A recent report titled Retail Trends Playbook 2020 identifies four key pillars as being crucial to taking the retail experience to the next level. With data-driven digital technologies at their disposal, retailers can better understand consumers’ needs, design an intelligent supply chain, empower employees to deliver personalized in-store experiences, and redesigning the business model to highlight the most popular products and services. Listening to customers Compiled by Microsoft and US-based media company PSFK, the report asserts that retailers must gather as much data on customer behavior as possible in order to deliver on the promise of personalized shopping. With that data, merchants can design personalized outreach campaigns. Knowing each shopper’s preferences and previous purchases is key to securing proactive marketing and tailored recommendations. According to the report, 80% of US consumers enjoy such an approach, while 58% plan to sign up for personalized offers. Employee empowerment When consumers think “personalized shopping experience,” they expect more than an occasional email. They want the shopping experience to be tailored to their needs in brick-and-mortar shops just as it is online. To accomplish that goal, retail brands have to empower their frontline staff with knowledge about products and customers alike. Sales assistants can deliver a superior shopping experience only when they have access to lots of customer data. For example, Miami-based footwear brand Melissa Shoes gives shoppers the option to use facial recognition kiosks at their physical stores. When a returning customer stops by a store, employees are notified about their preferences as soon as the customer is recognized. That lets the staff provide an exceptional in-store experience. Smart supply chain According to the report, 52% of retailers are struggling to connect the dots between data stored across different parts of their organization. Yet 58% of consumers consider the visibility of inventory status to be important while shopping online. To overcome the disparity of what’s going on inside organizations and what customers want to see, the authors of the report propose cloud-based communication channels powered by real-time data. Intelligent supply chains can share information among factories, warehouses, stores, and key partners. Reimagining retail More than 60% of retailers who have strategically used information gathered through technology say it has given them a competitive advantage. Retailers can figure out which areas need improvement by getting a 360-degree view on in-store behavior. Data lets them understand how customers interact with products and how loyal they are to the brand. Having this wealth of information is an ideal starting point for creating actionable strategies regarding merchandising, rewards programs, and technology investments. Investing in a series of digital solutions won’t automatically translate into higher profit margins. The report concludes that the secret to success lies in retailers having a clear image of their own brand, their shoppers, and the experience they want to deliver.