How Mobile Technology Can Revolutionize Your Retail Business
On April 7, 1818, Brooks Brothers opened its first store in New York City. Fast-forward to more than 200 years later, Brooks Brothers, one of the oldest U.S. retailers, still operates today.
As the lines between physical and digital worlds became blurred, new customer demands emerged — with Brooks Brothers alongside those trends. As stated by the company's Chairman and CEO Claudio Del Vecchio, “fashion is by definition changing.”
Brooks Brothers adopted artificial intelligence (AI) into its business early on. The company opted to leave behind traditional marketing and sales strategies to instead focus on predicting what customers want. AI has helped the retailer shift its online presence by offering customers faster shipping options, such as same-day delivery, as well as managing inventory in multiple countries to provide more choices for customers online. From early on, Brooks Brothers was aware that customer demand for online shopping was revolutionizing the industry, and the brand smartly pivoted its operations to respond to this growing trend.
On the flip side, it remains vital for retailers to add value and create a more human experience for shoppers. According to SOTI’s recent From ‘Bricks to Clicks’: Navigating the Retail Revolution report, two-thirds of consumers believe mobile technology delivers a better shopping experience, and they want personalized in-store experiences via mobile devices.
The in-store experience is just the beginning, however. The report also found that one in three consumers are comfortable with emerging delivery methods such as delivery drones, and more than one-quarter (26.9 percent) are comfortable with the idea of autonomous vehicle delivery. As the different facets of retail come together in an increasingly interconnected world, how can retailers reinvent themselves to stay relevant?
The Customer is King (or Queen)
The idea that "the customer is king" should be heard and respected has never been more fitting than it is today. In fact, this royal status has been upgraded in recent years as online and offline retail continues to merge, fostering new levels of service that haven't been seen since the birth of the "shopping experience" more than a century ago.
Ten years ago, the burgeoning e-commerce sector looked like it had physical stores on the ropes as a thirst for immediacy, efficiency and widespread shopping availability was being quenched. Since then, however, a more traditional retail appetite has come back into the fray. Consumer values of personalization, customer service and attention to detail, driven by interaction, are back on the agenda.
More than a decade ago, Warby Parker, the eyewear brand that was birthed online and revolutionized the industry, has become one of the most well-known direct-to-consumer businesses, currently valued at $1.75 billion. Pioneering the try-at-home model, Warby Parker offers high-quality, stylish products at an affordable price that caters to consumers’ desire of finding the right pair of glasses to suit their unique style.
The company was defined by borrowed supply chains, online-only retail, direct distribution channels, social media marketing, and a specific visual brand identity with scalable logos that resonate with consumers.
Customers Want Speed and Personalization
In this new retail landscape where consumers demand the best of both worlds — the immediacy of online shopping with the personal touch of high-end stores — retailers must adapt in response to consumer preferences. This will only serve to benefit them by building a more loyal and engaged customer base.
For some time now, there has been pressure on retailers to not only have technology in place, but implement the right technology. Based on insights from SOTI’s recent report, 76 percent of consumers want personalized in-store experiences from mobile devices, and self-checkout terminals are perceived to improve the shopping experience. However, it's also important to note that one-third (32.6 percent) of consumers are unwilling to sacrifice personal data security to improve their in-store experience, revealing bold new insights about consumers in the modern retail landscape.
The report also revealed that shoppers are most satisfied when offered one or more delivery options outside of traditional in-store transactions. Moreover, shoppers are largely moving away from cash transactions to chip and pin, as well as embracing contactless payments. This positive trajectory towards mobile adoption and consumer trust is a reassuring sign of retail’s digital transformation.
From ‘Bricks and Mortar’ to ‘Clicks and Mortar’
Optimizing both online and offline channels will become the norm as the industry transitions from "bricks and mortar" to "clicks and mortar." Inevitably, this shift will not only influence revenue streams, it will also impact retail staff and the overall supply chain — from manufacturing and inventory to delivery and customer service. Therefore, the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to embrace personalization from the outset; to take in what consumers are asking for and responding to it now.
Retailers need to blend the speed and convenience of digital, with the personal touch of more traditional, human-based interactions. This is no small feat given the understandable resistance among shoppers to indulge in new digital tools right away. However, planning a mobile strategy that suits retailers’ needs now and in the future will prove worthwhile for the long run.
As consumer tastes evolve, retailers need to invest in mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that infuse the shopping experience with new and exciting possibilities. Consumers want speedy service, competitive prices, personalization and instant discounts, and retailers must prepare to respond or risk losing out to their competitors. Any retailer can operate a physical store, but retailers that continually invest in digitization and "going the extra mile" to elevate the customer experience will reap the rewards of future-proofing their business.
Shash Anand is vice president of product strategy at SOTI, a proven leader at creating innovative solutions that reduce the cost and complexity of business-critical mobility and the IoT.