Meeting customer expectations and combating fraud in retail

Veronica Martin spoke to Paul Maguire, Head of Retail Delivery at Endava, to discuss the new expectations customers have, how digital and physical experiences can be seamlessly blended to create unique experiences and how retailers can combat fraud.

Now that customers, who following the pandemic became accustomed to the conveniences and personalisation of online shopping, have returned to stores, what are the new expectations they have?

Through the pandemic, consumers got used to the convenience of online shopping, but now as the world has opened back up again, there is this desire to go back in stores for the experiential aspect of the retail experience.

Of course, this has already been a trend in the UAE, where creating captivating experiences was already deeply embedded into the nature of the retail industry. But now we’re seeing customers who have become accustomed to eCommerce platforms knowing exact what they like, what services suit their needs most, and more, come back into stores. They now expect this greater degree of personalisation and tailored experiences from physical retailers.

So, while there has been a lot of technology already leveraged in stores in the UAE – it has to evolve from being primarily display related technology to solutions which bridge the gap between the online and physical stores.

How can retailers leverage technology to deliver on the promise of ‘unified commerce’?

Businesses have invested a lot of money in e-commerce platforms – often purely due to necessity. While supply chain technologies have evolved, the in-store environment has traditionally been quite separate from that. However, people now want the fully integrated experience. They expect retailers to leverage their e-commerce platforms to empower in-store staff to be more knowledgeable around customer preferences. Deeper integration between the technologies used in-store, and for the supply chain and eCommerce aspects of the business, can translate to a more seamless experience for customers. As an example, if an item is unavailable in store, the customer should still have the option of paying for it at checkout, and then either receiving it in-store at a later date, or having it shipped directly to their home.

At Endava, we are increasingly being asked by retailers to deliver the architectures and integrations that make these sorts of unified experiences possible.

What are some of the practical ways in which digital and physical experiences can be seamlessly blended to create truly impressive experiences for shoppers?

There are really two key aspects that retailers must focus on. The first is gaining as deep of an understanding of their customers as possible – knowing their preferences, behaviours, wants and more. Second is to have rich, real-time product related data – so knowing your inventory, what stock is available where, which products pair well together and so on. Combined, this data forms the basis on which impactful experiences can be created.

For example, a fashion retailer can shift away from the current model of simply displaying all their stock on the shop floor, to displaying just a few pieces of each item and then empowering staff to have meaningful interactions with customers as they guide them through the products that are most likely to be of interest and what sizes are available. Once you have this basic infrastructure in place, then you can look at more advanced applications such as changing rooms with mirrors that enable customers to order items in different sizes, or the ability to seamlessly move items from a physical shopping basket to a virtual one.

How can retailers strike that fine balance of meeting increasingly stringent data privacy requirements, with the expectation of a great degree of personalisation?

I think people are much more willing to hand over data now than they were before the pandemic, as regulations have been put in place to make sure people’s data is protected. Businesses are also demonstrating a greater commitment to respecting the privacy of customer data as they are keenly aware of the potential for backlash. There are lots of changes that have been made around how customer data is gathered – the phasing out of cookies and Apple’s introduction of the IDFA being prime examples – and this is the next evolution in data protection. For these reasons, there’s more of a balance now between customers understanding and being willing to give their data and retailers respecting it.

Finally, how much of a concern is fraud for retailers and how can they combat this?

When it comes to fraud, there’s a significant benefit in unifying systems. When a retailer has a platform that can correlate in-store and online data, they can become far more capable of differentiating between acceptable and suspicious behaviour. Sharing data (personal and anonymous) between various systems allows for behaviour patterns to emerge. That means retailers can relax some of the measures they have in place that might cause legitimate customers to be blocked due to the potential for fraud.

This isn’t just a very powerful thing in terms of reducing fraud, but also serves to increase acceptance rates, which consequently boosts retail revenues.


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