Think of the last time a shopping experience didn’t meet your expectations.

Maybe you couldn’t access that gift card credit you loaded into your online account via your phone. Or maybe a sales clerk couldn’t pull up your rewards account even though you can easily access it online. Was it when you couldn’t find that perfect pair of shoes you saw online at the brand’s flagship store. Or that time you get targeted via cookies to buy something you bought the day before from the same retailer.

These might be small misses but they add up quickly to create a brand perception, good or bad.

Setting a New Standard for Customer Satisfaction

Technology is evolving at light speed, with customer expectations along for the ride. It’s now possible to connect a customer — and what brands know about them — across every channel so their experience no matter how they’re shopping, is convenient, personal and even delightful. 

And what’s more, next-level integrations of the physical and digital shopping worlds will challenge everything we think we know about what defines a great shopping experience, ultimately setting a new standard for customer satisfaction.

Consider how the Amazon Go pilot is testing a technology-based physical shopping experience concept in Seattle that eliminates check-out counters and cash registers in stores altogether.

Amazon's checkout-free experiment is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: machine learning, artificial intelligence, computer vision and sensor fusion. 

This is what the cutting edge looks like — it disrupts previously accepted norms: to get a ride, I have to stand on the curb and hail a cab. To find a place to stay when traveling, I have to find a hotel room.

Upending the (Super)Market

When Uber and Airbnb applied cutting-edge technology to create better solutions for what we all accepted as a given, the results upended the market. To understand how keenly aware of this market-shattering potential Amazon is: it estimates opening up to 2,000 more checkout-free stores in coming years.

Other retailers are making huge strides in combining the physical and digital worlds including Coop, an Italian grocer that worked with Avanade to develop the supermarket of the future. 

Learning Opportunities

The flagship Coop store reimagined the grocery experience to display product information like price, origin, ingredients and allergens on screens at every shelf as shoppers picked up items. Having this information instantly available can help shoppers make more informed decisions about the items they’re purchasing. And the store displays promotions, recipes, social posts and more, creating a fully immersive, grocery experience.

The Blurring Line Between Our Physical and Digital Worlds

While we’ve watched as the physical and digital shopping experiences are blurred — with many stores offering options to buy online and pick up in store, or to browse the online store from their physical store to find items not in stock, 2017 offers the next level for customers of those retailers investing in the digital-plus-physical shopping experience.

And of course this means there’s a downside for the brands that fall behind. When brands miss customer expectations they face negative consequences including shared complaints and lost business, according to Sitecore’s Vanson Bourne survey. But 75 percent of consumer respondents expressed increased loyalty to those progressive brands that deliver an amazing experience.

As more and more brands get this right, wowing customers with new ways of providing them with convenient, personalized, seamless access to the exact products and services they want while in-store or not, more customers will demand that experience, rewarding those brands with increased use, purchases and loyalty. 

It's About to Get Interesting

And all of this has got me thinking: What other modern inconveniences do we just accept, that technology may be able to solve for us? 

Waiting for a table at a restaurant comes to mind. Or standing in those massive holiday lines at the post office. While I’ve seen a few apps attempting to address scheduling and reservation management, true disruption still awaits us, the masses of convenience-craving customers looking to embrace it immediately.

In 2017, brands that want to win the customer experience game are going to wow us. And they’re going to fundamentally change the way they connect to customers for the better. The digi-physical world? It’s about to get really fun. 

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