Omnichannel, enhanced customer experience, innovative points of sale... these are all commitments that redefine today's retail market and determine what the brand-customer relationship should be in the coming years. Brands are testing new concepts at the point of sale and trying to find the winning online/offline combination that will allow them to (re)know their customers better in order to anticipate their needs and eliminate roadblocks (queues, out-of-stocks, etc.). But how do brands ensure they're on the right track? How do they ensure returns on their investments?
However wondrous the point of sale innovations may be, if it's not linked to a detailed analysis of customer data, it's worthless. Companies that have rich and real (authenticated) data on their consumers and are able to use this data to feed AI and analysis projects are the ones that will be able to succeed in their transformation. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, reiterated in his keynote address at NRF 2020, "Intelligent retailing starts with knowing your customers, how do you use all this data and how do you take digital technologies to the next level to [...] redefine the retail experience itself?" That's the fundamental question.
Customer data, used right, will reshape the business model of retail
Data is key to solving all the major challenges retailers face today. How can supply chains be optimized so that stores have the right products at the right time and in the right quantities? How do we know what types of goods will appeal to consumers next month? What kind of experience to offer consumers?
Data is key to answering these questions and delivering relevant, personal, real-time customer experiences. Now more than ever, it is imperative to collect rich, authenticated and compliant data to properly guide AI and POS analytics projects.
When Artificial Intelligence becomes pragmatic
Brands use AI to make retailing more personal, more human and, above all, more predictive. The operational implementation of AI now makes it possible to determine very precisely, among all the trends, styles, creations that emerge each season, the products that will be popular with those that won't.
Depending on the weather or the time of day, AI also makes it possible to better allocate stocks and sales forces on the shelves and to refine external communication. This very detailed analysis, which can help to determine possible traffic in a specific department at a specific time, is only possible if retailers have, upstream, a complete and global view of their customers. AI is a tool that intelligently processes data, and the more complete the data, the finer the analysis. CIAM (Customer Identity & Access Management) connects brands and consumers through centralized management of customer profiles.
Stores continue their quest for digitalization
From the back-office to customer service, digitalization has become the keyword in points of sale. Amazon has pushed the limits of the concept and removed all the friction points of a traditional store (checkouts and vendors have been replaced by an armada of cameras) with Amazon Go. While this model is a possible alternative, it is not a catch-all because it requires specific compliance with video flow management and GDPR and only offers a practical short-term response to immediate needs (emergency food purchases, individual books or magazines, etc.), without creating any real attachment to the brand.
Getting to (re)identify the customer by the salesperson opens richer, more human and more empathetic perspectives. The sales assistant is no longer just a reception and information agent, they are now a real "personal shopper" thanks to AI and mobile technologies. They can now identify the last purchases made (on the Internet and in stores) by the customer and the products consulted, order any products immediately if not in stock and collect the purchases at the same time. The brand thereby creates a real intimacy with its customers, accompanies them in their purchases and can advise them on new products according to their preferences.
Optimizing customer experience aims to remove all the negative aspects of the mass market, where the customer, left to themselves, has to take the step of finding a salesperson to get advice or find the right size. The logic is now reversed, and the aim is to become "service centric" and to offer the customer a seamless, personalized experience everywhere.
But all this is only possible if the "personal shopper" has the right data at the right time and therefore the right identity of the customer in front of them. This continuity in terms of customer experience is once again supported by CIAM, which guarantees a unique identity, making it easier to get to know the customer, no matter the group's brand.
There are many possible ways to reinvent the point of sale, to reconcile online shopping and in-store purchases, to provide advice and welcome customers, but the fundamental basis on which any strategic choice must be based, is a perfect knowledge of its customers. To meet the demands of a modern customer experience, brands must be able to authenticate their customers at all points of contact in full compliance with international regulations on the protection of personal data. "Consumer-centric" and "service-centric" are dependent on a CIAM-centric strategy?
Contact ReachFive to find out how our CIAM solution is helping retailers be more service-centric.