As a California resident, I get to enjoy over 300 days of sun per year and we use those days to stay active. Whether it is surfing at the beach, hiking in the mountains, or playing in a recreational league, buying sports equipment is a natural hassle, especially when quality and price are concerned. The buying process is only made even more complicated by having to drive to multiple stores, conduct online research, and finding the right website to make the purchase. Case in point: My journey to buy a good pair of running shoes.
What is one to do?
Retail Therapy and the Cloud
The retail experience is difficult for both buyers and sellers, especially as technology takes hold. While buyers have the upper hand with more places than ever to spend their money, finding the product they want is still challenging. Even mobile applications are not enough to help customers filter through something as simple as running shoes.
Yet despite these challenges, businesses continue to lag behind in offering solutions to accelerate the buyer’s journey. According to the IBM 2017 Customer Experience Index, 84% of brands do not offer in-store mobile shopping services and another 79% do not offer their employees the power to access customer information. I can only imagine this in my running shoe experience: Had I been able to clearly see my options online or see what was available storewide and on the spot, I may have walked out with an actual pair. I didn’t.
Without closing the loop, retailers compromise themselves from having customer conversations, leaving money on the table to a lower-cost online competitor.
Closing the Retail Gap
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It behooves retailers to ask more than ever what their customers want. Success is no longer foot traffic through the door, but also investing in the appropriate infrastructure that adds value and delights customers to return. These include using technologies like chat bots, cloud artificial intelligence, and recommendations engines that enhance the sales capabilities of the in-store associate.
One example is IBM Cloud’s Watson Conversation platform, a chat bot platform that understands natural language and deployed on multiple platforms. For already-existing customers, Watson Conversation analyzes past orders to predict new ones and enable purchases from any device. For new customers, Watson Conversation helps by understanding needs and filtering through potentially hundreds of products to get to the right one. As experiences and platforms become more connected, platforms such as Watson Conversation only become more powerful.
Get Moving with Retail
As technology continues to move forward, it is my hope that retail will do the same. While retail is in no danger of seeing its demise, the organizations who focus on innovation and experience are ultimately the ones who stand to benefit from increased revenue opportunities.
That is where cloud and cognitive come into the conversation. Even retailers experimenting with hybrid cloud stand to benefit as they take advantage of the additional customer data to personalize, understand, and contextualize each individual visit to a retail or online store. The retailers execute, the less likely a customer will be lost to a competitor down the street or online, resulting in repeat visits and word of mouth sharing.
As for me (and perhaps you?), I am hoping more retailers get on board. Running my next 5K race is far more interesting and exhilarating than manually researching and driving store to store to find the right fit.
Are you interested in hearing more about how cognitive technologies are playing a role in retail? Join our own Graham Wallis and Christine Livingston at IBM Interconnect March 19-23 in Las Vegas as they discuss how IBM Smarter Process and Watson can change businesses (Thursday March 23 at 9:30 – 10:15 AM)
Additionally, you can also send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or download our hybrid cloud below to explore further use cases.
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