Ecommerce has transformed the retail industry by offering consumers a wealth of choices and conveniences. But online shopping has also substantially driven shoppers to expect highly personalized ecommerce experiences.
“The challenge retailers face is how to provide a personal shopping experience at the scale that the internet provides,” says Michelle Fischer, chief customer officer at Kibo, a cloud commerce technology provider. “Retailers need to be able to create personalized experiences around how and what consumers buy.”
For retailers, providing a personalized experience means offering a wide array of shopping and fulfillment options for shoppers to choose from. Technology helps retailers do that by enabling them to coordinate online, mobile and in-store shopping into a single, cohesive experience. After the sale, retailers can also take advantage of order management technology to offer innovative fulfillment options, such as in-store pickup and returns, alongside traditional home shipping.
Align with lifestyles
“Retailers are responding to shoppers’ need for multichannel shopping experiences that align with their individual lifestyles,” Fischer says. While some shoppers need convenient fulfillment options that work with their busy schedules, others need special shipping options because they may live somewhere that’s difficult for a delivery driver to access. “It’s the broadening of these capabilities that allow each individual to discover a shopping experience that is personal to them,” she says.
Retailers also need to focus on what customers purchase and then personalize around that as well. “Artificial intelligence, machine learning and personalization make up the most rapidly growing sector within retail software—and it’s no mystery why,” she says. “The promise of being able to deliver what a consumer wants, at the moment she wants it, is too good to pass up.”
But it’s precisely because the promise of predictive product recommendations sounds so good that many retailers are often skeptical of it, Fischer says. “Ironically, the buzz around all things AI has provided fertile ground for opportunistic vendors who overpromise, under-deliver and only exacerbate that skepticism,” she says.
Understand the journey
That’s why retailers need to carefully consider which vendors they buy their technology from, Fischer says. “Ecommerce technology is becoming more mature, while also becoming a must-have rather than a nice-to-have,” she says. “Retailers should seek out technology vendors that look beyond competing solely on price and features. Every retailer out there is working hard to grow, stay competitive or just to keep up. Retailers need technology vendors that are aware of where their clients are in their journey and risks they’re willing to take to innovate.”
At the very least, retailers should implement capabilities that can serve as the foundation for future ecommerce strategies, such as inventory visibility and multi-location fulfillment, Fischer says. “That’s where the technology providers step in, and that’s also the point when a retailer can determine which provider will be a good partner for its organization.”
There are a lot of software vendors out there. And while software is great, it’s only as good as the people who use it. “The best vendors are the ones that focus on the people,” she says. “At Kibo, we guide retailers through the challenges of digital transformation. And we invite our clients to innovate along with us as we push retail forward.”