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Everyone’s heard it: “Retail will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50.” And although advances in digital technology have been driving this change, it’s the consumer that’s in the driver’s seat. Armed with a smartphone, this consumer has the world’s largest shopping mall in her pocket. She can access her friends and their friends via social channels for inspiration on trending products. She can showroom, webroom and access product pricing faster than your typical store associate. She can pull up a competitor’s digital coupon at your point-of-sale when she’s ready to make a purchase. And finally, she can access service, anytime and anywhere.

In short, she’s in control of today’s path-to-purchase. She can deftly perform product comparisons, including price checks, without the aid of an associate. She has a wealth of channels to choose from (and she does). And thanks to daily deal and promotional aggregators, she knows when and where to hit the “buy” button.

Competing on the traditional marketing levers of price, product, place and promotion is extraordinarily difficult in this environment. As a result, brands well-positioned for success in the coming years have adopted a new strategy; in other words, they compete on the retail customer experience.

But according to research, brands are struggling to pull together a compelling experience. Based on insights from consumer surveys, there has never been a greater opportunity to redefine the retail customer experience, across marketing, sales and service.

 

The New Path to Purchase

Today’s shopper’s path to purchase is no longer as simple as walking into a store, browsing the aisles, and buying a product. Shoppers are doing their homework ahead of time (and across multiple emerging channels), making them more knowledgeable and empowered than ever before. It is more important than ever for retailers to evolve, and adapt. For example:

  • 79% of shoppers research products prior to purchasing in-store (link)
  • 67% of shoppers purchase products from a retailer’s website (link)
  • 45% of shoppers contact customer service through email (link)
  • 87% of shoppers have visited a retail store within the past month (link)

 

Retailers Struggle to Deliver

The retail customer experience landscape continues to evolve, as new shopping channels emerge. Today’s shoppers are accustomed to moving seamlessly along their journeys, across whichever channels are most convenient. This has implications on retailers, who find themselves falling behind in the race to meet shopper’s new expectations.

  • 55% of shoppers say retail experiences are disconnected across channels (link)
  • 63% of shoppers do not feel like retailers know them (link)
  • 58% of shoppers value personalized customer service in-store (link)
  • 53% of millennial shoppers feel that store associates do not have the tools they need to deliver great customer service (link)

 

Connected Employees Matter

As new emerging digital channels appear, brick-and-mortar retail stores still are crucial to today’s retail success. However, its role in commerce is quickly changing. To meet and even exceed shoppers’ expectations, retailers must empower their store associates with the right technology to meet these new customer needs.

  • 27% of millennial shoppers agree that associates need mobile devices to provide automated product recommendations (link)
  • 29% of millennial shoppers agree associates need mobile devices to look up a shopper’s profile information, like past purchases. (link)
  • 69% of baby boomer shoppers stress that associates need visibility into available inventory at other stores or warehouses if items are out of stock at their store location (link)

 

The Future of Retail is Smart

As artificial intelligence moves to the forefront, retailers have an opportunity to reach shoppers with smarter, more predictive, and personalized messages than ever before. The future of the retail customer experience? It’s intelligent.

  • 35% of millennial shoppers want the ability to search merchandise in a physical store using an image and then receive product recommendations on the spot (link)
  • 28% of millennial shoppers agree receiving personalized retail offers in a digital channel (i.e. email, mobile app, website) based on their purchasing history is appealing (link)

 

Transform Your Retail Customer Experience Today

Everyday, innovative brands are redefining how they engage with today’s consumer, whether it’s personalizing every path-to-purchase, creating a seamless journey across all channels of engagement or providing faster, more convenient customer service.

For more information on Salesforce solutions for retail, visit salesforce.com/retail