Reshaping Retail Customer Experience: 3 Trends for 2020 and Beyond

Sree Singaraju
Publication Date
15 May 2020

Reshaping Retail Customer Experience: 3 Trends for 2020 and Beyond

Going into 2020, consumers’ day-to-day experiences shaped their expectations. People shopped at places where they found the best selection, price, or convenience. Starting in March, experiences and expectations have been impacted by an unusual force: the COVID-19 outbreak.

From an economic standpoint, COVID-19 had a varying impact on retailers in different segments. Grocery supermarkets, discount retailers, warehouse retailers, and big box home improvement stores are experiencing a surge while most other retailers are struggling. Those that had invested in innovative digital infrastructure have found themselves well positioned to cost effectively pivot and service their customers, while others are experiencing increasing costs to service those same customers.  

From a consumer standpoint, social-distancing guidelines have enforced a shift in behavior, with more people buying online instead of shopping in person. Post-COVID-19, some may opt to make digital retail their “new normal.” Indeed, for the balance of 2020 and beyond, we believe the pandemic could accelerate and amplify three key trends. Let’s explore them.

Retail Trend #1: Contactless transactions

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 27% of U.S. online shoppers preferred to use their own device for an in-store checkout. The preference is even more pronounced among millennials (33%).

After COVID-19, that approach – along with other forms of contactless experiences – could become the de-facto standard. Customers will value not just the convenience but the safety of knowing one less person is touching the items they’re buying. Even where retailers have demonstrated strength in curbside models, they have opportunities to incorporate digital ID verification – eliminating the need to exchange a driver’s license at the point of pickup.

How are you preparing to support contactless checkout? How will that look in store vs. curbside?

Retail Trend #2: Getting personal

Within retail, personalization has been evolving from customization (reacting to customer signals) to segmentation (creating tailored experiences for groups of customers) to individualization (leveraging customer data, such as purchase history and active shopping carts, plus artificial intelligence to deliver a highly tailored shopping experience).

Mobile apps provide an ideal technical vehicle and communication channel for serving an “audience of one.” And consumers welcome this truly personal touch. In fact, in a 2018 Forrester survey, 80% of U.S. online adults indicated that they would feel comfortable sharing at least some kind of information to enable a personalized shopping experience.

Retail innovators like Stitch Fix and McDonald’s have already shown the power of personalization. Eighty percent of Stitch Fix’s active clients share feedback with the company, which then uses that data to curate “looks” for the next box. The results? Higher conversion and more items sold. For McDonald’s, investments in personalization have made it possible to adjust drive-thru menus based on real-time weather conditions, as well as customer preferences (which are linked to the license plates on their vehicles).

As more consumers get comfortable buying online, using drive thru or picking up curbside, how can you build or enhance a mobile app to show them that you know them?

Retail Trend #3: Loyalty and rewards

Did you know that 95% of Ulta’s total revenues are generated by loyalty members? Or that “Nordy Club” members drove two-thirds of Nordstrom sales in 2019? Both reflect an important tenet: great loyalty programs do more than offer coupons. They also show that great programs work. If an existing program isn’t helping to drive loyalty and increase sales, it likely needs a revamp.

In this time of social distancing, customers are increasingly interacting through digital channels. That makes it more important than ever for retailers to recognize and retain customers at every touchpoint – whether on their mobile, at a kiosk, by phone or in store. Critical to making that happen is artificial intelligence (AI) and its unique strengths in helping to collect, analyze, and act on detailed customer data.

Do customers love your loyalty program? How can you make it even better to bolster retention and wallet share?

These are just a few of the trends and technologies changing how retailers engage with customers. Retailers are also embracing behind-the-scenes innovations. In an upcoming post, we will explore the role of technologies in fueling operational efficiency, worker productivity and effectiveness, and more.  

Ready to think about how you can get ahead of the curve and tackle these trends now? Let’s talk.

Sree Singaraju

Sree Singaraju is the Senior Vice President of AI and Cloud Services at Mobiquity. In his experience, the cloud is the key enablement ingredient for any digital solution: mobile, voice, web, chat, AI/ML. Since the cloud is at the center of every Mobiquity engagement, Sree is a natural fit and great asset to every company engagement. Blending his experience leading transformations at organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Dun & Bradstreet, Merrill Lynch, and State Street Bank, with his expertise in cloud and artificial intelligence, Sree spends his time helping companies transform their goals into reality. A true believer in the power of personalization, Sree wants to support companies in their journey to create responsible AI. To do this, Sree’s work involves creating programs that cater to an audience of one, meaning every single engagement that a user has is personalized to them. No longer will customers get ads for credit cards they already have or promotions for meat lover’s pizza if they are a vegetarian. Rather, Sree is focused on creating meaningful experiences for each individual customer. In his spare time, Sree enjoys playing tennis with his friends and even participates in local tournaments. He has two sons and has coached their baseball teams. Sree is also very interested in podcasts, specifically ones that offer different perspectives so that he can learn new things and gain inspiration that can carry over into his work-life. Sree holds an MBA in Information Technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is a graduate of Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University where he studied Civil Engineering.

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