Many parts of the Retail and Hospitality sectors have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and now that economies are recovering, supply chain disruptions present further challenges. But despite this, leaders in both sectors have been investing heavily to give the consumer and business traveler what they most want – a frictionless experience with rapid availability of goods and services through multi-channels.
According to Mark Williams of Hitachi Vantara, major retail and hospitality companies have been addressing four main issues in their battle to acquire and retail target customers:
Meeting consumer expectations
Delegates at the meeting described several current challenges. Hotels are keen to ensure that food, beverages and linen are adequately provisioned through a twenty-four-hour cycle. Pubs must deal with food products that have a short shelf life. Stationers and convenience stores must build brand loyalty to ensure that customers return to their outlets. At the same time, retailers and hospitality companies must offer frictionless customer experiences on a par with Amazon Go’s autonomous shopping. All agreed the standards are increasing month by month and innovation is a crucial capability in staying ahead of competition.
Its all about the data!
The ability to capture, store and analyse customer data at every point in the product life cycle holds the secret to building customer loyalty and frictionless experience. Mobile devices, sensors and all-pervasive mobile networks enable massive quantities of data to be collected. Public cloud offers near limitless storage capacity for structured and unstructured (visual) data. The problem remains how to assemble, cleanse and effectively interpret such data.
One hotelier mentioned that his group operates over thirty different ERP systems each with its own proprietary database, making it nearly impossible to provide an integrated view of the customer. Most delegates agreed that it is no longer about loyalty. Instead, the challenge today is all about customer recognition. One top level retailer mentioned that his customers showed 98% loyalty to the brand but demanded personal recognition in store.
How data can help across the customer engagement cycle
Discussion revealed some valuable insights about where data might enable businesses to better serve their consumers, from early recognition of need to its ultimate fulfilment. Here are some vital staging posts in any commercial transaction:
As mentioned earlier, many organisations struggle to make full use of the data that is available to them through internal systems and channel partners. Replatforming legacy into cloud native applications is helping to liberate hidden data. Open APIs are also facilitating data exchange.
Personal recognition may hold the key to the future
For much of human history people have lived in villages where they were known to all inhabitants. The butcher, the baker, the vintner were familiar with every household and its personalised needs. The growth of the metropolis and the superstore has anonymised the consumer experience. How could we possibly expect a store assistant in central Manhattan to identify us as an individual?
Advances in facial and speech recognition may hold the answer to this problem. Casinos were early adopters of facial recognition to reduce fraud at the gambling table. Booking and OpenTable encourage consumers to enter their photographs. The next generation of Google glasses may enable sales assistants and receptionists to identify regular shoppers and hotel visitors. Although we cannot expect the familiarity of a village store, augmented reality may take us a step forward in the journey to full personalisation.
The discussions illustrate how complex the process of customer engagement has become in an increasingly digital world. However, advances in data analytics, digital supply chains and facial recognition indicate that a revolution is taking place in the high street. Some conclusions include:
This article was written by Roger Camrass, Director of Research for CIONET, and is based on conversations during a virtual event on 23rd March 2022 on how retail and hospitality can improve the customer experience. The event was sponsored by Hitachi-Vantara.