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This year’s trends show that meeting changing customer needs and personalization at scale are more important than ever. Volatility in the industry, shows how retailers are dealing with disruption and the value of IT agility and its underlying technology investments.

“Fifty-three percent of retailers expect demands on their organizations’ digital experience to accelerate beyond what has already occurred over the past two years.” – Adobe Report

Retail gets even more personal

Personalization in retail has been around for a long time. However, it persists in being one of the marketing buzzwords this year. While not a new concept, the time has come for retailers to close the personalization gap between customer expectations and the retailer’s ability to meet them. At the same time, customer loyalty is under pressure and at stake.

Below, we’ll uncover a few things to keep in mind as we move into 2022:

Expectations have changed forever: First, it’s important to keep in mind that the acceleration toward digital that started at the beginning of the pandemic is here to stay. Customers now expect retailers to master the digital experience, and that means anticipating what customers want.

Customers want to be recognized across all their channels: This means customers want seamless, interconnected experiences both in-store and online. This will require retailers to work even harder to understand engagement across all channels.

It’s getting harder to stand out in the Marketplace: The marketplace is increasingly competitive and complex, and customer loyalty can change rapidly. Today’s consumers have many choices, which means that staying relevant will require more effort. While all retailers are aware that experience is important, now is the time to differentiate the experiences they offer.

Customers expect consistency and honesty: Customers are aware that retailers face a broad spectrum of challenges, especially now. They don’t expect perfection. Instead, customers want realistic expectations set and to be told promptly if those expectations cannot be met. In short, people are looking for retailers to be responsive and transparent.

“The only way to keep people coming back is to offer experiences that delight the customer and differentiate from what they can get elsewhere. If you try to win on price alone, you’re going to lose: there’s only one Amazon that’s going to offer the cheapest products.” – Avery Worthing-Jones, Senior Vice President, Product Management, Gap Inc.

Disruption has become routine

Retailers must continually navigate uncertainty and issues beyond their control. But more important is how their business responds to the unknown.

Business volatility will be a feature of 2022

Despite challenges such as supply chain logistics and rising inflation, your ability to focus on the customer and deliver seamless omnichannel experiences will be critical throughout 2022 and beyond.

The stakes are higher than ever before

Online spending continues to rise-the 2021 holiday season at Online Retailers surpassed $200 billion for the first time, up 44% from 2019-and these numbers are expected to be even higher throughout 2022. Now is the time to dial up the agility to be able to adapt to new circumstances and new opportunities at high speed, even with disruptions.

Mobile technology will play a larger role in the in-store experience. As retailers face human resource shortages, mobile becomes a tool to deepen engagement with the brand. In fact, 37% of professionals in our survey cited mobile apps for in-store shopping as their top investment priority for 2022.

Loss of tracking cookie data will drive consent-based marketing

With the impending elimination of third-party cookies, the pressure is on to find new ways to access and unify customer journey information. Retailers that succeed will divest themselves of third-party cookie data and rely on customer data for whose use they have explicit consent. Integration of platforms and unification of data will yield major benefits.

Your ability to adapt to circumstances and take advantage of opportunities will be determined, in part, by the technology you have at your core. Make sure IT decision makers are part of the strategic conversations and understand the subtleties of the retail business.

Channels and experiences must be connected

Today’s retailers can’t afford to operate in silos. All of their core platforms, such as commerce, point of sale, warehouse management, order management, etc., must work seamlessly. Artificial intelligence (AI) becomes mainstream to unify customer data and improve the experience. More sophisticated AI solutions are making it easier and less expensive for retailers to connect the data points that help personalize experiences. However, for retailers to be able to use AI and machine learning (ML), it is critical that they are trained. In addition, automation will also enable employees to offload manual tasks in favor of higher-value operations that solve customer pain points and create novel experiences.

Focus on data strategy

While retailers have made progress in this area, there is still room for improvement. Only 25% of respondents believe they are “very effective” at collecting and protecting data.

“There is only one north star: the shopper. Our ability to understand it is paramount, and it follows that we need to understand their behavior at the various touch points, especially in our stores.” – Vice President of Marketing at a European retailer

Chart your own path to success

Success is a moving target, especially in retail. And it’s not enough to “keep up with the times.” Retailers must be on the lookout for the next trend and innovation. That doesn’t mean chasing every new fad. Rather, you have to be open to new behaviors and be prepared to adapt.

“We’ve been at this for a decade and we’re still learning. And it’s so competitive that we have to continually invest in updating our tools, analytics, etc. The one thing I know is that I can’t take my foot off the gas.” – Vice president of digital for a U.S.-based general products retailer

The digital experience you design must reflect the understanding that customers don’t think in terms of separate channels or stages, such as mobile or in-store. Everything is interconnected and personalization of the customer journey has never been more important. You have to look at the customer holistically and tailor processes to fit their individual needs rather than trying to mold their needs to fit the company’s processes. And finally, embrace intelligent technology – AI and ML – to refine information gathering and streamline workflows to help you deliver the best possible customer experience in 2022 and beyond.

Source: Adobe Blog