Technology is transformative and empowering, allowing retailers to operate faster, more efficiently and drive growth. Over the last 18 months, retailers rapidly digitised, consolidating their operations, migrating online and keeping their businesses open in the face of a generational challenge. However, in the retail industry, human interaction is, and always will be, essential; driving positive customer experience and separating good businesses from great ones. Technology and human interaction works best when they enhance one another. As the promise of a more stable 2022 approaches on the horizon, now is the opportune time to ensure your technology and human interactions are working in perfect harmony. 

Personalised customer journey plan

Customers are looking for businesses that provide personalised experiences that are unique to them, rather than repetitive one-size-fits-all processes that can feel robotic. Gartner found that 88% of customers report not receiving ‘tailored help’, and to make matters worse, brands are at risk of losing 38% of customers because of poor personalisation. 

To make hyper personalisation occur naturally, utilise technology that remembers a shopper’s preferences and purchase history. For example, if a repeat shopper visits your store, through their profile, your sales assistant can provide tailored recommendations and advice based on products they know the customer likes.

You don’t need to be face-to-face to provide this level of human personalisation. For example, if a shopper has viewed or purchased a specific style of clothes on your website or eCommerce store, technology can generate a suggestion such as, ‘Since you viewed this, you may also like this’. While implementing this technology may seem like a daunting or unachievable task, it will help your business create experiences that impress customers and keep them for the long haul.

Smart technology for smart personalisation

Don’t underestimate the value of multiple touchpoints. Technology that connects with customers on multiple channels like telephone, email, live chat, and social media ensures that a customer’s questions and needs are met, however they want to interact with you. By providing multiple touchpoints, you’re demonstrating that you’re accessible, willing to communicate and not just an unstaffed email address that is rarely responded to. 

AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help with finding important information from the CRM, sending task reminders, alerts, and suggestions for the best times to contact customers based on their preferences and previous interactions. AI can also prioritise which emails should be addressed first. For example, if a shopper sends an email about a negative experience, AI will identify the displeased feedback and flag the email so you can address it first. Sometimes, the smallest things like a prompt response can make the biggest difference. 

Analytics nurture new and current clients

While metrics and data points are vital in showing ROI, using analytics to detect trends can aid your business to acquire and retain shoppers.  First, though, ask yourself what key information you’d like to understand and how this data will help to create a more personalised experience for your shoppers.

For example, analytics can identify what patterns are critical for customer satisfaction. If multiple shoppers who purchased a specific product keep returning it due to the same defect, that data will identify that you need to consider, for example, a new material, supplier or process of assembly. Or, if the data shows a particular customer buys a lot of beachwear from your business, you could offer them a discount on your upcoming Summer range. 

Don’t ignore your responsibilities when it comes to data privacy and strong security measures, though. As eCommerce sales boom, shoppers are rightfully concerned about how their data will be used, so it’s important to ensure that it’s protected. Customers are more willing to provide personal information if their customer experience is hyper-personalised. Hence, find a harmonious balance by creating a personalised experience without jeopardising consumer data.

Saying technology can make a retail business more human sounds contradictory, but when used the right way, technology can enrich the customer experience and meet the unique needs of individual shoppers. Because most retailers have digitised in the last 18 months, competition is high. Simply having technology and a streamlined customer journey is not enough to set you apart, today, when people want personalisation.

When it comes to customer experience, people want to feel valued and human. Rewarding, personalised and meaningful human interactions are the core of what we love about the retail industry, and with technology streamlining and enhancing behind-the-scenes, you can provide the human connections that are often the difference between good and great businesses.

Vijay Sundaram is the chief strategy officer at global technology platform, Zoho.