The new retail technology landscape is vibrant and fast moving. Ever since the dawn of e-commerce some 25 years ago, people have been predicting the demise of physical retail. Yet, physical retail continues to be alive and (mostly) well. With so many naysayers, physical retail’s technological overhaul has lagged other consumer-oriented sectors, such as media, but that is rapidly changing. Today, retail technology companies seem to be multiplying, all with the promise of helping retailers evolve their business.
Most of us are well aware that good retail is always evolving and has been long before we were able to buy things online or use our mobile phones to compare products or prices while in store. Whether it’s new formats, new brands, new styles or new fads, evolution has long been a hallmark of retail. And the reason for this is that consumers are fickle. We get bored easily. We like fresh, new and innovative. We like connection, and the physical store is one key area that brands and retailers make a unique and authentic connection with their consumer.
We have been talking a lot at RetailNext about what the Store of the Future looks like. Certainly there are the modern, streamlined stores that are outfitted with slick technological interfaces, such as magic mirrors, digital signage, tablet-based signage and more. But what if that isn’t in sync with your brand? What if you want to offer a different type of connection or experience that is core to your brand? Can technology still be meaningful in optimizing physical retail if the technology isn’t interacting directly with the shopper?
At RetailNext, we think yes, and we think it starts and ends with the shopper. So, rather than a Store of the Future, we talk in terms of a Shopper-Centric Store of the Future that is built around the retailer’s brand and objectives. It starts with leveraging real-time data to provide a baseline of your shopper. Leveraging new technologies and the data they enable, traffic counting has evolved into Traffic 2.0, which provides dimensionality to your shopper traffic: is your shopper male or female? what is the approximate age? how does that shift over the course of the day? how does he or she move through out the store and where does she tend to engage the most with product? Understanding this baseline provides the retailer with tools for driving conversion and average transaction value through adjustments to staffing, merchandising or marketing.
But what’s next? Traffic 2.0 provides data that enables the retailer to reduce friction, but this data can also be used to power other friction-reducing technologies that help to accelerate outcomes. For example, several companies provide tools to engage with the shopper in the digital realm and then guide the shopper into the physical store….using that data in the in-store environment, service can be faster and more personalized. Having insight to your Traffic 2.0 and the additional traffic that is coming from the digital environment, you can drive smart scheduling to ensure the right sales associates are on the floor at the right time. And what if those sales associates could be trained with the click of a button on the products that are seeing the most engagement on the floor? The better trained they are, the more they engage with shoppers, and that drives conversion.
Other retail technologies bring digital collateral to the in-store environment, elevating the notion of “showrooming,” so the shopper has all of the information at her fingertips. Or you can use robots in your store to measure compliance, freeing up the sales associate to focus on selling and serving rather than re-stocking. Better yet, what if the retailer is able to use sales data and shopper data to drive optimal hyper-local merchandising? Yes, there’s a company that does that too.
We’ve only scratched the surface describing the various ways that retail technology companies can reduce friction and help the retailer create a Shopper-Centric Store of the Future. In many cases, the technology is highly visible. In many cases, it is not. But it really doesn’t matter because the technology is not the star of this story … it’s the shopper.
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