What will the retail shopping experience look like in a few years? A recent National Retail Federation technology conference in San Francisco provided some tantalizing glimpses into a future that's fast taking shape.
NRFtech 2019 attracted several hundred retail CIOs and technology executives. The conversations I had with these leaders made it clear that the retail landscape is evolving at an astonishing pace. And the more I learned, the more I realized how many ways Boomi can help retailers capitalize on new technologies and opportunities.
For example, we're already seeing Amazon Go and other retail innovators pioneer autonomous shopping in physical stores – no lines, no cashiers, just select your products and walk out.
In another trend, retailers are focused on blending the digital and physical within brick-and-mortar stores, breaking down channel barriers that can fragment the customer experience and giving shoppers more flexibility and choice.
And we're also witnessing the rapid rise of voice commerce, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help consumers select, purchase, reorder and pay for products simply by speaking with an intelligent bot.
I see potential for Boomi to help retailers in all three of these new areas, as they all depend heavily on data exchange and transactional automation.
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Blending the Physical and Digital in Stores
Consumers are immersed in digital experiences throughout the day – so why not in a physical store? Retailers are now infusing digital throughout the organization, most notably within brick-and-mortar establishments.
This can take many forms. “Endless aisle” shopping through in-store kiosks and mobile web access points lets consumers browse and purchase goods which are not in stock within a store. And retailers are redoubling efforts to ensure that consumers can buy online and return in-store quickly, easily and hassle-free.
Another focus is on equipping sales associates with easy access to customer and inventory data. This helps associates personalize the shopper experience and “save the sale” by checking other stores for inventory or helping set up an online purchase.
Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora's executive vice president of omni-retail, gave a presentation at NRFtech showcasing a terrific example of the beauty retailer's digital and physical crossover innovation.
Sephora, which operates over 2,500 stores worldwide, including more than 460 stores across the Americas, offers a "digital makeover guide" that mixes technology and one-on-one time with a beauty advisor to create a highly personalized and digital experience for the consumer, with makeover options and images displayed on a phone.
Sephora's in-store makeover sessions are electronically captured into the customer profile to aid product purchases. Sephora is building intimacy with shoppers by understanding their needs and catering to their wishes – and that’s the goal of just about every retailer.
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Autonomous aka Cashierless Shopping
Another hot topic at NRFtech was autonomous shopping. This "grab and go" innovation is attracting investments from a large number of retailers. Not only does it eliminate long checkout lines and self-checkout scanning hassles, it also helps reduce labor costs.
Autonomous shopping is still young, so we're seeing a variety of approaches. For example, consumers with the Amazon Go mobile app can walk into any Amazon Go store, select products and walk out. Technology tracks products in a virtual cart and charges the shopper's Amazon account upon exit.
Meanwhile, a number of startups have opened stores or are partnering with retail brands to bring autonomous shopping into established brick-and-mortar stores. Those include Grabango, Standard Cognition, Trigo Vision and Zippin, each of which had executives on a panel at NRFtech.
And innovators such as Caper and Five Elements Robotics are producing “smart carts" – traditional shopping carts equipped with technology that helps in-store shoppers find, select and pay for products. The days of browsing People magazine while waiting 15 minutes in a checkout line may be fast coming to an end: A built-in screen on the cart accepts credit card and digital wallet payments.
Voice commerce, which lets shoppers select and buy goods via a digital assistant, adds a new channel to traditional in-person and digital purchasing. As Amazon Pay vice president Patrick Gauthier noted at NRFtech, Amazon’s Alexa devices let consumers browse, purchase and reorder products simply through speech. And AI-driven Alexa will recommend products based on consumer history and behavior.
Google is also moving quickly into voice commerce, with its Google Assistant and Google Express technologies. Retailers including Walmart, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and others have partnered with Amazon and/or Google on voice commerce – a market that one research firm predicts will grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $40 billion by 2022 in the U.S. and U.K.
Retail is a core industry for Boomi. Our unified platform helps retailers connect data and application silos so they can deliver a personalized and frictionless omnichannel experience across all touchpoints – ecommerce websites, mobile devices, social media, physical stores and call centers.
The accelerating speed of innovation in retail depends in large part on integrating information and applications so that processes run seamlessly and reliably, ensuring the quality of the customer experience. That's what future-proofing any business is all about.
Boomi plays a vital role in helping retailers optimize inventory, manage ecommerce orders, optimize processes and connect with trading partners through electronic data interchange (EDI). Hundreds of retailers including Kelly-Moore Paints, Lucky Brand and The White Company rely on Boomi to run smarter and faster.
Ultimately, it’s about delivering the right data at the right time to every application and individual involved in a process. This accelerates the speed of retail and equips merchants to delight customers, drive sales and achieve new cost efficiencies.
And that’s Boomi’s sweet spot. We'll continue closely tracking retail trends and be ready to provide integration, master data management, API creation and management, workflow automation and other capabilities essential for embracing innovation in whatever new form it may take.
To find out more about how the Boomi unified platform can help your organization innovate, contact a Boomi integration expert today.
About the AuthorMore Content by Andrew Hawthorn