Bluecore, which serves 400 retailers — including Tommy Hilfiger, Perry Ellis, Teleflora, Staples and Best Buy Canada — built its Retail Performance Cloud entirely on Google Cloud.

Focusing on the “customer experience” — or as marketers call it, “CX” — has emerged as a high priority for retailers and brands looking to increase conversion rates, build loyalty and attract new customers. But at this week’s Shoptalk, and the NRF’s Big Show earlier this year, retailers and brands are learning that there’s no single solution to make it work.

Instead, a clear strategy armed with the right technology is required. To help retailers and brands articulate those strategies, cloud-based call-back solution provider Fonolo today released its annual CX trend report. The company said retailers are “striving to take customer experience more seriously than in the past and, as a result, are realizing that CX is what makes the difference in ROI, sales, customer loyalty and overall success.”

“However, this is easier said than done,” authors of the report noted. “The customer of today is informed, connected and possesses more product and service knowledge than ever before. To succeed, companies must continuously meet the extraordinary demands and expectations of today’s connected consumer.”

The idea of “continuously” meeting shopper expectations means making investments in technologies such as artificial intelligence, data optimization and predictive analytics. The goal is to create a highly personalized — and relevant — experience for consumers regardless of how a brand interfaces with that shopper.

In its 25-page report, Fonolo offers some trends that can help inform marketing strategies. One notable stand out was the need to simplify interactions and transactions with consumers. “Successful brands know that the only thing that will help them reach those great CX heights and truly satisfy customers is ‘doing’ interactions well,” researchers said in the report. “An informed and connected customer expects interactions that are simple and informative, and that can be easily accessed via whatever channel best suits their needs at the time [i.e. when and where they wish to connect].”

Fonolo also noted the importance of deploying AI — but not with a “plug and play” approach. “The best way to embrace AI is to implement it strategically, allowing it to assist in solving problems, improving processes, and making the contact between employees, agents and customers optimal across the board,” the authors said.

For AI to move the needle, retailers and brands need to be thoughtful about how it is used. “Ideally, AI should be capable of incorporating human interactions at key moments in the customer experience journey,” the report stated. “For instance, when designed thoughtfully, AI can better support human agents on the front lines who are readily assisting customers, and can make the handoff simple and seamless for both parties.”

That said, AI is not a substitute for “human interactions.” The report said the technology’s “greatest potential lies in helping us better understand customer behaviors, expectations and desires.”

Samantha Mehra, marketing communications coordinator at Fonolo, said the customer experience will continue to be “a pivotal piece in how companies do business, gain brand ambassadors, and become memorable for consumers in a crowded and increasingly digital marketplace. Those brands that truly innovate their CX are set to dominate this year, placing a significant gap between themselves and their closest competitors.”

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