Helping retailers make the customer journey as smooth and painless as possible

The retail industry is undergoing a digital revolution. We are slowly seeing retailers venture into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) customer assistants, virtual dressing rooms and VR showrooms.

Right now, these technologies are only in their beginning stages, but it won’t be long before they become just another everyday part of the overall retail experience.

These developments will also help retailers reduce industry costs, increase productivity and improve the customer experience. An AI assistant can help get information to a customer quicker, while VR can give the consumer an experience without the need of venturing out far.

Customers don’t want a fragmented, confusing narrative from retailers, but a genuine omnichannel experience. They want to be able to get information quickly about a product. They want shopping to be seamless regardless of the medium they choose to purchase with, whether it is using a mobile app, over the phone or in person in a store.

But for a lot of retailers so far, setting this up has been harder than it looks. It has been difficult to track inventory and connect different supply chains together so customers get the instant service they want. And with so many different new technologies coming onto the market, they are unsure which one is best for them to invest in.

It has been a challenge for retailers, and many have been using data to understand patterns in their business, such as consumer behaviour, the products they are buying and what messages resonate most with them. Data can also be used to help track inventory and see where things are in the supply chain.

Retailers currently serve nearly 60 million customers a week and generate £340 billion in sales a year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – and to improve profits and productivity, technology is what retailers are turning to.

But introducing new technology in the retail industry is not only likely to change the way retailers do business, it will also mean roles for people working in the industry changing. A BRC study has predicted there will be as many as 900,000 fewer jobs in the retail industry by 2025. Elsewhere, a study by Deloitte has suggested that in the next 20 years, 60% of retail jobs are at high risk of automation, while store closure is also predicted to increase.

It is likely that people with skills in analysing data or building software will be in greater demand in the industry. The BRC expects that, after analysing data from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), there will be an additional 100,000 new jobs in these areas.

Over the coming years the digital revolution will continue to take hold of the industry. And, whether we are buying goods through VR headsets or an AI customer assistant or not, it will be a completely different environment to today’s.

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