Technology Planning: What Retailers Should Be Doing Now to Prep Their Businesses for the Holiday Rush
Successful retailers are in the business of constantly planning so shelves are stocked in time to meet consumers’ seasonal demands, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, retailers need to think differently when it comes to technology planning. With the holiday season looming, retailers need to invest time now in designing a long-term technology strategy geared towards capturing not only more sales during the holiday season, but driving up revenues year-round.
Understanding a few areas to focus on can help get the planning process started.
Start With the Customer
As the retail landscape continues to evolve and the pace of technological advances accelerates at breakneck speed, retailers need to ensure they're part of the technology revolution and put customers at the heart of the retail experience.
According to Infosys’ recent Retail 2025 Shopper Study Report, consumers are clear about what they expect from retail technology. They want better mobile apps, better checkout experiences, faster shipping, easier in-store pickups, and anything else that improves convenience.
In response, retailers should consider a variety of solutions to make both the online and in-store experiences more convenient, such as making in-store pickup seamless and offering virtual personal shopping aids. Technology such as heat maps, checkout kiosks, mobile payment options and aisle planning tools deliver better traffic flow and shorter checkout lines in-store.
Another important consideration is to think holistically in terms of the customer experience — both online and in-store. A key component of any overarching technology strategy should be integrating online and in-store experiences to create convenience and consistency while deepening the customer relationship throughout the purchase journey.
The power of holistic planning comes to life most vividly during the holiday shopping season. While many consumers shop online for holiday gifts, they tend to first visit brick-and-mortar stores to see, touch and feel products. In-store pickup increases around the holidays, especially for last-minute gift giving. According to Infosys’ retail study, more than a quarter (26 percent) of shoppers regularly order online and pick up in-store, and of these, 41 percent make additional in-store purchases most of the time. That's retail nirvana.
Understanding consumers’ specific likes and dislikes when it comes to interacting with technology is another important consideration. For example, the shopper survey revealed that 65 percent of consumers are likely to allow reminders to redeem offers or loyalty rewards through email or text messages, and 59 percent are likely to allow reminders when they're identified in-store. Another 73 percent said they want to be identified in stores to receive instant promotions and tailor-made offers. Knowing this, retailers should focus on customizing offers to customers, especially to generate excitement and attract them around key holiday shopping cycles that are highly deal-focused like Black Friday.
Keeping Up With the Consumer
Keeping up with consumers’ changing expectations, wants and needs is the No. 1 challenge facing retailers today. Putting technology to work to collect customer data and insights is a strategic imperative, resulting in powerful analytics that can help retailers stay in tune with their customers.
By examining purchase behavior, defining different customer types, and determining what motivates each, retailers can nail down how to activate the right consumer behavior at the right time. Data also takes the guess work out of everything from in-store and online promotions, bundled offerings and discounts to demand sensing and optimizing the fulfillment and supply chain side of operations.
Keeping Up With Competitors
Advanced data can also be used to better understand how competitors are reacting to consumer behavior around the holidays. For example, the post-Black Friday period is essentially a waiting game for consumers as they postpone purchases to the last possible minute to either wait for a better deal or because they need a “break” from November shopping. This means retailers need to know what their competitors are doing in the market so they can react quickly. Web scraping and market comparison analysis tools will enable organizations to react faster to pricing and promotional changes and, ultimately, attract both consumer mind share and wallet share.
Technology planning is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s not too late to get started in building a technology strategy to ensure your business is ready for this holiday season and many more to come.
Jerry Kurtz is the North America leader for consumer products, retail, and logistics at Infosys Consulting, a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting.
Related story: 2019 Retail Technology Report