One thing is sure for retail in 2021: we won’t be going back to business as usual. And for many digital-first retailers, and consumers, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In-store shopping had already taken a hit in the years before the pandemic and these past months have accelerated digital innovation across the board. Plus, much of what’s been adopted will stick in 2021 and beyond.

In the coming year, retailers should focus on how they can make connections and engage customers without making contact. Here are a few predictions and tips for the year ahead from the team at Lucidworks, provider of the Connected Experience Cloud.

Assisted Selling Features Are Here to Stay

Peter Curran

“As COVID set in, apparel, housewares, and similar categories scrambled to set up scheduling and video conferencing features for live design and styling services. As the pandemic lurches toward 2021, more companies will embrace this survival tactic and adoptees will derive a lot of adjacent value. Most of these types of services include pre-appointment questionnaires that orient the associate to the needs of the customer for better efficiency. These surveys can be tied to purchases to help with segmentation and merchandising strategies.

The associates need applications to be enriched with assisted selling features. Where this is done elegantly and effectively, I believe the selling modality will stick after the pandemic and assisted selling apps will become further entrenched in physical retail.”

-Peter Curran, Lucidworks, General Manager Digital Commerce

Adapt to the Unexpected

Katie Boschele

“This year has been a life changing year for retail. For a long time, ecommerce and omnichannel experiences have been evolving and showing a stronger presence than the year before. 2020 thrust all retailers into an adaptive online existence, accelerating online sales growth with many brick and mortar stores being shut down for extended periods of time. Consumers were utilizing online shopping for basic needs and necessities like they never had before. Not only did retailers have to adapt to the accelerated sales growth but they had to be prepared for ways to handle out of stock inventory and supply issues. Don’t panic; plan for what you can anticipate and adapt when you need to.”

-Katie Boschele, Lucidworks, Product Manager, UI Team

Diversified Catalogs Boost AOV

Garrett Schwegler

“The continued accelerated shift to online shopping is not slowing down. To catch this wave, we’re seeing sites expand and diversify their catalogs as both a traffic driver and AOV booster. This behavior is increasing competition within and across verticals. Sites without exceptional product discovery experiences will be left in the dust to unforeseen competition. Provide individualized results and recommendations to get shoppers to checkout before they jump back to Google.”

-Garrett Schwegler, Lucidworks, Program Manager Digital Commerce

Connected Experiences Drive Omnichannel Personalization

Will Hayes

“Omnichannel personalization remains a top priority for brands. However, most brands are unable to consistently service customers across touchpoints and personalize their experiences in real-time. Although brands have a vision for omnichannel personalization, they’re still getting tripped up by data silos, technology limitations, and old habits.For years, customer experience (CX) has taken priority over employee experience (EX), but companies are increasingly discovering a connection between better EX and improved CX.

Companies that are able to connect EX to CX can improve both. We see significant business benefits from connected experiences from our own customers. For example, Lenovo saw conversions increase by 35 percent after they began capturing customer signals and applying those insights to their business. Another customer, a leading department store, saw a 50 percent increase in conversions after capturing signals and applying insights in real time to optimize the shopper experience.”

-Will Hayes, Lucidworks, CEO

Customer Service Doubles Down on Machine Learning

Justin Sears
“The typical contact center had been changing for years, before the pandemic hit. Modern customer service already favored omnichannel customer experiences, powered by natural language processing (NLP), machine learning (ML), virtual assistants, chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR). With COVID-19, contact volumes increased dramatically at the same time that many contact center employees began working remotely. Even as consumers shift back towards modified, in-person shopping, customer service leaders have learned new ways to pleasantly deflect support calls with those new technologies. Those new strategies will persist and fundamentally change the ways consumers interact with the companies they do business with. In 2020, the trend towards smart self-service options leapt ahead by several years, and we will feel the results of that acceleration in 2021.”

-Justin Sears, Lucidworks, VP of Product Marketing

Consumer behavior research shows that consumers are likely to keep the behaviors they’ve adopted during the pandemic, such as more online shopping and fewer in-store visits. Digital experiences should be able to connect the dots between every interaction by capturing signals from customer behavior and applying those insights across every channel, in real-time. Retailers that invest in connecting digital experiences across store, site, app, purchase, delivery, and support will be able to ride out the next waves in 2021 and win loyal customers.

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