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    Leveraging Technology to Enhance Customer Experience

    Thanks to today’s 24/7 information flow shoppers are leveraging technology to plot their own tactics for finding the best deals, avoid shopping at peak busy times, and jettison their customer experiences into something that is overall faster, more economic, and just better.

    To accomplish this, the majority of consumers now mix the online and in-store experience to shape their shopping experience. For instance, consumers looking for the latest version of their favorite tech gadget or concert tickets no longer have to wait for the supplier to reorder the product. They can turn to e-commerce sources to fulfill their order, and vice-versa. This type of shopper, a phy-gital shopper, can access digital information from a smartphone or tablet while standing in their brick-and-mortar store.

    For retailers in pursuit of their customers, technology is the pace setter, and the technologies that make this possible, such as mobile devices, analytics, and cloud apps, add a new dimension to the old adage of supply-meets-demand: Demand now discovers supply.

    Consumers who are more than comfortable leveraging technology to optimize their shopping experience continuously challenge retailers to meet their specific expectations. To better understand the sophistication shoppers look for in a retailer, Mindtree conducted a global survey with 4,000 respondents to decode this new age shopper and understand their preferred features online and in-store. The findings revealed key themes and invaluable statistics for retailers looking to decode their customers’ expectations.

    Anil Venkat, marketing head, retail, CPG and manufacturing vertical at Mindtree, has more than a decade of experience working in marketing for B2B companies. At Mindtree, his focus on retail, CPG and manufacturing has incubated integrated sales campaigns. He has been a marketing leader with Infosys in the past, apart from being a supply chain consultant.

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    Decoding Customer Expectations

    Click through for highlights from a survey conducted by Mindtree to decode the new age shopper and better understand customers’ preferred features online and in-store.

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    Customers and Technology

    Customers are not afraid to use technology to improve their experience: The majority of U.S. shoppers, 60 percent, combine online and in-store sources before making a purchase. Bottom line here is that consumers want more information. Whether online or in-store, they expect to get the details down to product descriptions, reviews, or pricing that makes for a seamless process that gives them information and answers to their questions before making a purchase.

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    Retailers and Social Media

    Retailers are still missing the mark with social networking: Almost 95 percent of retailers aim to connect with shoppers using social media sites, like Facebook. However, only 3 to 5 percent of shoppers have an interest in connecting with retailers or other shoppers on these channels. Shoppers willing to share personal information are happy to do so as long as it is not via social media. This doesn’t mean retailers should not have a presence in social channels. Social media can serve as a great channel for starting conversations with customers. Just don’t expect customers to fork over their address or payment information.

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    Buying More Online

    What will make customers buy more online? Half of the respondents said the top online features that could influence their spending come down to more flexible purchasing and delivery options. For instance, free home delivery could give one retailer a competitive edge over another. Also, if a customer orders a product online, they want the capability to return it to any brick-and-mortar store, saving them another trip to the post office. Customers would also be interested in more price or product comparisons and a list of best-selling products. This will make for the remarkable experience that increases the dollars put into a purchase, and the return deal-seekers know they will get the service they want.

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    Smarter, Better, Faster

    Smarter, better, and faster in-store is the way to the top: Most shoppers want to find what they are looking for, buy it, and go. Getting stalled by crowds, unavailable inventory, or lack of customer assistance are classic examples of a disrupted shopping experience. If technology can streamline these issues with features like self-checkout, product locators, apps that tell them how crowded a store is, or store associates that can check them out on a tablet, they will keep coming back and spending.

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    Customer Expectations

    Keeping up with customers is about expectations: Customers are depending on visual models to help make their buying decisions. Unfortunately, the wait for retailers to catch up continues as they struggle in two main areas. The first is product visualization – only a fraction of online retailers provide a 360-degree view of their products despite it being ranked a top feature in the apparel, footwear, electronics, and home and garden industries. The second is comparative information – while shoppers rank this as a top feature that would increase spending, only half of retailers surveyed offer accessible comparisons on features and pricing to similar products.

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    Looking to the Future

    Customers are giving retailers clues on the path to future-proof readiness: These shifts in customer behavior are defining the future staying power of retailers. For example, many retailers are working on providing greater purchase and delivery flexibility. While having an omni-channel program is not a one size fits all concept, retailers looking to thrive in tomorrow’s industry are taking steps forward to tailor their solutions to their customers that will keep customers coming back.

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