Rethinking the retail experience through text analytics

Illustration by jasic

Picture this: you’re browsing through the app of your favourite clothing retailer when you spot a pair of jeans you love. Your thumb hovers over the purchase button as you weigh the potential hassle of returning an ill-fitting pair against the time-consuming experience of finding, trying and purchasing the item in store. 

But wait… the app is giving you a third option. You can now select the items that pique your interest, choose your size and colour, and then book a time to pop into the store and stroll directly into a changing room already packed with your items of choice. Once in there, that same app allows you to request different sizes, have a coffee delivered straight to your changing room, and request custom adjustments like embellishments and tailoring.

Now that’s a seamless, memorable customer experience.

And it’s precisely what happens when customers use Nordstrom’s unique “Reserve Online & Try In-Store” feature – which turned 80% of pilot customers into repeat users.

Technologies like AI and text analytics are redefining our entire understanding of the retail experience

While some have been ringing the alarm about the imminent death of the brick-and-mortar store, others have seized opportunities presented by brand new technology like AI and text analytics to redefine our entire understanding of the retail experience. And they have everything to gain: a 2017 U.S. Census report found that 90% of all retail purchases in America were made in brick-and-mortar locations, and yet 53% of Millenials feel associates don’t have the technology or tools they need to deliver on their customer experience expectations. Yet those same Millenials are more than willing to give retailers the data and feedback they need to deliver. In fact, was early as 2017, 15% of them were interested in retailers using “social media sentiment analysis to identify and resolve customer service and satisfaction issues.” 

So as physical stores compete with the speed, ease and simplicity of online shopping, creative retailers are adjusting to shifting expectations by leveraging the one thing digital experiences can’t offer: a remarkable, in-person interaction in a carefully crafted physical space designed to create connections and bridge their online and offline experiences. 

Because as brick-and-mortar stores are finding out, the question is no longer “why should I shop in your store instead of another” but “why should I shop in a store at all?” With the help of text analytics and immersive new technology, retailers now have the data capacity and information they need to answer that question confidently.

Reimagining in-store engagement

In many ways, today’s innovative retailer is using new technology to bring back the sense of personal care and service that defined the customer experience decades ago. Before the blossoming of big-box retail stores, buying a pair of pants would mean heading to your favourite local store where you’d be greeted by a long-time employee who knew your size, your stylistic preferences and the name of your children. To keep your little ones entertained as you browse, the store might keep a few toys or books behind the counter, and your dedicated store clerk would happily scan the store to bring you a different size or style. 

I think the future of retail is two things: it’s entertainment and community. If we’re the same people who live in the digital world than the physical world, we want the same things. We just want them relevant in the delivery mechanism that’s most appropriate. – Rachel Shechtman, Founder, Story

Today, former retail consultant and Story founder Rachel Shechtman believes we have to take those proverbial toys and personalized services to the next level in order to stand out.

One of the concepts she says we need to translate from the digital world to our understanding of brick-and-mortar? Impressions and engagement.

To collect that data, her team at Story tracks how people move around in the space, where they linger, whether they’re drawn to a product or fixture – effectively creating a digital reaction to every physical action, and collecting invaluable data along the way. With that lense, time spent looking at a product might become your average session time, items left unpurchased near the cash register become your abandoned cart, and foot traffic can be treated like web traffic. But of course, those countless data points – along with the additional qualitative data collected through digital channels and social media – can only be turned into insight with the right solution to aggregate, centralize, analyze and contextualize it all.  That’s when AI and text analytics come in.

Creating, improving and measuring delightful experiences through text analytics

If there’s one thing most retailers can agree on, it’s that the shift towards digital commerce has given consumers a lot more power.

And how do they provide that feedback? Through their purchases, of course, but also through a whole range of digital, social and in-app behaviours. 

Take Lowes, for example. For years now, the home improvement giant has been integrating the latest in inventory, location tracking and AR technology to improve every aspect of their customer’s experience. Their app uses motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception to help you find every item you’re looking for; not only giving you turn-by-turn instructions to navigate their sprawling stores, but allowing you to create shopping lists and even cash in on hyper-personalized discounts as you make your way through the space. Recently, they’ve even used AR to launch a new “View in Your Space” feature that helps customers position and visualize an item within a real space, effectively allowing them to tap into the $60 billion sitting untouched as customers struggle to envision products in their home and choose not to buy.

The power for the consumer is not only in them being knowledgeable, but also in their ability to tell you how you’re performing against the promise you’re making and whether you’re being authentic. Laith Murad, CMO, Pirch

Beyond providing valuable insight into the efficiency of their product placement, the demand for new products, and the way consumers move around their retail space, the digital engagement garnered by these value-added features also affords for unique opportunities to survey consumers about their experience, solicit feedback and collect qualitative data about what works and what doesn’t. That information, combined with the right customer feedback solution, gives retailers the insight they need to craft and improve their entire customer experience in order to not only meet expectations – but to surpass and transform them.

By applying text analytics to that pool of structured and unstructured feedback data, retailers are able to measure the impact of every CX initiative and iterate while seeing the real-time positive or negative influence of their changes. Digital giants like Adobe are even throwing their hat into the ring by experimenting with the data to push personalization efforts to the next level. Michael Klein, Head of Industry Strategy for Retail, Travel & CPG, Adobe Systems explains that using the ability to segment shoppers based on loyalty, last visit date, or shopping preferences — for example — and push in-store offers within a retailers’ mobile app based on this information, allows “Adobe Analytics to capture shopper behaviors while Adobe Target further optimizes offers and delivers a hyper-personalized experience.”

Is your retail brand ready to take the leap and find out more about how text analytics can help you create and improve outstanding customer experiences to create a truly customer obsessed corporate culture?

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