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Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the 2022 National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City. Each year this event brings together the biggest names in the retail space—from IKEA and Nordstrom to Best Buy and Walmart.

More often than not, I’ve found this event provides a valuable glimpse into the future of retail. It’s an opportunity to check the pulse on customer preferences and gather feedback on the digital transformations that continue to reset customer expectations over and over again.

This year was no different. In fact, one of the biggest takeaways I gathered from this year’s conference, was a feeling that retailers finally have a clear picture for how their businesses can succeed in a post-pandemic world. After nearly two years of constant experimentation—toggling back and forth between eCommerce and in-person experience improvements—2022 will be focused on continuing to blend these experiences together to deliver omnichannel customer experiences that are more efficient, easier to navigate, and easier to execute.

To give you a better idea of what I mean, let’s take a closer look at three of the most talked about trends at the Big Show:

In-person experiences aren’t going anywhere

There was a time at the height of the pandemic when in-person experiences seemed to be on the way out altogether. But as the pandemic dust settles, we’re seeing that brick-and-mortar stores still have a critical role to play in the modern omnichannel experience. How so? Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said it best in her NRF presentation—“convenience.”

Nearly 40% of the products Best Buy sells are still picked up in-store by the consumer. In a survey of brands presented at the conference, another 40% indicated they now offer a buy online pickup in-store option—compared to just 25% in 2019. As supply chain challenges continue, brick-and-mortar stores now serve as a valuable hub for convenient, speedy access to online orders. As 2022 progresses, expect to see brands work to reinvent the in-store experience to better align with growing digital consumption preferences in service of one overarching customer experience.

Data and analytics will help unlock granular personalization

Data and analytics came up again and again at NRF this year. Everywhere you look retailers are collecting and analyzing customer data in order to personalize customer experiences, hoping that more positive experiences will lead to long-lasting brand loyalty.

“Loyalty in retail is the absence of something better,” John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart, said during a keynote presentation at NRF. “When they find it, they’re gone.”

Personalization is the strategy to create these better experiences—or Last Best Experiences—as we call them at Avtex. Unfortunately, we see data siloes get in the way of these personalization efforts all the time. If you haven’t already, 2022 is the perfect opportunity to prioritize unifying your commerce, marketing, customer insights, and business intelligence data into a singular, adaptable platform that will provide a comprehensive view of your customers and their needs. After that, pairing this 360-degree view of your customer with the right AI and automated solutions to act on it is the other half of the personalization equation.

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Employee retention hinges on AI investments

If either of these first two trends are any indication, delivering strong customer experiences requires more effort than ever. Experiences need to be personalized, they need to be seamless, they need to be convenient, and they need to be fast. At the same time, talent shortages are incentivizing brands to focus on the important roles their employees play in the fulfillment of these customer expectations.

At least part of the solution lies in more effective resource allocation. Many leading retailers are investing in intelligent automation technologies like artificial intelligence, business process management, and robotic process automation to streamline workflows for their employees—especially those who work on the front lines of customer service. By carefully implementing these tools to free up agent and in-store clerk time, they can better deliver the high-touch experiences that tend to stick out in a customer’s mind. It can also demonstrate to employees that you value their efforts, and you want to see them succeed.

At Avtex, solving the ongoing challenges in retail customer experiences are what we do best. We’re focused on the full customer lifecycle—including all of the channels and touchpoints that make up your customer journey. When you team up with Avtex, you’re not just getting a technology platform or systems implementor, you’re getting a CX transformation partner equipped to personalize your experience to your customers’ exact needs. In 2022, let’s tackle your CX challenges together.

If you're ready to level up your omnichannel CX efforts, we're here to help.

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