The Digital Store Platform & Friction-Free Shopping

Alison Wiltshire
Alison Wiltshire
Guest Contributor

E-commerce has led shoppers to expect simple, convenient and friction-free shopping experiences, and physical stores are responding with intelligent digital store platforms.

People want shopping in-store to be more like it is online: engaging, personal, informative and convenient – it’s what they get from the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) experience. And, they’ll buy more from organisations that make it easy for them. Achieving all that is at the heart of digital transformation.

But you can only deliver a friction-free customer experience when you collect and use the data generated by in-store and other customer touchpoints to deliver personalised offers, improve service and make constant incremental improvements to your processes. Otherwise, the danger is, as Accenture has suggested, ‘digital window dressing’, rather than genuine digital transformation.

The bricks and mortar retailer aiming to give customers a great in-store experience has plenty of digital ideas to pick from: smart labels, interactive displays, intelligent fitting rooms, video walls, holograms, virtual showrooms, clever packaging, magic mirrors and so on. You can choose the right mix (what works for the teen fashion house will be very different from what’s right for the upmarket homeware retailer or luxury brand). Yet however eye-catching or immersive, digital store touchpoints alone cannot deliver the knowledgeable, individual, seamless experience that customers expect.  

In the digital store, data is also coming from customers’ smartphones, mobile sales associates, RFID-enabled inventory and IoT devices and readers around the store. It can only make sense when you join it all together. That means a single platform that links all digital solutions together, as well as core back office and enterprise systems such as CRM, POS and HR.

BT’s Intelligent Retail Platform will aggregate data from every IoT device plus other sources; identify key real time events based on your business rules; connect all this with your business processes and enterprise systems, and combine it with advanced analytical tools. The outcome is real time insight for (a) individualising the customer experience to increase sales and loyalty, (b) prioritising store operations to optimise productivity and (c) identifying longer term trends across the business. Without such a platform, retailers will be condemned to repeat the problems of the past, with isolated data sets scattered around the organisation, perennially inaccurate inventory and customers constantly frustrated that the business cannot remember who they are and what they’ve bought previously.

Let’s not forget that it is the technology that the customer never sees that really makes for a great shopping experience. It may not be as spectacular as the giant video wall or intelligent fitting room, but giving customers a truly friction-free shopping experience comes down to a single platform that enables thorough data collection, good analytics and great insight. Without that, it’s just window dressing.

BT will be at the NRF BIG Show 2018 along with our fellow members (Intel, RetailNext, Nexgen Packaging, SATO Global Solutions & Valmarc Corporation) of the Acuitas Digital Alliance. We are collaborating to give retailers all the infrastructure, devices and tools retailers need to transform their physical stores. Come and talk to us at NRF on the RetailNext Stand #3165, and also book a visit to the Alexander Black concept store at the BT Showcase in New York where you can see how our digital store platform in action.

About the writer: Alison Wiltshire is the Global Practice Lead, Retail and Consumer Goods for BT. Based out of London, Alison is a frequent writer on retail and applied retail technology solutions.

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