The past several years have seen an explosion of technologies aimed at addressing the connected needs of homes, schools, and even cities. Similarly, in this time of unprecedented change in the retail industry, the time is now for an IoT-enabled, connected, and even smart, store.
I am a retailer first and technologist second, and in my role at RetailNext I hold myself personally responsible for ensuring the solutions we bring to market address real needs of retailers. My team and I are constantly asking questions about technology, such as:
- What problem does this solve?
- What questions does it answer?
- How do you action the data?
- What’s the point?
RetailNext has always had the view physical retail is here to stay, but in order to compete, retailers need to fundamentally change the way they do business. Just last week I sat on a panel at Commerce Ventures’ Commerce Summit 2016 discussing “The Store of the Future,” and one of the questions I was asked was, “What’s the biggest threat to physical retail?”
My answer was simple: “Physical retailers.”
I strongly believe that if legacy – “old school,” if you will – retailers don’t adopt technologies and processes to optimize their stores based on data and intelligence, they won’t be around in 10 years, and maybe not even five.
There are several components influencing a fundamental change – ones we often write about – of using data to drive decisions, connecting the dots for fulfillment across channels, creating an in-store experience that keeps customers coming back for more, and … the list goes on and on and on. The good news is that both retailers and technology innovators have listened.
The technology landscape for in-store technologies and data-driven systems continues to grow. Every day we meet another innovator with a great idea to ease a very real pain point within retail, and the solutions span the gamut from flashy technologies serving up personalized content based on the item a shopper is holding in hand to more routine solutions addressing specific problems, like how to ease the burden of online purchases returned to physical stores. These solutions are all fantastic, but leave our customers (and sometimes even me) scratching their heads thinking, “How do I do all of this and understand the impact on my business?”
The RetailNext Smart Store
As I mentioned earlier, retailers risk becoming obsolete if they continue to operate as they have for the last 100 years. Every day I hear of a new retail concept coming to market, and slowly but surely the old guard is becoming disrupted in ways that will be difficult to recover from. And, the question these legacy retailers ask time and time again is, “With all of the data available, and all of the options to move the needle, where do we start and how do we make sense of it all?”
RetailNext has quickly evolved to be the de facto standard for in-store analytic technology. Our platform allows retailers to measure in-store activity in a way that was not even dreamed to be possible 10 years ago. Who passes the store, when does she enter (and why), how does she navigate the store, where and when do associates assist her on her shopping journey and, ultimately, what path does she take to her purchase (or her empty-handed exit). This deep understanding of shoppers and the navigation of their shopping journeys is critical to the evolution of retail, but the obvious next step is how do retailers optimize every square foot of their real estate based on this data.
This is where the RetailNext Smart Store comes into the picture. In addition to the myriad of new retail formats and brands popping up every day, there are an equal if not larger number of technology companies entering the fray, all hoping to be the solution retailers adopt as the “next big thing.” These micro-applications present amazing possibilities for retailers, and they get better and better as the data inputs get richer and richer.
The RetailNext core solution set provides many of the inputs needed to optimize solutions available on today’s market. Foundational traffic data is fed into labor scheduling, task management, queue management systems, heating and cooling systems, etc. to optimize those solutions for the immediate needs of the business. Moving beyond traffic, data points such as dwell and engagement aid merchandising optimization solutions, as well as training applications to pinpoint opportunities within the stores, including, of course, the ability to immediately and personally serve up offers that impact conversion real time.
The data sets from the RetailNext Wi-Fi and Bluetooth offerings also continue to expand to drive real-time action in-store. The point is that the massive amounts of data being served up by us are aiding all of these applications to work better in-store. But the other side of the coin, and perhaps the more important one, is how that data comes together to drive action and activity in-store and to measure the impact of all of this technology working together. When you start to feed rich activity data into the applications, and then start to measure the combined and integrated impact of all of these applications on the same playing field, magic starts to happen.
Stores are an integral channel in today’s cross-channel, multichannel retail world, and they serve different roles to different shoppers and different retailing business models. Some stores are branding showcases where shoppers can’t buy anything, while others are distribution centers serving the fulfillment needs of purchases made elsewhere. Still others are destinations where brands connect, engage and serve in an authentic manner with their customers.
Yet, while all stores serve many different roles, Smart Stores share common characteristics. They are maniacally focused on shoppers, and are responsive to shoppers’ ever-evolving needs and wants – agile, nimble and quick. They utilize data-driven insights to complement retail’s hard-earned judgment and experience. And, they collect and act upon a wealth of inputs – including those of shoppers – to serve, delight and retain.