Digital technologies have disrupted the retail industry in numerous and significant ways. According to Forrester, half of all retail sales occur online today. By 2022, the analyst firm predicts, that will increase to 58 percent.

While Amazon is a major factor behind that wave, a lot of other things are at play as well. For one thing, the introduction of smartphones and new communications channels have dramatically reshaped the shopping experience. In fact, Forrester says mobile is driving much of the growth in online sales. Change won’t abate any time soon, either, as existing technologies evolve and improve, and new ones, like artificial intelligence, mature.

Connecting with shoppers becomes more complex

Thus, retailers compete in an ever more complex environment. In particular, three trends will continue to impact how they connect with shoppers: mobility, omnichannel customer experience and artificial intelligence.

To take the complexity out of the equation, invest in a unified communications (UC) solution. By embracing UC, retailers can connect with consumers in every channel, anticipate what shoppers want and deliver a better experience. Here’s how.

Mobile first. As Forrester points out, more consumers use mobile devices to order to purchase goods and services. With support for mobility, UC extends the reach and availability of your sales and customer service teams. For example, consumers often have question. When they do, they’re quick to launch a phone call directly from your website or digital ad.

Unified communications expands your ability to answer these calls. If sales people aren’t at their desk, the call is directed to their mobile device. During holiday seasons, customer service teams can scale quickly to handle growing volume.

UC also gives retailers the tools they need to launch their own mobile app, which makes it easy for customers to resolve problems on their own, or interact with an agent via chat.

Omnichannel customer experience. Today’s consumers frequently begin their product research online. Beyond the company website, they’ll seek referrals and recommendations from friends, peers and social networks. And even though much of this starts online, consumers often head to the store to make their purchase.

To engage consumers at each step, retailers must follow customers as they move seamlessly between channels. Unified communications makes delivering an omnichannel customer experience possible. With it, retailers can connect with consumers through their channel of choice: via phone or email, in social media or on chat. And when retailers integrate CRM applications, their customer support teams have the information they need to deliver the highly personalized experience that consumers expect.

Artificial intelligence. While AI may seem futuristic, it’s within the grasp of all retailers. Paired with CRM integration, unified communications provides sales and customer support teams with comprehensive access to customer history and information. And it’s just an early step.

This same data can also be used to power chatbots. For instance, the consumer might come to the retailer’s website to ask a specific question. A chatbot, tapping into an extensive database of FAQs, can lead a nuanced conversation. With AI, the technology can address customers by first name, find relevant answers based on past purchase history and connect them to an agent if they have more complicated requests. In time, consumers will be able to use bots to place an order.

Retailers will be subjected to continued disruption over the next several years, so it’s crucial for them to future-proof their businesses now. By deploying unified communications, retail IT teams will be able to adapt quickly, adding new services and applications as their businesses grow and shopping behaviors change and evolve.

While the customer journey was once much simpler, the omnichannel experience offers plenty of advantages for retailers. With more touchpoints, they have an unprecedented opportunity to cultivate stronger relationships. Unified communications can help them excel in every channel and build customer loyalty.

Retailers must deliver outstanding customer service at every touchpoint. Check out our infographic to learn how communications technology can help. >

Cover image of Mitel’s Digital Transformation for Dummies asset

Digital transformation has become a top initiative for business and IT leaders. In today’s business world, sustainable market leadership is no longer based solely on which company has the best products or even the best people. Instead, organizations that are agile and can quickly adapt to rapidly evolving market trends will become market leaders.

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