The Future of Retail Technology
Retail businesses should be looking towards the future in regards to their technology aspirations as there is always space for new and innovative ideas. When retailers adopt new technology solutions, they will often be looking to benefit from streamlined business processes, increased efficiency, and smarter understanding of their customers.
Ultimately they are all looking increasing brand awareness and driving sales. Therefore, there is no doubt that retailers should keep an eye on the newest retail technology opportunities available to them, in order to remain competitive especially when you consider the impact Amazon is having on the industry as a whole. Every retailer is looking for ways to compete against Amazon and enable future growth of their business. With the influx of automation, artificial intelligence, and geolocation tracking, it’s no wonder retailers are becoming more and more ‘tech savvy and their customers are increasingly demanding it. From allowing retailers to increase organic sales to helping them to create a rich Omni-channel experience for their customers – tech is enabling retailers to do more, sell more and compete harder than ever before.
Is it smart or unsettling?
One of the key debates that surround the future of retail technology is its questionable intrusive nature. For example, smart geo-location tracking can allow businesses to send targeted push notifications to their customers, based on their mobile device visiting and location behaviour. As discussed in Marketing Dive, Urban Outfitters saw a 146% lift in revenue by utilising this technology, with a 75% increase in sales conversions, marking a positive outcome when using this retail technology. Digital marketing can already target market consumers depending on their interests, and so geo-location offers the same basic principles on a physical, area basis. If a customer passes a physical store location and has previously viewed a product online, geo-location marketing can then send a specific, highly targeted promotion to that consumer. The introduction of this technology has offered a whole new world to retailers with the results of increased sales, and although it may seem unsettling for some, it is actually beneficially for driving out time-consuming methods of browsing for consumers. The shopper still holds the choice of purchasing the product, however, the retailer’s customer understanding is given a boost by the availability of cutting-edge technology. Inevitably, it is best for retailers to embrace change in order to remain competitive in their industry while increasing brand loyalty through this form of direct marketing.
Understanding customer behaviour
A badly targeted marketing plan is likely to fall on deaf ears, so retailers need to use retail technology in order to understand their consumer better. Many customers want transparent relationships with their favourite brands, enriched by a level of detail from the marketing that they receive. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that for many privacy is a key priority. In an Adobe-led survey, 71% of consumers agreed that they like to receive targeted personalized offers, however, 20% of respondents suggested that some efforts are too intrusive. This highlights the importance of highly targeted marketing, rather than broad and generic campaigns that are traditionally used by many retail brand. This is great for retailers, as retail technology has evolved to adapt to this culture of segmented-marketing. Moreover, cloud-based networking technology can help businesses to strategically build consistent and personable touch points with their customers through Omni-channel marketing. When a shopper logs in to the in-store Wi-Fi, their previous mobile activity can integrate with the network and create a more personalised experience. For example, if a customer has been browsing for jeans, retail-specific analytics software can identify this, remember their details for later, and subsequently send a discount or offers for jeans from their store. Not only does this create a direct and simple route for marketing, but it also improves the shopping experience for the customer. A seamless experience across all touch points, whether it’s online, in-store, or on their mobile device, will create a stronger and more powerful brand relationship with the consumer. Shoppers are now tech-savvy ‘connected shoppers,’ who appreciate personalisation to help them cut through the noise. This level of detail can help improve brand loyalty without being too intrusive while providing an enhanced shopping experience.
The Automation Effect
Digital transformation initiatives are often driven by businesses wanting to grow and remain competitive. Retailers who are not willing to adopt new technology might find they are missing out in comparison to their competitors and thus have the incentive to drive innovation internally. Increased efficiency and streamlined processes are always going to have a positive impact on a retailers business models, and thus incentivise future digital transformation. Automation is an aspect that fits neatly into this category, as smart technology advances in automation and AI can promise retailers a more efficient way of working from the shop floor and up. Retailers of the future have already installed automated shopping assistants (such as an intelligent iPad tablet in store) in order to bust queues and free up the time of their customer assistants or provide their assistants with more insight to better serve customers. This means that consumers no longer need to spend a long time searching for items and can simply search for items while customer assistants can focus on more value-adding tasks that can’t be taken by robots. Additionally, these automated assistants can also allow customers to order items online, connect them to the brand website, and create new touch points for the retailer to target the consumer more effectively. Innovations of this type aid the core digital transformation strategy of the business, reflecting positively on the efficiency improvements.
Additionally, automation can be seen in other aspects of the business too. Smart retail technology can help the operations team to intelligently replenish and reorder stock while tracking trends as demand rises and falls. This removes the need for in-store staff to manually update this information, increasing efficiency and reducing supply chain friction. Additionally, cloud-based networking technology for retail can allow businesses to automate their deployment of new infrastructure and automate any updates for the future. This relieves pressure on internal IT teams while streamlining the network. This is great for retailers with multiple sites, who would significantly benefit from a cloud-based setup.
4 Things to Expect in the Future of Retail
Data will be the driving force of retail-specific technology in the future. Deeper customer insights provide retailers with a rich level of customer information, giving them an insightful look into what consumers are searching. This provides a valuable opportunity to target marketing, increase brand loyalty, and a more personalised relationship with their customers. With the availability of online shopping, customers no longer need to go to stores for convenience. We all now have the ability to pick and choose the brands we like, whether our incentives are price, quality, or brand loyalty. It is now the responsibility of retailers to smartly collate data from their customers to recognise what they want and cater to those wants.
More Power to Marketing
From geo-location technology to heat-mapping in store, to insightful customer profiles built over time, retailers have more opportunities than ever to precisely target their audience. It is these innovative technological advances that have allowed them to do this, and businesses should keep an open for the newest technology. This will allow them to remain competitive within their industry and become a digital-leader. For ambitious businesses, finding a technology provider that shares these aspirations should be a priority in order to take advantage of this technology, grow, and gain better brand recognition.
There is no doubt that now, more than ever, is an exciting time to utilise technology in the retail industry. Traditional methods of signs outside of stores, a weekly newsletter, or a voucher in the mail are no longer cutting-edge for driving business. Instead, retailers can now utilise the many different touch points with their customers, both physical and virtual. They can build smart customer profiles, collate data, target market, and drive organic sales more efficiently than ever. Therefore, retailers should always be forward-thinking in regards to technology as their industry is at the forefront of innovation. Businesses should be ambitious with their technology aspirations and look forward to the opportunities and possibilities ahead.
Competitive In-store Experience
Every retailer is competing with Amazon, due to their low prices, convenience, and product range. Additionally, customers are more likely to buy the same product stocked in a retail store from Amazon, despite it being the same brand due to price and convenience. Today retail brands will need to utilise technology in order to differentiate themselves from Amazon, and this will only increase over time. Consequently offering a richer in-store experience will be critical to differentiating them from the Amazon juggernaut. For example, some retailers may not be able to compete on price, but may be able to offer brand loyalty perks, experiences, and services if products are purchased through their store. Moreover, smart retail technology can target which items are most popular, and push promotions to direct the consumer towards their own brand. Retail technology can help businesses provide incentives for their customers to buy from their site, from targeted marketing, analytics, or helping to build effective Omni-channel strategies. Lastly, retail technology will be important when competing against Amazon because it gives businesses the opportunity to change. By gathering deeper customer insights with technology retailers can grow based on the needs of their customers, creating a more long term and sustainable business plan.
To learn more about how retail technology is allowing businesses to gain deeper insights into their customers, read our free eBook here.