The Deck Commerce team hit the road this week for one of the biggest retail events of the year: Shoptalk. Over ten thousand commerce professionals gathered in Las Vegas to network, learn about industry trends, hear insights from some of the biggest names in retail, and discover new technologies to support their business needs.
And while thousands of conversations were taking place, it was clear there were a few key things on retailers’ minds this year.
Top of mind by far for many retailers was the hot topic of Generative AI. As retail scales at the speed of efficiency, brands and retailers are asking themselves how to leverage this new technology to meet their business goals and make their teams more productive.
According to Shoptalk, some of the key benefits of generative AI for retail are: personalization at scale, enabling “commerce everywhere”, and leveraging AI in product searches. For example, a shopper can ask a chat bot “What should I wear to a bachelorette party in Austin?” and it will curate personalized product options.
The second most popular topic of conversation revolved around the “next generation of omnichannel” or unified commerce—creating frictionless and continuous shopping experiences across all channels and stores. According to Google, 90% of physical store shopping experiences start online, elevating the importance of crafting seamless end-to-end shopping experiences.
Unified commerce includes things such as personalization at scale as mentioned above, highlighting estimated delivery dates on the storefront, and omnichannel fulfillment options (just to name a few). Brands understand they need to provide “fast and free” delivery, but also need their fulfillment processes to be profitable. Brands such as Best Buy use their omnichannel fulfillment options to drive top-line growth. Omnichannel fulfillment includes methods such as BOPIS, Curbside Pickup, Ship from Store, Ship to Store, and Ship to Warehouse.
Order orchestration is key to empowering omnichannel fulfillment. Pre-built workflows can route orders to the best, most cost-efficient location whether that’s a warehouse or a retail store. Brands can set store capacity levels to ensure fulfillment centers aren’t overwhelmed as well as set rules around split shipments or ship complete to match their brand promise.
While many retailers spent the last few years focused on creating frictionless experiences, Shoptalk predicts that the open space in the market is for brands to focus on creating a continuous unified experience from browsing online to walking through the retail store to initiating a return.
Tech Investments for Efficiency
With a tight labor market, brands have leaned into automating as many manual tasks as possible to make their teams more efficient—not only on the fulfillment and delivery side, but in every step of the customer journey.
This is where successful brands understand the need for investing in the right technology. Retailers are looking to cut costs, improve average order value, and have clear metrics around what is working and what is not. They need visibility into all their inventory sources and the ability to pivot as the market changes. And most of all, they need to know what value they are getting out of their tech investments.
Empowering Store Associates
In addition to automation, brands continue to invest in giving their store associates the tools they need to be more productive. Mobile apps help frontline workers better serve their customers so they can answer questions like: Is there inventory available at a nearby store? Can they accept alternate forms of payment? How easy is it to return items? Giving customer service access to data at their fingertips empowers them to delight their customers while also taking pride in the work they are doing.
For example, Kohl’s made an investment in their store associate tools and saw a 40% increase in retention after giving their people tools to make their jobs easier. With the right tools and manual tasks automated, retailers can have their people focused on higher-level leadership activities which leads to career growth and higher employee satisfaction.
While the economy and inflation was on everyone’s minds, the atmosphere of Shoptalk was one of optimism, not fear. Retailers have been hit on all sides these past few years. They’ve had to learn how to be one of the most agile and creative industries—investing in technology when they need to, but not sacrificing their people to do so.
The retail industry had an impactful few days in Las Vegas this week. As we look the future, we look forward to seeing how brands and retailers implement these trending topics of generative AI, unified commerce, leveraging technology for efficiency, and empowering store associates.