There’s an interesting dichotomy in the changing customer experience: impersonal personalization. In other words, shoppers want a more personal experience, but frequently without the hassle of dealing with an actual person. Then there are those who’ll want to immerse themselves in the art and act of the experience of shopping. There’s also an interesting movement toward turning the brick-and-mortar store into more of an experiential showcase, as opposed to the showroom of products with shoppers acting as their own order pickers. When stores move from the simply transactional to the experiential, brands create a shareable experience and rise above the price-only factor.
Here are 9 interactive customer experience technologies that brands can use to reshape their customers’ experiences — some they can implement right now and some that could be coming down the pike soon.
1. Better mobile experiences
Research suggests that almost 4 in 10 shoppers use their mobile devices for shopping in-store, but there’s a huge drop off in using the same device to pay. In the future, brands will have to improve the app experience for shoppers.
2. Magic mirrors and digital signage
Imagine a shopper trying on a dress and having the mirror suggest which shoes might go best with it — or even better, superimposing images of those shoes on their feet so they can actually see what they look like together? There are already real-world deployments of this kind of tech out in the marketplace today.
3. Self-service galore
More and more people these days want to go into a store, get what they want, buy, pay and leave without ever actually having to deal with a salesperson. Interactive digital kiosks and interactive screens, as well as the Amazon Go model of buying RFID-tagged merchandise with mobile device self-checkout, make this a growing possibility.
4. Virtual and augmented reality
Virtual reality (VR) devices have the potential to take immersive experiences to an all new level, while augmented reality is perhaps VR’s more practical cousin. These technologies can create incredible engagement and drive sales. Some retailers already are using early iterations of these technologies to help shoppers design their dream homes. One has already used VR to allow customers to shop at stores half a world away.
5. Print on demand
Remember how CD and DVD players went from prohibitively expensive to ridiculously cheap in a relatively short time? (And then on to obsolete, but that’s another story.) If 3D printers follow the same path, imagine customers being able to come in, decide they like something and print it on demand.
6. Gesture interaction
The technology is available today (pair a digital signage screen with a Microsoft Kinect and you’re in business), but in terms of practical uses in the real world, there are still bugs to be worked out. Soon, however, the days of touch-interactive screens in stores could be eclipsed by gesture-interactive screens.
7. Window shopping, literally
With the advent of newer transparent screens and organic LED displays, it’s only a matter of time before retailers put up entirely interactive storefront windows. Shoppers could browse and buy without ever setting foot inside a store, or have what they want waiting for them right inside. Brands could even sell to customers who walk by after the store closes.
8. Customer personalization
As processing power continues to ramp up, along with the spread of smart, internet-connected devices in every walk of life, there are more possibilities for artificially intelligent chatbots to seamlessly interact with customers. So too do the possibilities of aggregating titanic amounts of personal data and bringing it to bear on that singular shopper in-store or online to create truly meaningful, fully personalized experiences for customers. The more brands know about their customers, the more they can use that data to deliver to what shoppers want, when they want it.
Robots have come a long way since the days of Karel Capek’s “Rossum’s Universal Robots” in the 1920s. So much so that science fiction may soon become reality. As automation becomes more prevalent across a variety of sectors, it’s only a matter of time before it moves into the customer-facing arena. It’s becoming increasingly likely that one day in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be seeing a robot in action at a store near you.