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December 21, 2020

There have been a number of events that have split eras into times of before and after like the invention of the printing press, telephone, automobile and electricity and events like WWII, 9/11, the civil rights movement and the fall of the Berlin Wall to name just a few.

We are living through one of those times now. What we knew as normal before COVID-19 continues to fade away as we navigate a new, unknown space where we must continually find new ways to cope in an unfamiliar world.

Businesses have had to invent new ways to cope in this new world too. COVID-19 has impacted almost all industries worldwide with retail listed as the third most impacted sector just after manufacturing and travel and transportation according to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact Index by Major Sector and Dimension 2020.

While we are unsure exactly what the next normal in retail will look like, we have a glimpse at where things are heading.

Online Shopping Will Continue to Grow

Online shopping increased significantly almost overnight due to COVID-19.  $200.72 billion was spent online with U.S. retailers in Q2, up 44.4% year over year which means $1 in every $5 spent came from orders placed on the web during the April-June period. [Source: 6 Things Retailers Need to Know About How COVID-19 Has Impacted Consumers’ Online Shopping Behavior]

And that trend will continue to grow. Most consumers expect their online shopping frequency to remain the same with 31 percent of shoppers indicating they expect their online purchases to increase post-pandemic.

To compete effectively in the ecommerce world where customer expectations are high, retailers need to deliver seamless, differentiated e-commerce experiences. With fewer in-person touches, brands are looking for new ways to share sensory details of their products and services online.

The company, Purple Mattress, features images and a video on their homepage that demonstrates how the comfort-gel and grid technology used in their mattresses works. The video appeals to the senses with wistful, dreamlike music and images of white flowing sheets and huge weights gently rolling across the mattress surface that shows how their mattresses are both soft and supportive.

Lenskart, an online glasses company, use screens that can map a user’s face and suggest glasses frames to fit face shape and personal preferences. Make-up brand Sephora uses apps like Sephora Virtual Artist, and Sephora to Go mobile that allow users to virtually try on make-up and lip colors, anywhere at any time using technology facial visualization and skin analysis.

Do you have the customer insights needed to understand your customers’ needs and deliver memorable, relevant experiences that appeal to their senses?

Augmented Reality Experiences on the Rise

Augmented reality continues to be on the rise with its ability to drive deep engagement through visualization, entertainment and gamification. By 2022, Statista predicts the retail sector will represent 5% of the augmented and mixed reality software market, and it’s forecasted AR in retail will equal about $80 billion in 2022.

AR presents a great opportunity for retailers to differentiate themselves. AR has the unique ability to show details about the look and feel of a product that traditional photos can’t match. With AR, customers get a try-before-you-buy experience that makes them better able to make confident buying decisions, increasing their satisfaction and loyalty with your brand. And, when correctly implemented, AR enables retailers to deliver outstanding shopping experiences that customers will want to share with their friends.

IKEA is one of the first retailers to use augmented reality well. In 2012, IKEA stated using AR so shoppers could see how couches and chairs would look in various places around their homes. With their new app, IKEA Place, customers can select anything from the store’s catalog and see how it will look to scale in their homes. The app lets customers project 3D furniture renderings into their homes to test the look and fit before placing an order.

Lowe’s is of offering an AR app that helps professional contractors show homeowners how to handle basic home repairs. And, toy companies are using AR games to increase the value of their toys. For example, LEGO offers a game that lets kids view an AR world around their assembled works.

Are you ready to leverage the power of AR? Do you know the kinds of immersive experiences your customers would most value?

Safe, Extraordinary In-Store Experiences

As stores start to re-open nationwide, retailers must first and foremost ensure the safety of their employees and customers alike.  This includes ensuring physical distancing, mask wearing, ensuring, controlling the number of people in stores at one time, making contactless transactions the norm and providing more self-service options.

After safety precautions are in place, retailers must give customers compelling reasons to visit their stores in person. They must ask themselves, what kinds of experiences will make customers want to overcome behaviors they adopted during the shutdown?

According to Insider Intelligence, brick-and-mortar retail sales are predicted to fall 14.0% to $4.184 trillion in 2020 and it will take up to five years for offline sales to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Can delivering exceptional in-store experiences that customers cannot get online help reduce the length of time it takes for offline sales to top pre-pandemic levels?

Some retailers think it’s possible and have found ways to distinguish themselves by providing unique, immersive in-store experiences.

Nike’s store in Time Square is an example. It features a basketball court with cameras to record shots and treadmills that show the routes famous runners have taken. These kinds of experiences, sometimes referred to as ‘retailtainment’, turn into shareable moments that help brands like Nike boost their engagement and awareness.

Marvel is another example of a company that has created memorable immersive customer experiences with their touring Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N, an immersive touring exhibit that allows fans to experience the cinematic world that they have enjoyed over the years.

These kinds of experiences that cannot be replicated online are the kinds of experiences that will get people to leave the comfort of their homes.

Are you prepared to deliver the safe, immersive in-store experiences your customers crave?

The trends mentioned above provide a glimpse of how post-pandemic retail may look. What is needed to make them all successful is a deep underlying understanding of what customers want and value. New technologies combined with customer analytics and insights are core to keeping retailers relevant. Do you have a customer analytics solution in place that will enable you to combine real-time customer insights with emerging technologies?

Click here to learn how TCS Customer Intelligence & Insights can help you capture the data-driven insights needed to understand your customers constantly changing needs and deliver memorable experiences that will set your brand apart from the competition.

Kathleen Holm is Marketing Director of the TCS Digital Software & Solutions (DS&S) Group. She has more than 25 years of experience marketing technology software and services to enterprises worldwide. She leverages her extensive background in enterprise software technology to help organizations develop effective marketing strategies, create targeted messaging and positioning, and implement effective go-to-market plans to improve corporate performance. Prior to joining TCS, Kathleen was a Senior Principal of technical product marketing for Oracle Fusion Middleware where she was responsible for defining the marketing strategy based on industry maturity and customer trends. She also held positions at IBM including Market Manager for WebSphere Developer Programs, Market Manager for Tivoli Integrated Service Management and Tivoli Brand Specialist. Prior to joining IBM, Kathleen worked with four high-tech startups.

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