ViSenze Global Head of Marketing, Cheryl Guzman Ng Shares Her Views on the Future of Retail

This article is part of Raydiant’s new Future of Retail series which interviews the world’s leading retail experts to better understand how the industry has evolved and most importantly, where it’s headed. 

The following is from an interview with Cheryl Guzman Ng, Global Head of Marketing at ViSenze

** This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**

What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?

CG: The transformation of retail by AI together with the confluence of digital and real-world retail is what excites me the most. No industry is more impacted by AI and digital than retail, which means we can expect to see even more exciting and seamless experiences to delight shoppers across their customer journey. As an advocate of innovation, I am personally keen to bring new innovations and transformations to help retailers/brands to engage their customers more cleverly in a transformed world.

What has been the most dramatic change you've seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?

CG: As said, retail is probably the single industry that has undergone some of the most significant changes in recent years; from omnichannel retailing to personalization to Instant checkouts to same-day deliveries. I see the confluence of these in bridging the offline and online shopping divide as probably the most significant wave of change in the last 5 years  “New Retail” as coined by Jack Ma of Alibaba in 2016, probably sums up this wave of transformation, ushering in the next generation of shopping experiences — whether they be in shopping malls, grocery outlets or convenience stores. Using innovations like AR lead product discovery, facial recognition, digital payments, cashier-less counters, same-day delivery and more, all shopping experiences are becoming more tailored to the individual, and China is showing us what’s to come globally.

What are the top trends you see shaping Brick and Mortar Retail in the next 3-5 years?

CG: One key trend that I see taking shape in retail stores in the near future is the merging of digital experiences in the store itself. With almost 80% of consumers using their smartphones in-store today, retailers and brands are starting to merge the convenience of digital experiences with the tangibility of shopping in-store. By creating an enriched in-store experience filled with emerging technologies like visual search, virtual reality and augmented reality-powered tryouts, retailers can enrich their consumers with real-time information to help them make better purchase decisions. Take for instance, the Adidas’ London flagship stores at Oxford Street which offers a future glimpse of an all-new digitally-enhanced retail experience that puts customers at its core. The store experience is brought together by its new digitally-enhanced retail capabilities, which merges the Adidas app with real-life shopping. There are over 100 digital touchpoints powered by 100% green energy that allows customers to engage with Adidas and its new store, with features such as “Bring It to Me” allowing shoppers to geo-locate their place, scan products, check stock and size availability in real time, request their size and then purchase on the spot. The store even has interactive changing room mirrors that use RFID technology to recognize products and provide information, allowing shoppers to order different sizes without leaving the changing room!

What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?

CG: One of the biggest problems that consumers still grapple with – ironically in 2020 – is product search. Why? Because customers are inundated with not just a couple of options today when looking to purchase products but grapple with dozens and even hundreds of choices. Not only have retail options expanded exponentially in recent years but also the volume of information available to customers has become so massive that this itself has become a problem. This means savvy or discerning shoppers tend to spend a lot of time researching their purchases – and consider the entire customer experience while doing so – before committing. I believe the AI-powered search technology that is able to simplify the search and discovery process for consumers in the fastest time for their purchase intent and wallet size will create a significant impact for both consumers and retailers/brands. And with the rise of visual content (Pinterest, Instagram, Tik-Tok, etc) visual search technology powered by AI will have one of the most impacts in retail. After all, voice and image searches are going to make up at least half of all searches by 2020 (Mary Meeker).

What's the future of Brick and Mortar Retail? 

CG: The future the brick and mortar retail lies in a transformation that will see stores become the new face and personality of brands, and back-of-house technology like data powered recommendation engines boosting retail stores with better intelligence to engage customers, and stores will become more responsive (such as smart internet-connected devices and interactive displays), with new retail interaction points and even physical stores (like pop-up stores and temporary market places) brought to consumers instead of the other way round.

It definitely won’t be “brick-and-mortar” the way that we know it but “clicks-and-mortar” in the New Retail!