Why a Wait-and-See Approach to Technology Won't Work in Today’s Retail Environment
Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), robotics, blockchain … the retail technology possibilities can become overwhelming when determining where to focus your resources and energy. The tendency may be to implement nothing and adopt a wait-and-see approach to determine what shakes out as the single, best way to engage shoppers and increase sales before making a move, but that attitude is a direct path to stagnation or, worse, extinction.
Next-generation retail goes beyond omnichannel. Retailers need to move from a position of simply meeting customers’ needs to anticipating them. The only way to do that is to embrace the new technologies that enhance customer interactions. From department stores to grocers, tier one retailers are investing heavily in research and development of these types of in-store technologies. According to Gartner, worldwide retail tech spending will increase 3.6 percent to $203.6 billion as retailers allocate more resources to improving operations and brand experiences by investing in technology.
According to the 2019 iVend Retail Global Shopping Trends Report, one-third of consumers want an AR interface to try products. AR shopping apps, like The Home Depot’s, which allows users to try products ranging from faucets to paint colors, helps consumers visualize a product in their home before purchasing. This “try before you buy” technology is positioned to be a standard modus operandi for the online shopping industry, especially for home goods. In-store, virtual dressing rooms are harnessing the power of AR to entice shoppers into making a purchase.
When it comes to AI, 28.4 percent of global consumers want to be able to chat online with a retailer for customer service. This is the ultimate convenience because it allows customers to receive the same level of service they would get from a sales associate in-store, wherever they are.
However, using AI to create personalized shopping experiences is only as good as the data you feed into the system. Making AI work for retail requires a single source of data from across all your channels, which means that your technology must be integrated into a platform that allows you to easily leverage it.
Internet of Things
Almost half (44.6 percent) of all shoppers reported wanting to use digital QR codes in stores to access product info or discounts. This is a fresh, upgraded take on the days of coupon clipping. QR codes allow customers to keep everything organized on their personal devices, and are better at enticing users to redeem offers.
Seventy percent of global shoppers are likely to respond to an offer or promotion delivered to their phone. With geo-targeting technology, store beacons can track and send promotions to phones when customers are nearby,
IoT isn’t just for retailer-to-consumer interactions, however. It’s also important for supply chain tracking and inventory management. IoT chips are inexpensive, but incredibly valuable for tracking products and providing real-time visibility into inventory across channels.
Contactless payments and virtual wallets are quickly becoming one of the most popular payment methods. Thirty-nine percent of customers want to pay via contactless payments or a mobile wallet. Consumers are concerned about carrying wallets or using credit cards in plain sight, and mobile wallets offer a sense of security.
Beyond security concerns, slow checkouts are a major pain point for consumers. Eighty-three percent of the people surveyed by iVend Retail said that a quick and easy checkout was the most important aspect of a shopping experience. Speeding up the checkout process is critical to remaining competitive. Virtual and contactless payments are a convenient way to help do that.
A Cohesive Strategy
Making it all work together requires a connected retail strategy where all the major systems, from point of sale to marketing to ERP, are all highly integrated on the back end. The latest and greatest retail technology won’t get you anywhere without the right tools in place to manage everything. Systems that require manual syncing or, worse, manual data entry cannot support new technology.
Consumers are looking for a better, more convenient shopping experience, and are aware of how technology can provide that. Make sure you're one step ahead of the consumer, instead of waiting until sales start declining before meeting their demands. By staying up-to-date on the latest retail trends and implementing technology that will benefit your customers, you'll always be able to consistently provide them with experiences that keep them loyal and satisfied.
Paula Da Silva is executive vice president of global partners and alliances at iVend Retail by CitiXsys, a global provider of integrated omnichannel solutions for retail and hospitality chains sold through a worldwide distribution network of certified partners.
Related story: The 2018 Retail Technology Report
Paula Da Silva is Executive Vice President of Global Partners and Alliances at iVend Retail by CitiXsys, a global provider of integrated omnichannel solutions for retail and hospitality chains sold through a worldwide distribution network of certified partners.
Paula Da Silva has more than 25 years of experience in information technology. Since 2006, Paula has been instrumental in building iVend Retail into a global market leader in the retail industry and currently spearheads the recruitment of channel partners to expand iVend Retail’s worldwide footprint. As a thought leader she has authored multiple online articles for publications like Apparel, Retail Touchpoints, Total Retail, RIS News and Multichannel Merchant. Frequently invited to speak, she’s made appearances at Retail Now, The Australian Retailer Association and at Sage Partner Community events. Paula’s passion for retail extends to her personal life where she has made shopping an artform, visiting premier shopping destinations around the globe from Sydney to Los Angeles.