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Redefining the retail experience for all ages – what are the tech challenges?

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Cutting edge artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies are already making their way into retail, but are they being used in the best possible ways and at the right time?

CenturyLink surveyed more than 2,000 ‘Baby Boomers’ (over 55s) and Generation Z (16-20) to identify what these groups expect from retailers when it comes to future technologies that enhance their experience.

The findings are interesting, whatever your age.

The Generational Divide

When it comes to redefining the retail experience through digital transformation, it is clear misconceptions and preconceptions could lead to missed opportunities. There are 10 key opportunities for retailers:

  1. Get the digital transformation basics right
  2. Reduce data silos and improve intelligent analysis for tailored offers and relevant promotions
  3. Use better technology  in-store  for locating items and placing orders
  4. Retailers must make a virtue of the digital-first generation’s access to technology and social media
  5. Use beacon technology to transmit offers in-store directly to customers’ smartphones
  6. Retailers must educate Baby Boomers on the benefits of the in-store technology available to employees
  7. Using enhanced technology to speed up payment, freeing up time for staff to provide more advice
  8. Training staff to better use the technology  and empowering them in digital skills
  9. Using technology to manage stock levels
  10. Changing perceptions of robots means first focusing on people rather than technology. This will increase customer loyalty, retention and sales – and robots can then be implemented to build on the positive experiences.

When to deploy digital revolutions

Understanding when to push the button to stay ahead of the curve and your competitors is crucial. Many new forms of digital disruption are now available to trial, meaning retailers must decide WHEN will be best to implement.

According to the study, 4 in 10 (41%) of Gen Z said they’d be “More Likely” to buy something if they could use Virtual Reality in-store or at home to try it on or get a feel for using it. The Baby Boomers were excited by this new frontier too with 26% saying it would influence them positively to make a purchase. There is a tangible use case for this.

But when it came to replacing humans with robots, the future doesn’t look so bright as 8 in 10 (79%) of Baby Boomers believed transforming shopping into a fully digital experience with automation replacing any human service or support would lead to a negative customer experience while more than half (55%)  of Gen Z felt the same. Interestingly, both groups prized the human face of retail; 84% of Baby Boomers said real people could answer questions technology couldn’t and 86% believed they provided a friendlier experience. For Gen Z, 76% agreed with the former point while 8 in 10 also desired that positive emotional connection.

Ian Butler, Head of Retail, at CenturyLink, says: “Our research proves that while there is a real place for robots, automation and new technology within retail, it starts with winning over the confidence and trust of consumers by getting the basics of digital transformation right first. Only then can retailers implement more futuristic ideas to make the process of shopping faster and more seamless, without removing the interactions customers appreciate and love from human employees.”

Successful retail digital transformation is only possible when both young and older consumers are considered. New ways of operating will only reap in the rewards once everyday problems and gripes have been solved, either by humans or the simplest forms of technology. By working hard to understand these differing generational mindsets, retailers can move positively into a future that heralds huge opportunities. Whether it is for growth or large-scale experiential change, one of the most adaptable of British industries now has the chance to lead the way in the benefits of automation.

Image: Fotolia

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