2020 kicked off with CES in Las Vegas which highlighted the increasing emphasis on empowered technology to engage customers.
As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, digitalisation and particularly emerging technologies are fundamentally changing how customers interact with retail brands, and with it the vast implications and opportunities it will present for the customer experience, profitability, and growth.
Retaining a competitive advantage by delivering excellent customer service is becoming increasingly challenging for retail businesses striving to be on the forward edge of delivering the customer experience expected by today’s savvy consumer.
The impact of 5G, AI, IoT and Voice Search on the retail customer experience
In-store retail technology is evolving even from today’s mobile POS terminals. Interactive displays, QR codes, and real-time marketing delivery via iBeacons on instore Wi-Fi networks are core to brand engagement and sales efficiency. Consumers are beginning to see autonomous smart shopping carts and intelligent mirrors that display product information, like at JD owned 7Fresh in China. Nike and Amazon Go’s mobile checkouts now extend across the US, Specsavers launched its live imaging tool for comparing frames in the UK, while Sephora’s virtual artist and makeover services are available at its connected stores in France.
📷 Image: 7Fresh supermarkets in China feature intelligent mirrors displaying nutritional value and product information /JD.com
It’s not just physical retail that is integrating these advances in technology. Online retail must also deliver an equally compelling experience and any associated customer service channel must also remain at the cutting edge. After all, as per PwC, one in three customers will not return after a single poor customer service experience and this figure rises to as much as 92% after more than one bad experience.
5G – instantaneous rich communication and enabling IoT
The next 18–24 months, will see the global implementation of 5G wireless networks. Downloads will become a thousand times faster and there will be much lower latency providing brands with enriched engagement opportunities with customers. 5G will effectively enable the age of the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) as consumers will be more connected than ever before; mobile devices will become like high-powered PCs and voice and text communication will always be instantaneous.
5G also presents opportunities for customer experience management improvements and innovation. The enabling of faster data collection, particularly when combined with AI, will result in real-time product and service personalisation quickly becoming a matter of course – subsequently driving customer expectations of brand engagement to new levels.
Online customer engagement will inevitably become more responsive, yet become as personal as physical face-to-face interaction, with improvements in the delivery of live web chat and video customer service communications.
Co-browsing will also become more accessible, where customer service advisors view and interact with consumer devices in real-time, to guide shoppers and perform tasks on their behalf. With 5G we can expect to see an upward trend, as Forbes report that customer service co-browsing experiences lead to customer satisfaction rates more than six points higher than average.
Voice Search – fast, accurate response and 24/7 voice assistance
Voice Search is starting to replace text search, but it also means a consumer who asks a detailed question rather than entering two- or three-word search terms expects a better response.
ComScore predicts half of all searches will be voice-activated in 2020. Though these searches might be directed at Siri, Cortana, or Alexa at first, the expectation and technology will open up new opportunities for retailers to enable a response to voice searches using voice assistants and bots. Especially within e-commerce websites.
📷 Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is an intelligent voice recognition and natural language understanding service /Amazon
Brands will need to improve their content to ensure a voice assistant presents their site and products ahead of others. And voice advances will mean that shoppers can add items to their baskets on the move as they find the answers to basic enquiries.
Chatbots will be available and used in real-time and on mobile and when combined with AI’s data gathering and learned response, will get better and better. Chatbots and virtual assistants will become so data powered and advanced, understanding buying behaviour so comprehensively, that they will be used to upsell and cross-sell to great effect. That said, expert humans still need to be available to implement, manage and support these systems.
An outsourcing partnership to confidently guide you through your digital journey.
For retailers, evolving the customer experience to become a seamless and truly insight-driven journey calls for a partnership with customer engagement experts, who are trusted technology specialists already at the cusp of technological advancement, with their finger on the pulse.
“Empowered by technology, the hyperconnected consumer is redefining value. The traditional measures
of cost, choice, and convenience are still relevant, but now control and experience are also important.”
World Economic Forum, Future of Retail.
5G brings huge opportunity, but it also presents significant risk which demands robust security controls around online interactions. Calling for todays' customer service outsourcers to be experts in handling and protecting data, GDPR and cybersecurity as well as being data specialists with the ability to process and translate this data into actionable insights.
Customer service outsourcers benefit from the economies of scale of implementing emerging technologies throughout every aspect of the customer journey, creating cost-saving opportunities in time, investment, and resources for their retail partners. Such customer service outsourcers are strategically positioned to drive innovation on behalf of their clients, with the shared goal of creating industry-leading retail customer experiences.
And the opportunities don’t end there.
With emerging technologies replacing time-consuming simple question and answer responses and data gathering processes, human customer service advisors need to be more capable than ever before. As they will become the first point of human call for challenging complex disputes or for technical product problem resolution. This growing need for engagement specialists who deal with lower volumes but with higher expertise, will become vital and outsourcing the customer experience is one way to quickly take advantage of expert teams without the hassle of recruiting and training them.
And now with chatbots picking up a high percentage of basic customer enquiries, these expert customer service advisors, empowered by data and technology will gain the bandwidth to focus on upselling and cross-selling. So not only can outsourcing partners and their highly skilled workforce produce cost savings, but they can also become an added source of revenue generation.
Outsourcing the customer experience leaves retailers free to concentrate on product delivery, development, and in-store operations, and with the right customer service outsourcing partner they can capitalise on the opportunity to architect a new technology-fuelled, retail customer experience.