Drawn from industry research, the following six trends outline tech solutions leading retailers are leveraging to optimize and scale their omnichannel operations, service and compliance

The leaders of tomorrow's retail won't just implement omnichannel flexibility—they'll do it at scale, driving loyalty with their agile operations capable of adapting to individual consumers' in-moment preferences and context. To explore the tech-driven solutions industry pioneers are employing to deliver a truly connected customer experience across touchpoints, PSFK teamed up with Splunk, a next-gen data platform providing real-time views of operations, to investigate omnichannel retail optimization and deliver research centered around three key pillars for creating exceptional retail.

Here, we share six trends from our recent findings. These are the data & tech-powered solutions and strategies top retailers are leveraging to enable proactive business models, improve efficiencies, elevate the customer experience, and build trust, ranging from cloud-synced systems to contextual clienteling.

Cloud-synced systems—As retailers look to scale, the increased complexity in their operations can lead to inefficiencies, particularly when it comes to information-sharing and communicating internally. To overcome these challenges, retailers are adopting cloud-based platforms that connect remote systems, break down data silos, and enable employees and partners across departments to collaborate in real time. L’Oréal, for instance, is leveraging a cloud-based customer data platform able to sync aggregated info from the company’s sites, apps, open web and commerce across its many brands. With centralized first-party data, L’Oréal’s service agents can create a better customer experience, and internal teams can marshal real-time data to make consumer-centric decisions.

Inventory Optimization—Recent events have demonstrated the importance of omnichannel retail systems that enable organizations to flex their operations and account for all the ways customers expect to shop. Companies are leveraging sales data and sophisticated analytics to create a single, real-time view of available inventory for both themselves, their partners and their shoppers, enabling inventory accuracy and the ability to predict future demand. Online grocery ordering platform Instacart is even helping CPG companies monitor product demand by providing to its partners the real-time inventory numbers from the thousands of grocery stores it fills orders in, supplying manufacturers with insights on low stock and high-demand products.

Streamlined Logistics—A recent acceleration in digital commerce and an increased expectation for faster delivery times has put mounting pressure on retail operations to meet that demand. In an effort to find new efficiencies and keep costs down, companies are leveraging AI and machine learning to determine the optimal methods for fulfillment and return processes. JD.com, for example, is aiming to optimize its fulfillment speed, aiming for turnaround under an hour by incorporating more physical store locations like grocers and c-stores into its supply chain. Leverating an AI-powered algorithm that selects the closest location, tens of thousands of stores throughout China can act as micro-fulfillment centers and execute direct delivery.

Proactive Troubleshooting—As retailers add more technology-enabled systems and experiences to both their customer-facing and back-end operations, it’s critical that these platforms work seamlessly together and without interruption. As a result, retailers are now rolling out connected digital and physical infrastructure capable of continuously reporting back key metrics and performance data, pairing with AI to even circumvent human intervention. Loblaws, a Canada-based food retailer, is marshaling a company-wide artificial intelligence solution to oversee all digital infrastructure, identifying a host of problems including POS breakdowns and resolving them without human aid.

AI-enabled Workstreams—Frontline store associates are an incredibly important asset, but much of their daily work is taken up by time-intensive tasks. To automate their workstreams so they can provide more consumer-facing service, companies are adopting digital solutions paired with AI-intelligence that bring together key data and processes. Gap-owned apparel retailer Old Navy leverages mobile devices for each store associate that include a range of apps providing them direct views of inventory as well as where to fill BOPIS orders. The ‘In Stock On Shelf’ app further routes employees to the exact item a customer needs, while the ‘Order In Store’ app lets employees order and check out with individual shoppers.

Contextual Clienteling—Regardless of where and how they choose to shop, customers expect to be met with service that is personalized based on their past interactions and current needs. To deliver on that expectation, retailers are equipping their associates and service reps with dashboards that serve up relevant information, like shopper purchase history, alongside contextual data, like current promotions, in a single view to tailor their engagement with each customer. For example, designer apparel brand DVF teamed up with Mastercard to provide staff with data-driven insights on the store floor, leveraging tech that can provide them with views of overall performance against particular KPIs, product recognition to easily provide info to shoppers, and recommendations tailored for time, date & more.

“Retailers embracing digital transformation are known to provide easier and more reliable experiences across every channel. Understanding how to use data-driven insights proactively can provide consistent, sustainable growth to the business by delivering on customer preferences.” — Derek Dykens. Global Retail Industry Strategist, Splunk

This article is sponsored by Splunk, the first Data-to-Everything Platform providing real-time end-to-end views of omnichannel operations. For the full list of trends and three major pillars to know for omnichannel retail optimization at scale, download the full free report by PSFK and Splunk now.