We live in a world in which everyone around us has been disrupted and transformed by digital technology. It’s changing the way people interact with brands and the products and services they provide.
But now these days the internet is so yesterday. Some of the world’s biggest ecommerce giants are turning back to brick-and-mortar to serve consumers. Buying online used to be the cool, hip thing, it was just what you did—but now? Not so much. Things have changed since the 2000s, and in unexpected ways.
But although dozens of major online companies have found themselves unable to abandon Main Street, feeling that it is required if they want to improve customer experiences, forge stronger relationships, and even boost online traffic, it doesn’t mean they’ve left the internet behind altogether. Thus, with the rise of omnichannel solutions for retail, brands can maintain strong presences both on and offline and even integrate them into one seamless commercial experience.
So what does the future bring? We can find out by looking at the present. Marketing teams are more sophisticated with regard to how they personalize experiences, using AI, AR, and VR helping to optimize operations and to develop products, strategy, and customer engagement. Technology is now so ubiquitous that many people are using it with next to zero learning curve, creating new business models and experimental approaches to commerce. Digital tech is reengineering the way business functions, and redefining cultural norms.
Here are some transformations happening now that marketers need to keep their eyes on if they want to stay ahead of the game.
The Future of Fast Food: Chick-fil-A
Beloved southern chain Chick-fil-A is gambling that the future of fast food is in your living room. A lot of fast food companies are trying to reach people at home now, using apps, delivery services, or some combination of things, but Chick-fil-A is betting you’ll want to prepare their food at your house. The chain is already cashless, comfortable, and hi-tech in with their customer services, but now they’re opening restaurants without dining rooms at all! The Mealtime Kits are being offered for just a short time in Atlanta and a few select cities.
Autonomous Delivery: Kroger
The grocery chain Kroger is planning to create a seamless shopping experience by introducing the first smart platform, which includes online ordering, automated fulfillment, and home delivery capabilities. The company has also piloted autonomous delivery vehicles through a partnership with Nuro. Using this innovative partnership, Kroger will deliver a great customer experience and redefine the grocery experience by creating an system that offers Kroger customers any product at any time of day.
Going Back In-Store: Home Depot
At big box stores like Home Depot, a lot of customers buy bigger, high-ticket items, or are contractors on a job out looking for a specific item or tool. For builders and workers in construction, there is far more motoring around town in a truck looking for the right tool or cut of wood than you might thing. That’s why placing an order online and picking up in store, without having to wait for delivery, meets a particular niche. Home Depot is expanding their buy online/pickup in store services, and also adding more tech to the in-store experience itself. The retailer has incorporated augmented reality and “way finding” tech into its app, making the shopping experience quick and easy, not to mention making the customer the hero.
Direct Delivery: Amazon
So, now Amazon wants to get into your car! But don’t worry, they want to do it in the best way possible. The company is pushing a trunk service, having signed a two-year contract with GM and Volvo that will allow the three to work together for package delivery. The new service is currently in a trial period in 37 cities, and there is no evidence yet that this service will be successful or even desirable. But it sure shows you where the digital tech could be taking the economy, and why keeping your mind open to novel ideas is necessary in today’s market.
The Millennial Customer: Kohl’s
Kohl’s has been working lately to increase their offerings to younger consumers. By partnering with pop media and a few edgy tech companies, the marketing team there is working to build a millennial brand portfolio that hits young consumers where they live. But their new approach isn’t really all about what the kids are into—it’s central to the retailer’s campaign to gather marketing insights through data and analytics.
In a rapidly changing digital world, consumers basic desires are unchanging. However, the advancement of technology has changed how we consume products and services. These new technologies unlock a different way of serving consumers, and as marketers we need to pay close attention to how to capitalize on and integrate the best ideas out there.