What Technologies are Influencing Retail Change Today?
The retail industry is a multi-faceted business environment that involves the use of multiple selling channels to fully cater to the demands of the ‘Digital Consumer’. The customer today has become accustomed to making purchases online at the convenience of his touch device and in view of such a dynamic environment, there is a strong need to provide seamless connectivity to consumers. The proliferation of these multiple disruptive technologies has prompted retail companies to integrate these channels in a more organized manner.
The Omni-channel Retail Experience
New technologies like mobile retail, social media, analytics and cloud computing have completely altered the retail landscape over the last 10 years. By offering multiple selling channels, companies are now focussed towards providing an omni-channel retail experience for customers. This also allows for greater synergy between all competing operational domains. For eg, stores can now accept returns on products purchased online. The ability to synchronize multiple channels will help retailers to effectively meet growing customer demands.
Retail giants for many years have been using web analytics and other customer related data to streamline their marketing efforts towards providing a personalized customer experience. With the advent of social media, data has grown exponentially - prompting companies to invest in Big Data Projects that will help them to target potential customers by incorporating predictive analytics.
Facebook advertising for instance, can be used by retailers to reach out to customers on the basis of demographics or location. You can also find your target audience by looking into their purchase behaviour and interests. If you own a jewellery company in the UK, you can target woman between the age groups of 18 to 45 and market your products on their Facebook page.
Logistical operations with regard to product and service delivery has come a long way over the last 2 years. Many companies today are offering online customers 1 hour delivery options in select cities from around the world. Retail giants like Amazon offer single day delivery in over 150 metropolitan cities across the globe. With e-commerce, the online shopping experience has become truly global but nevertheless brings with it its own set of challenges. For instance, in a country like China a lot of retail companies still rely on delivery by bicycles. While recognizing the immense opportunities for growth, companies are gearing up to fully integrate their operations to enhance delivery cycles. Over the next few years, smaller towns and cities from several countries will also be enabled with single day delivery options.
The use of smartphones and in-store technologies like web kiosks has further empowered the customer towards getting the best deals on any class of products. Companies are now regularly setting up beacons and Wi-Fi hot spots in store premises to enhance point- of-sale capabilities. Sales representatives are provided with tablets to improve work productivity. Additional methods of payment like mobile money, mobile wallet, mobile POS and bit coins has also made financial transactions easier for customers.
Management of Inventory
With multiple channels of commerce, retailers are nowadays much more adept at inventory planning. By adopting a wide distribution of wholesale networks, companies can work with 3rd party affiliates to fully manage and replenish their warehouses. This way, companies can ensure that they do not go out of stock even during peak shopping seasons. By using cutting edge supply chain and inventory systems, customers can receive notifications in real time through SMS or e-mail.
Payment processes are becoming more streamlined with many retailers accepting more than one currency in a single transaction. Alternatives like World Pay and PayPal have become hugely popular with customers unwilling to use credit card information on e-commerce platforms. Companies today are also offering loyalty cards and redeem coupons online to provide special discounts to customers. Users can also initiate a quick purchase thanks to single click checkouts, which has made payment process a lot quicker.
Showrooming is the practise of customers visiting traditional stores to check out products and then making a purchase for the same product online at lower prices. While this has understandably caused angst to several brick and mortar store owners, you can fight this trend by equipping your store with kiosks for product information, planograms and other visual merchandizing equipment. The sales staff are now provided with tablets to keep track of real time prices while engaging with tech savvy shoppers.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Every time a customer visits your store and is happy with the service provided, the expectations only tend to increase during his or her next visit. With the proliferation of social media into the e-commerce domain, retailers need to come up with innovative ideas to help preserve brand loyalty. This can be done by developing loyalty and other marketing apps that will sustain buying interest among consumers.