This holiday season, like all others, conjured up images of “magic” moments. One typically imagines a young child dreaming of Santa Claus delivering the exact gift they wanted under the tree on Christmas morning, or a stocking stuffed with exactly what made the Christmas list for those lucky (and well-behaved) enough not to find a lump of coal. Some celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah and the eight nights of gifts corresponding with eight nights of miracle oil that helped save the Jewish people. We see Salvation Army collectors, toy drives, food drives, and other displays of human miracles where, for this very precious moment, the world is galvanized to meet the needs of greater humanity.
So what the heck does this have to do with NRF and consumer engagement strategy in retail? Magic Expectations. Yes, today’s retail consumers are expecting that the brands they spend their precious discretionary income with will (magically) know them personally, their buying preferences, their tastes. They have come to expect that the brands they purchase from can deliver on a Santa-like experience of knowing what they want and meeting them with that exact product or service where and when they want to receive it. Moreover, with the proliferation of digital and social channels, consumers more than ever are comparing retailers that they do business with and rating their experiences against the best retail outlets across the globe. Unfortunately, technology has “leveled the playing field” but, as we have seen through disruption of the traditional ‘brick and mortar’ and old style ‘one size fits all’ eCommerce outlets, technology is literally “leveling” the retail landscape as we know it.
“Online customer reviews and ratings are the most influential factor when consumers research a product online, which outranked price, return policy and shipping costs”...“45% of consumers will definitely buy from a brand again in the future if they receive authentic customer care while 40% will recommend that brand to others”
-Social Media Today
NRF 2024, retail’s biggest show, is returning to New York City from January 14-16, 2024. NRF boasts 6,200 brands coming together in the interest of “learning, collaboration, and discovery.” Our companies, JRNI and Mercaux, are exhibiting together to share our approach to meeting and exceeding “magic” expectations. Knowing that 6,200 brands are all seeking the holy grail, that is, to meet consumers where and how they want to be met with products and services (and more importantly a buying experience) that delivers magic, our work as technologists serving today’s retail buyer is difficult. That said, below are three very important tech-enabled best practices that we are sharing in advance of NRF, to help our prospective and current customers to meet the magical expectations of today’s retail consumer.
Personalization and Humanization: The idea of personalizing a buying experience is not new. The Amazonian way of using prior purchases to ‘recommend’ a product or service is core to most eCommerce platforms, and loyalty programs/coupon codes and other mechanisms are common data gathering tools used by retailers to gather consumer preference data. However, having actual human agents with the knowledge and data to deliver personalized experiences has historically been reserved for the elite few that could purchase a private jet or that gambled enough in a casino to receive the VIP status (and freebies!). Not anymore. Today’s consumers expect that when they walk into their favorite retail outlet, that they will be met with an educated agent familiar with their buying preferences and buying history. They expect to be able to explore a product or service online or in-store and have a knowledge-able agent with the information needed to deliver a connected experience in real time (via video or phone at the time when the consumer is online shopping). By collecting and rendering data on prospective and existing customers, and by offering this data to available agents before, during, and after human-to-human interactions, customer engagement and clienteling platforms not only personalize but also humanize a buying experience.
“66% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 52% expect all offers to be personalized. This sentiment shows that it’s no longer enough to apply a “one-size-fits-all” approach—companies need to leverage data and behavioral science to determine what the consumer wants and when they want it.”
-Salesforce Research via Forbes
Intelligent Steering: Remember the days when consumers would walk into a store, wait in line for the next available salesperson, try out a product, and come back later if the product was not in stock. We can’t! Those days are long gone. Today’s retail consumer wants to shop without waiting in line, and speak with a prepared agent at a time and location that is convenient to them. More and more retail brands are offering appointment scheduling and human-to-human online and video chat mediums. Moreover, top retailers are collecting data to intelligently steer prospective buyers to virtual channels or to locations where inventory is available and wait times are shortest, based on their likely interest in a particular item or brand. The existence of AI allows retailers to not only suggest what a consumer may like, but to match them with the most appropriate sales agent and most desired sales channel where the item they are most likely to buy is most available. Yes, the traditional ‘funnel’ can now be steered, intelligently, using AI, driving velocity across all steps in the buying cycle.
“82% of consumers will avoid patronizing a business with a line, with only 58% of those people returning to complete a purchase and 40% claiming they’ll go to a competitor or not make a purchase at all.”...“Nearly 70% of consumers said they would rather schedule an appointment, and 57% prefer virtual queues.”
The World is Flat: Much like waiting for Santa’s Christmas Eve sleigh ride, consumers want to remain at home and have the ability to “shop” and have goods and services delivered to them. They no longer desire to start their shopping experiences by leaving their homes, and they certainly no longer expect to have to travel to Paris, London, New York, or Los Angeles to shop for luxury brands. Clienteling solutions allow for a human to reside in one location, time zone, country, or continent, and shop virtually, with an agent on the other end, anywhere in the world, using video to virtually “visit” a store. They can view styles, browse inventory, see specifications, check pricing, and literally ‘walk the store’ with a qualified salesperson while participating in an immersive virtual experience. For example, a businesswoman in Kuwait may want to compare a bracelet in London and speak in Arabic to a salesperson located in Dubai while seeing pricing in Euro. This magic is now possible with the latest clienteling technology that can, within seconds, offer a magical moment in an ever changing flat world.
JRNI, the leading AI-powered intelligent customer engagement platform for retail, with solutions including event management, appointment scheduling, and queue management, has partnered with Mercaux, a Single App for Store Associates with Clienteling, Assisted Selling, Omni-checkout, and Remote Selling. Together, our solution is ahead of tomorrow’s consumer expectations, and we hope you will seek us out at NRF 2024 to see how we can make the magic happen!
Join us at NRF, booth #6444, book a meeting with JRNI at the date and time that is most convenient for you!
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Chief Executive Officer
July 29, 2022
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June 08, 2021
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