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What’s the future of retail technology?

(Image credit: Image Credit: WNDJ / Pixabay)

In the past, retailers based success on the buy-low-sell-high model which placed all the focus on the product and forgot somewhat about the consumer as an individual. However, as retail technology changes, the focus is being put back on the customer with a greater emphasis on personalisation and providing customers with better service. 

With the development of new technology, personalisation can now be achieved remotely and at scale using big data to gain in-depth customer insight. Retailers can then use this insight to develop new services and engagements that meet customers’ needs.

At the moment, very few retailers are adopting these new technologies and the majority are failing to keep up with this trend. However, in order to prosper, retailers need to take heed and have more of an open mind about how they use technology moving forward.  

Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which retailers can remain up to date developments within the retail market:

  • Firstly, retailers must develop new organisational structures supported by flexible technology and improved processes.
  • Second, it is important to integrate strategies and tactics that align the entire organisation with the business’ mission.
  • They must also create a unified data strategy with an insight-driven culture that learns from customers and finds ways to deliver ROI from the insights gained.
  • Retailers must begin to view technology as an enabler and invest in new technology and processes.

By following these tips and embracing technology, retailers will develop a more insightful business which allows them to better cater to the needs of the consumer, both online and in-store.

But, how will retailers be able to use technology and what benefits will it offer the consumer, you ask? Here are five examples of how technology can be harnessed to improve the retail experience for consumers, including:

Automated servicing

By leveraging the Internet of Things, retailers will be able to track consumption rates and facilitate automated deliveries. For example, owners of smart fridges could find that when they run out of a product, a retailer is alerted, and that item is delivered by the retailer and replenished. This will mean customers will rarely be faced with the inconvenience of running out of a product again. The pace and scale of automated retail is also picking up. Amazon Go saw to that. The concept of walking into a store, picking what you want to buy and then walking out again – without any interaction with staff or a checkout – and be automatically charged for your purchases will become more commonplace in the industry to meet consumer demands around speed of service.

Personal service

Retail workers will acknowledge customers as soon as they walk into a store and have additional product data on-hand to aid the purchase process. Customers will be encouraged to try on, touch, smell and taste products by shop assistants who will be able to provide the customer with extra information about the products.

Retailers will also have access to customer data which will allow them to create a more bespoke and helpful service. This will make it possible to remind customers of their size when carrying out fittings, see previous purchases and make recommendations and access electronic receipts via the customer’s postcode making returns slick and effortless. Not only will this provide a better level of service, but it will also increase customer loyalty and potentially boost sales by creating a sense that the brand knows the customer.

Fully flexible employees

Stores will be able to make mobile-enabled associates available on the shop floor ready to check previous orders, current stock levels and to answer questions. Retailer workers will be able to use handheld devices to simultaneously count stock from the shop floor, stock room, freezer or even delivery truck. Online apps connected to stock levels will enable customers to compare products and ensure customers know what is available there and then.

Payment will be taken at the customers’ convenience instead of at fixed cash desks saving time and effort in support of busy lives. For retailers, this will mean their employees are no longer tied to the cash desk and are free to be on the shop floor, offering a better level of customer service.

Easy multi-item comparison

Consumers won’t have to toggle between screens to compare items, reducing frustration and making online shopping a more pleasant experience. Search functionality will include products with spelling mistakes helping consumers find what they want faster. As we have seen with recent retail figures, online sales are on a huge increase so removing the frustrations shoppers face around comparison of items on the same site will help increase a retailers online performance. 

Supply meets demand

Supply chains will be optimised using the Internet of Things technology and RFID-enabled products. Integrated data will enable hyperlocal demand planning and forecasting. Tracking will predict patterns of demand and provide consistent inventory data. This will also extend to staffing, enabling retailers to be aware of particularly busy or quiet times and ensuring the appropriate number of staff members are on rota. For retailers this will ensure there are always staff members available on the shop floor during peak times to provide great customer service.

While some of this technology is already in use by early adopters, the major change will be that, like the shopping trolley, this technology becomes an expected part of the experience. In order to keep up with this expectation, retailers must begin to embed the processes outlined above into their business to gain greater insights into their consumers and allow them to provide a better standard of service. Through the use of technology, retailers will be able to entice people back into the store and potentially increase the number of sales thanks to the ability to use personalised data to upsell products. Meanwhile, the customer will benefit from faster, more convenient and personalised service. In short, retail technology of the future will benefit both consumers and retailers.

Mike Callender, Executive Chairman, REPL Group (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: WNDJ / Pixabay

Mike Callender, Executive Chairman, REPL Group.