Five trending ways retailers and service providers are leveraging innovative technology to provide personal, on-demand and added-value support to customers from afar

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Even limitations imposed by lockdown and other coronavirus-related conditions aren't stopping retailers and service providers from reaching their customers with the resources, guidance and care that they want and need. Encompassing everything from drone drug delivery to cyber stylist sessions, here are five trending ways PSFK researchers have observed businesses leveraging technology to not only maintain but even improve their consumer connection and customer service:

‘Live' Commerce —Shopping has historically always had a social element—until the dawn of ecommerce. However, just because discovery, browsing and transactions can occur independent of human interaction doesn’t mean consumers always want them to, and even before the social distancing of COVID-19 times, live-stream and other forms of interactive retail—like Dote’s e-shopping parties—were cropping up. With even more impetus to offer social and interactive experiences, brands and retailers are leveling-up their online ‘live’ capabilities to reach audiences with ‘retailtainment.' The shopping mall Shanghai New World did so by hosting a three-day digital experience that took place for 12 hours at a time over a live-stream, and featured major retail players like Adidas and Dior.

Automated delivery — Though perhaps unsurprising, creative forms of getting what consumers need to them when they need it most are accelerating in all categories. A innovative case study is Manna Aero, an Ireland-based drone company that is “making three-minute air delivery a reality” — and during the country’s lockdown, reportedly trialing medicine delivery to get consumers what they need, faster.

Using digital to diagnose — Especially with limited mobility due to stay-at-home measures, consumers are in want of accessible and reliable resources to help check their symptoms and condition as well as provide peace of mind. Computer technology enterprise IBM designed an AI chatbot, the Watson Assistant for Citizens, to help address consumers’ health concerns regarding the pandemic. Using local as well as national news and sources, such as the latest CDC guidelines, to provide on-demand answers to the community’s questions regarding the virus and best health practices, the chatbot service is available for organizations to offer to their customers over phone calls or SMS.

Virtual Advisory — In efforts to not only provide the personalization and attention that consumers have come to expect, but also help preserve jobs by transferring associates to online service, retailers ranging from supermarket ShopRite to home organization business Horderly are connecting their customers with live agents for one-on-one guidance and consultations. Women’s workwear brand Nora Gardner is offering virtual style sessions over Zoom video chat, including a pre-session survey and virtual fitting room appointment to help customers achieve their wardrobe goals.

Providing (health)care at distance — Telehealth had its beginning well before the crisis—and is now exploding, as consumers look to connect with doctors and other healthcare professionals for treatments across the board, from at-home orthodontics to Google’s search tool to help connect patients with telehealth providers. Telemedicine startup Forward is leveling-up the experience, actually delivering medical kits including high-tech sensors for at-home monitoring of vitals like blood pressure and oxygenation, among others, and relaying the info to healthcare providers as well as scheduling virtual or even at-home visits. 

PSFK researchers identified these five strategies as part of a series diving deep into the innovations driving business strategy, consumer experience and community support during this time of crisis—check out the first installments published here and here.