, global head of strategy at KPMG International and U.S. strategy leader at KPMG in the U.S., is “personalized experiences for each of your audience segments to accommodate different shopping behaviors.”

The customer who shops in-store and the one who orders products via iPhone are very different, and the data should inform that strategy. “You need to look for an opportunity to collect data and let the story unfold,” said Sneha Narahalli, vice president and head of product and user experience at Sephora.

Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event, and follow us on X (formerly Twitter) at @BizTechMagazine and the official conference Twitter feed, @NRFnews.

Jason Dixson Photography

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