IoT has the power to enrich user engagement in retail, experts say
Retailers that link their store experience to the web and mobile will win the hearts and minds of their shoppers, experts say.
Certain new technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), will go a long way towards leaving a mark on shoppers and helping retailers with their profit margins, experts at Criteo have said.
Speaking to Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview, Dirk Henke, MD of emerging markets at Criteo, noted that today's users expect convenience and personalisation in their interactions with retailers.
"IoT definitely has the potential to enrich user engagement in retail on a daily basis," he said. "Consider the phenomena of fridges thinking for you and automatically ordering items you're running out of, or Amazon dash buttons that enable you to order your favorite washing powder or toothpaste when you're running out of it with one easy click. IoT is still in early stages, but the potential is huge."
However, he also noted that IoT means a completely new data resource for retailers that will need to be processed to optimise the full customer experience. This poses a significant challenge for retailers today, and is one of the reasons why IoT is not fully in place yet.
When it comes to the offline experience versus the online experience, the line between the two is blurring, Henke says. "While shoppers appreciate the convenience of purchasing online, they still love the in-store experience. What is changing is the role and expectation of what happens in-store."
This is where omnichannel, which is fast becoming a reality, comes in. The retailers and brands that link their store experience to the web and mobile will win the hearts and minds of their shoppers. By mastering the effective aggregation, integration, and usage of offline data with online data, they will be able to leverage the offline advantage.
"Retailers who action their data, harness the capabilities to process it, and utilise intelligent technology to execute a strategy predicated on the insights they derive will be in the best position to engage with their customers effectively and be commercially successful," Henke pointed out.
The real breakthrough in the retail industry in recent years, came with the evolution of the smartphone. For years, smartphones were regarded as useful gadgets but were rarely ever used for shopping. The last few years, however, have witnessed a dramatic change in this trend, as the shift from desktop shopping to mobile shopping gained speed. Within the span of three to four years, the Middle East rapidly developed into a region with one of the highest shares of mobile among all digital sales in the world.
In the last quarter of 2016, 34 per cent of all online purchases were completed on mobile, and 88 per cent of those purchases took place on smartphones, according to Criteo's 'State of Cross-Device Commerce Report' for the GCC.
"Today, smartphones are an elementary part of our lives; they are with us when we go to the mall and whenever we consider buying something," Henke said.
With the rise of mobile, multi-device usage also became cutting edge.
"Shoppers use different devices such as desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones for e-commerce, especially here in the Middle East," Henke revealed. "I often have meetings where people put three to four smartphones on the table. For retailers it's a huge challenge to know that they all belong to the same person, so they can address this person with relevant product offers and don't risk over-targeting them."
He added: "There is no longer a difference between online and offline customers - people expect the same services online and offline and a seamless user experience. Users want what they want at the precise moment they want it on the channel they want - that's today's reality."