The Record Issue 13: Summer 2019

150 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E Defining the perfect customer Truly knowing and understanding your customers with the help of intelligent tools, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, is the key to delivering the ultimate shopping experience in today’s retail environment, says Microsoft’s Cath Brands BY R E B E CCA G I B SON W hy do some online shoppers click on a t-shirt, spend a long time looking at it, but leave the retailer’s website emp- ty-handed? Is it because the t-shirt is too expen- sive? Is there a low-quality product image and insufficient information to make an informed decision? Or is the check-out process too long and complicated? Online activewear retailer Fabletics has come up with a unique way to answer these questions: opening more than 24 physical stores across the US equipped with devices connected to Microsoft Azure to track how customers interact with their products in stores. “By using ‘brick mining’, Fabletics can get clearer insights into why certain products are not selling – one particular t-shirt might be tried on frequently, but never purchased, suggesting that there’s a problem with the sizing or feel of the fabric,” says Cath Brands, director of Global Industry Marketing for Retail and Consumer Goods at Microsoft. “Fabletics merges online and in-store data to adjust its product portfolio, inventories and customer services to offer a truly personalised experience for those who shop in the digital and physical stores.” Defining the perfect customer experience is a critical step for retailers like Fabletics if they want to differentiate their brand from the competition and achieve ongoing success – regardless of whether they operate e-commerce sites, physical stores or both. “The ‘perfect’ shopping journey is different for everyone, but all consumers expect it to be intuitive, seamless and frustration-free,” notes Brands. “If a retailer has both online and phys- ical stores, they must be fully connected so that customers have a consistent experience as they move between channels.” The key to creating standout customer expe- riences, claims Brands, is to establish a ‘golden record’ of every customer to truly understand their needs and preferences. “If retailers have no idea what drives customers to visit their online or physical stores, what convinces them to pur- chase items or what ultimately converts them into long-standing brand lovers, how can they ever create the perfect shopping experiences?” she asks. journey