Power Apps: Unlocking Innovation for Retail and CPG firms
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Retail strategies are being shaped by a new generation of customers who think and shop in a way where technology is a differentiator, not a constraint. They demand faster, more flexible, more personalized experiences from the retailers and brands they patronize. Long waiting times, low first-time resolutions, inadequate fulfillment, and employees who don’t have the right information can be deal breakers.
It’s about striving to ensure that the shopping experience, whether digital or in-store, is truly zero friction. Low-code platforms, like Microsoft’s Power Platform, offer the flexibility and speed to rapidly improve and make the customer experience a more seamless journey.
The need for speed
With low code, the speed at which some retailers have been able to stand up new omnichannel models (for example, launching a new delivery business in three weeks) illustrates the potential. This rapid approach lets retailers launch offerings at scale more quickly and avoid losing share in the face of shifting consumer behavior. With pre-made templates, widgets, layouts, and styles, low-code applications can be created quickly and with a better aesthetic and functional quality.
Involving those closest to the customer
Successful retailers are empowering employees to become citizen coders or to partner with IT to co-create new solutions. Non-programmers across every part of a business can now create applications that enhance the shopping experience via low-code app development, assisting in the process of customer experience design to deliver better digital experiences.
Everyone can use AI
The benefits of low code are powerful for retailers to integrate AI capabilities in areas that would otherwise require highly specialized skills and knowledge, such as AI to control natural language chatbots or product recommendation engines. Artificial intelligence might not seem like an obvious fit for retail workers, but there are countless ways that AI tools can be used to fuel frontline teams.
ROI over three years
Reduction in app development costs
Hours LOB employee productivity improvement per week
Source: The total economic impact of Power Apps, a commissioned study by Forrester Consulting.
True omnichannel – melding online and instore
Imagine if you could combine the personalization, frictionless experience, visibility, and streamlined processes offered by online shopping with the authentic contact, sensory experience, and engagement that happens in a physical store. Both experiences have pros and cons, and low code solutions offer the ability to combine the best of both worlds, regardless of where your customer is shopping.
So how can low-code solutions be used to give in-store customers a reason to stay and browse?
Let’s look at a few options:
Connected service and operations
The retail worker is playing a new kind of role — connecting the shopper’s experience online and in store. They’re the face of the business. And they need modern tools to connect and collaborate in real time, automate core tasks, and have visibility into store operations. These functionalities can all be driven, or enhanced, by low code solutions.
Envision a scenario where a customer was welcomed by a greeter with an app on a tablet device. The app would help determine, with high accuracy, the estimated wait time, and pair up the customer with the appropriate representative. The customer could then wait inside the store or leave and be notified via a text message 10 minutes before their appointment.
This could mean giving sales associates digital devices and tools to enable them to better help customers find what they need, offering shoppers product recommendations on the next product to buy, or making phones and mobile apps or in-store kiosks a useful part of the shopping experience.
To deliver this personalized experience at scale, retailers need to leverage connected solutions, AI, and real-time observations to create 360-degree customer profiles all available on a single screen. Low-code Power Apps, the Common Data Model, and Power App connectors can be used to consolidate disparate customer data and make it visible and actionable on a single tablet screen.
Frontline workers make up 80% of the entire workforce*, yet fewer than 25% have the right technology to do their jobs. **
* Axonify, The State of Frontline Work Experience in 2021
** Forbes survey
Enriched self-service shopping
Digital touch-screen technology and interactive displays open a world of new ways to make a sale and enrich the customer experience at the same time.
Let’s say someone is looking at furniture that needs to be assembled. Shoppers can’t deduce much about the item from the picture outside the box. But with a low-code digital assistant, they could have real-time access to:
- Product reviews
- Assembly instructions via video
- Customization options
- Virtual 3D renderings of the item in a home setting
- Similar options or upsell opportunities
Using digital tools to assist the sale in physical stores provides opportunities for cross-selling and upselling at a whole new level. While having a salesperson deliver all these messages would be intrusive, letting a low-code chatbot or digital assistant recommend items can dramatically affect the size of the shopper’s receipt.
In addition, you may not have all available inventory on the shelf. Many merchandisers are taking advantage of a concept called, endless aisles, or virtual representations of merchandise that complement the physical inventory in the physical store. So that when customers are walking the aisles of a store, they’re able to browse items that are not physically there.
Geolocation and inner-aisle marketing
Geolocation refers to the use of location technologies to identify and track the whereabouts of connected electronic devices, such as a shopper’s mobile phone, and often feature navigation tools to help shoppers move through the store quickly. Many experts believe that geolocation technologies will become a standard element of the mobile experience in the near future.
Think about being in a 50,000 square foot home improvement store and you need a 2.5 inch screw. With a quick search, geolocation-infused apps can tell the shopper where they can find the product, as well as the easiest in-store route to get there. It’s one low-code option that could be the difference between shoppers choosing one store over another. As with any tracking software, it’s important to allow shoppers to opt-in, but once they do, the upside is clear.
Taking BOPIS one step further
One of the most well-known uses for low-code apps has been in the fulfillment world using BOPIS. But the BOPIS experience for many retailers is being hampered by inconvenient pickup options and a lack of digital connectivity to the store once customers have arrived at the pick-up location.
Low code can reduce friction for the BOPIS customer and improve satisfaction. Think about the ways:
- Allow BOPIS customers to adjust orders directly from their phones—changes like pick-up or payment method at the last minute.
- Include a messaging option that creates a single line of communication for each customer via text—with direct links to product pages, payment options, and other historical conversations.
- Automate any common messages or customer communication to speed up the process — such as where to park for pick up, text us when you arrive, and survey links.
Customers expect to be able to pay for and receive their purchases in a way that works for them. Whether that means buying online and picking up in-store, buying in-store and having the products delivered to their home, or finalizing purchases across other available channels, low code can help make fulfillment more seamless for everyone.
We’ve always known frontline is the backbone of Retail, but the pandemic and labor gap reinforced how essential they are.Deb Marotta, Hitachi Solutions
Power Platform is a tool of choice
Although there are many available low-code tools, they often don’t provide brands or retailers with an end-to-end solution for application development. In a unified low-code platform, like Microsoft’s Power Platform, you have all the resources to build and deploy apps that integrate with core existing systems.
If you’re not a professional developer, you can build compelling apps. If you happen to be a pro developer, you can leverage your experience and knowledge around application architecture to extend Power Apps far beyond its basic use cases. If you’ve built complex application integrations elsewhere, you can leverage those within Power Apps via hundreds of pre-built connectors and integrations.
Modernizing the shopping experience via low code in the ways we’ve described above future proofs your retail infrastructure and technology, and drastically improves the customer experience. You’ll be able to connect data, processes, and people, wherever they are, much faster than you might think.
Start learning about Hitachi Solutions’ suite of retail and CPG solutions available on Power Platform and how these technologies can make your organization a superhero in the eyes of employees and customers. Our Power Platform Proof-of-Concept Hackathon can help your organization begin developing Power Apps with confidence. You’ll receive in-depth instruction on how to develop low-code apps quickly, efficiently and securely. Reach out to us today!