Retail Reinvented: The Path to Consistent and Personalized Customer Experiences

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Retail Reinvented: The Path to Consistent and Personalized Customer Experiences

The retail landscape is undergoing a digital revolution. From social media to messaging apps, AI, and mobile devices, the way consumers shop and engage with brands is fundamentally shifting. As a retailer in 2023, it's essential to understand these trends and evolve your customer experience accordingly.

Let's explore the key digital transformations reshaping retail revealed in Salesforce's 2023 Connected Shoppers Report.

Shopping at the Edge: Social, Messaging, and Livestream Commerce

A significant change is that consumers increasingly expect to be able to shop directly on the digital platforms they use daily. Known as "shopping at the edge", 59% of consumers now make purchases on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. This represents a 4x increase from just 15% in 2021.

Messaging apps like WeChat and Facebook Messenger have seen even more dramatic growth, with their use for shopping purchases up 227% since 2021. Today, over one-third of consumers (36%) are buying items directly via messaging apps.

Live stream shopping is another digital experience that lets influencers or brand reps showcase products in real-time video feeds. Viewers can then tap to purchase featured items. Although still nascent in the US, livestream commerce is wildly popular in China, with an estimated $171 billion in GMV in 2020.

For retailers, having an effective social commerce strategy on popular social and messaging platforms is becoming imperative. Sitting on the digital sidelines means missing out on where consumers are starting and completing their shopping journeys.

Mobile Tech and In-Store Digital Integration

Even when shoppers visit physical stores, mobile devices are omnipresent. 60% of consumers use a smartphone or other mobile device to enhance their in-store shopping experience.

Specifically, shoppers are leveraging mobile to research products, compare prices, scan QR codes and checkout. Retailers are responding by ensuring associates are equipped with mobile devices too. Associates can then provide services like checking inventory, processing mobile payments, and answering customer questions on the sales floor. 

Currently, 32% of store associates use a mobile device as part of their job, and that's expected to rise to 41% in the next three years. For retailers, having associates empowered with mobile technology provides a major opportunity to improve customer service and satisfaction.

The Rise of AI and Generative AI in Retail

AI is nothing new in retail, powering offerings like product recommendations for years. However, advanced Generative AI takes things to a new level. By creating brand new content from data, Generative AI can provide remarkably personalized and relevant recommendations and inspiration to shoppers.

On the consumer side, 17% of shoppers are already using Generative AI tools to get fresh product recommendations and ideas. On the retailer side, investment in AI is surging, with 92% of retailers boosting budgets. 59% are specifically leveraging Generative AI to help store associates provide tailored product recommendations.

In the future, Generative AI could also help retailers optimize inventory, promotions, product descriptions and more. The possibilities for AI to enhance customer experiences are vast. Retailers should consider how to strategically incorporate AI-driven offerings into their customer experience roadmaps.

The Demand for Personalization and Customer Service

In an increasingly digital retail world, consumers still crave personalization and excellent customer service. 57% of retailers are upping investments in personalizing communications and offers to customers. AI and data analytics help enable this hyper-personalization.

Providing a stellar customer experience also remains paramount. In fact, poor customer service can deter 53% of consumers. However, 94% of consumers said outstanding service converts them into loyal brand advocates.

Retailers must find the right balance between digital efficiency and human connections. While AI and mobile tech open new opportunities, associates who can provide excellent person-to-person experiences are still a competitive advantage. Investing in associate training and engagement is key.

The Future of Retail is Digital

It's an exciting and challenging time in retail. Customers expect omnichannel shopping experiences that blend digital convenience with personal connections. New technologies like AI and mobile devices enable retailers to transform customer experiences and operate more efficiently.

To stay competitive, retailers must meet consumers on the digital platforms they use daily, like social, messaging apps and livestreams. In-store, mobile tech and AI elevate both associate and shopper capabilities. And experiences must balance digital fluency with human relationships.

By Using these digital transformations strategically, retailers can usher in a new era of engaging, convenient and highly personalized customer experiences. Those that successfully adapt to this digital-first future will gain a competitive advantage in our rapidly changing retail landscape.

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