Technology and the retail landscape

The retail landscape is constantly evolving, mirroring the changing behaviour of customers. As we charge on into 2016, retailers are going to need to be adaptable and utilise the technology and tools available in order to create innovative, personalised, safe, efficient, and seamless experiences for their customers.

Ensuring customer data is secure

Looking at the retail landscape this year, one of the biggest trends we see will revolve around security. A large focus will be ensuring customer information is secure whilst trading continues to perform at its optimum level. Retailers need to be especially vigilant during peak trading times such as Black Friday, as amidst high volumes of traffic, cyber-attacks may not be as visible.

Security will not only apply online, however, as physical security will also play its part as the plastic bag tax has had unforeseen effect resulting in shrinkage in-store due to an increase and thefts of shopping baskets. The retailers seen as being secure will win clients' confidence as concerns about their personal details being stolen and used grows. The cost of a security incident is huge both from a financial and a reputational perspective and hence is now on the agenda for most CEOs.

A personalised experience

With the increasing number of channels at consumers’ fingertips, expectations are constantly changing and are at an all-time high. As a result, retailers will need to be more reactionary to the digital world consumers now live in. This year, retailers need to find ways to differentiate themselves as we see a growing pressure to maximise online and mobile offerings and deliver truly personalised and flexible services. A large factor that will come into play is the service they provide, enabled by technology and how retailers choose to harness it.

Many consumers now use up to six channels before purchase – for example, to research and make decisions regarding a product. Retailers need to provide customers with all of the tools to make a fully-informed decision via seamlessly integrated channels. With multiple channels, this year retailers need to ensure that they are seamlessly aligned, enabling customers to move freely from one to the other during their shopping experience, no matter which channel they opt for. With all of these channels now in play, it is also essential that retailers tighten their security measures to negate consumer fears of using these digital channels and instill customer confidence.

Big data, big opportunities

The benefit of doing this isn’t just for the consumer. Technology can serve as a data point and collect a wealth of information. With the use of this technology being used more frequently instore such as in-store WiFi and beacons, retailers will be able to cultivate a mountain of data on their customers puts them at a huge advantage. Big data poses the opportunity for greater engagements as it helps retailers better understand their customers. What will set retailers apart from the rest, however, will be how they use their data both to predict their customers’ behaviour and to create real time bespoke experiences on any channel, be it in store, on mobile, or on desktop.

In using those lucrative insights, retailers will be able to upsell items both instore and online, offering personalised targeted offers for that particular customer. We also anticipate that as the cost of 3D printing reduces, we will see items be ‘clicked and manufactured’ in real-time, resulting in cost savings for retailers as well as more bespoke products and services for customers.

Collaboration and competition

Over the course of last year we saw collaboration between some retailers take place, and this year, these partnerships will not only continue, but will develop and become more selective. With increasing competition from their high-street counterparts, this type of partnership will become an increasing priority for online retailers looking to establish a physical presence with a partner that has a ready-made customer base and guaranteed footfall.

For the ‘high street’ retailer, working with an online counterpart offers an added convenience to their customers. Presenting customers with a viable alternative to simply shopping online, there is an expectation of a wider customer base, which will in turn result in more sales. Retailers considering this avenue would be wise to spend time researching a partner that best fits with them – one that is different enough not to simply take their customers, but similar enough to drive conversion.

This year it is imperative that retailers ensure all channels are seamlessly aligned, enabling customers to move freely from one to the other during their shopping experience. The retailers that ensure they are digital from the inside out and create a balanced, efficient offering that caters for all audiences will be the ones who see success in the digital world of 2016.

Rupal Karia, managing director of retail and hospitality, UK and Ireland, Fujitsu