Retailers have found the evolution of smartphone use particularly
challenging. Initially online retail was just an alternative to the traditional
in-store brands, but now an omnichannel approach is more common. Large
retailers such as Walmart have found that their best customers are the ones
that sometimes visit stores, but also use the online offering too.
But I believe there are some changes ahead for retailers who want to improve their smartphone offer to customers. Here are a few specific areas where I believe we will see some big changes in the year ahead.
- Progressive Web Apps (PWA): you know how annoying it can be for your local store to insist that you download and setup their app if you want to receive any discounts? What if you never needed to download an app because the website functionality was just as good as a native app installed on the phone? That’s the promise of PWA. You don’t need a whole load of storage space on the phone and you don’t need to visit app stores – you just open the regular website and you can get the app experience. Retailers such as Alibaba and Flipkart have already been seeing very positive results by shifting their focus away from apps that need to be downloaded and I believe this will be an important trend to watch.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): we will see brands using ML more extensively to track how, what, and when customers make purchases. The more that a customer browses and shops, the more the system will learn about their preferences. By using AI on this data we can create new insights about when a customer is likely to shop and what they are likely to buy – we can start predicting their behavior and can therefore offer time-specific deals or recommendations either to encourage additional sales or to encourage loyalty.
- Augmented Reality (AR): AR has been around for quite some time now. Google launched their Sky Maps app over a decade ago, allowing phone users to identify planets and stars just by pointing their phone camera at the sky. The app that really ramped up attention on AR was the game Pokémon GO, launched in 2016 and still extremely popular. This game introduced the idea of overlaying reality, as seen by the phone camera, with additional information to millions of people and brands have explored the idea. Ikea Place allows customers to see furniture in their home before making a purchase. Lowe’s uses AR to help customers navigate inside stores, and both Timberland and Lacoste allow customers to virtually try on their products before purchasing.
These are all quite big
changes to the way that retailers are using smartphones today and I think these
changes will come quickly. You can find examples of retail leaders using
elements of all these strategies today. I’m going to drill down into these
changes in my next few articles, to think about what each of these developments
really means for retailers planning a customer experience strategy for 2020 and
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