After two unpredictable years in the retail sector, it can seem impossible to predict the year ahead.
For example, our team was going to be at the NRF Big Show in New York this January, but like many other organisations, the circumstances at the time forced us to make the tough decision not to attend.
We look forward to the day we can meet in person again, but for now I wanted to share the retail customer engagement trends I think are most important to watch in the coming year.
1. 2022 is the year to switch to a cloud-based contact centre
Since 2020, the typical retail customer journey has changed dramatically. Customers can now use as many as 10 different channels to complete a single enquiry and meeting those customers across every touchpoint can be extremely challenging.
It’s one of the key reasons we’re seeing so many retail brands embracing cloud-based digital contact centre models, and many more will make the transformation this year.
Transitioning to a cloud-based digital contact centre gives retail brands the chance to restructure their customer journeys and rethink the way they connect the dots between their shopper touchpoints. Suddenly, new links between voice and digital engagement channels become possible and combining agent-led experiences and virtual assistance is easier than ever.
Cloud-based contact centres also open the door to a huge range of new customer engagement opportunities – from seamlessly switching between synchronous and asynchronous conversations to transferring context between different engagements and channels.
And the retailers that really want to stand out will take these engagement opportunities a step further, seizing the chance to integrate best-in-class artificial intelligence (AI) with their self-service channels. These retailers will be the pioneers of hyper-personalised experiences in the sector, which is something we’re going to see a lot more of in 2022.
2. Forget personalisation, it’s all about hyper-personalisation now
Retailers are no strangers to personalised experiences. We’ve been seeing personalised product recommendations based on our browsing and purchase histories for years.
But to rise above the pack, the most innovative retailers are taking personalisation to the next level, collecting and applying even more granular customer and operational data to create hyper-personalised experiences across their engagement channels.
These hyper-personalised experiences will go beyond recommendations such as: “We know you bought this jacket, so we think you’ll like this shirt.” Instead, retailers will anticipate customer needs and create timely, convenient interactions to make the shopping experience smoother.
This might mean proactively engaging with the customer to ask them about a product they recently received and whether they’ll need an exchange.
The good news is that the AI needed to deliver these hyper-personalised experiences is already available – retailers just need to be able to capture and integrate with the right data. Over the next year, we’ll see more brands working to break down their remaining contact channel silos and bring their customer and engagement data into a single, easily accessible location to take advantage of hyper-personalised opportunities.
3. Retailers will step up their cybersecurity defence
It won’t just be a year of creating more personalised shopping experiences – it will also be a year of creating more secure ones.
The fear and disruption of the pandemic created a window of opportunity for fraudsters to strike, and many brands saw their fraud levels rise to new heights. But many retailers were still hesitant to tighten their security checks, not wanting to cause customers any more stress than they were already experiencing.
In 2022, retailers won’t have to make the compromise between secure and frictionless experiences – the strongest methods of authentication can be applied in ways that are essentially friction-free.
By combining existing methods of authentication with advanced biometrics in the background of an interaction with an agent, interactive voice response or virtual assistant, retailers can determine whether someone is a trusted customer or a known fraudster. And with protocols like 3D Secure 2.0, retailers also have the chance to use biometrics when performing set-up checks on suspicious transactions.
Ultimately, biometrics solutions are helping retailers eliminate the passwords and security questions that have caused customers frustration for years and continually failed to protect their accounts. And with reduced friction, faster average handle times and greater contact centre efficiency, everyone wins – except the fraudsters.
Tony Lorentzen is general manager and senior vice president of intelligent engagement at Nuance Communications