Now is the ideal time for a retailer to make investments in technology. In terms of seasonality, it can be a relatively slower time for sales, so planning out new technology strategies and implementing them will get retailers ready for when sales pick up again, with minimal disruption.
There are a great deal of different technology trends that retailers can invest in, but there are five in particular that stand out as offering the best opportunities for retailers to get ahead in 2014:
Managed Wi-Fi – ‘It’d be great to just get online and find out more’
Wi-Fi offers retailers so much and it’s amazing that more haven’t already implemented it already. A managed Wi-Fi service is hands-off management for the retailer, and can be turned to so many different applications within the retail space. Customers could use it to research additional information about products they’re interested in, while the retailer could use it as an opportunity to deliver advertising to people that connect to the Wi-Fi service, and gather data about their shoppers habits. It can also be utilised to provide instant special offers and benefits to those who connect with your business through social channels – this creating loyalty and increasing reach longer term activities.
Most simply, though, it raises good will. Everyone appreciates free Wi-Fi – and nowadays, everyone is actively ‘looking’ for free Wi-Fi. Offering it to them is a simple way to make customers feel like you’re looking out for them. It is also a way to achieve greater foot fall and to attract people who may have previously simply walked on by.
Big Data and Analytics – ‘This retailer understands me’
For a retailer, the customer data is a critical resource. Collecting the right data and then using it properly will allow a retailer to send tailored marketing campaigns that appeal to the customer’s specific interests, and these kinds of campaigns are proven to be far more effective than broad and untargeted advertising. With loyalty cards and some of the larger stores, this process has been around for many years. However, with advances in technology, this is now accessible to every size and type of retailer.
So, how should a retailer be collecting this data? An effective loyalty club will provide plenty of insights into your customer’s spending habits – while having the additional benefits of giving them something in return for their data. People love discounts, but more importantly, people love relevant discounts. So make use of it in your business, as loyalty leads to repeat business.
E-Commerce – ‘Check out this stores website’
It’s amazing just how many retailers are out there who still don’t have an online presence, or if they do, it’s a token effort because everyone keeps telling them that they should. Never mind that modern shoppers are increasingly weary of buying from a shop that they can’t find online. As such, the retailer is missing out on a much larger audience than would ever walk into your stores.
An effective online shopping portal not only opens your business to customers from around the world, but it gives you access to more customer data, social media networking opportunities and provides you with the opportunity to sell a wider range of products that perhaps cater to niche interests and can’t be justified with shelf space. An online presence and e-commerce platform is a significant investment initially, but a necessary one in the modern retail environment. Linked with analytics and also Wi-Fi access, you can provide current and future customers easy access to what they are looking and make the entire purchasing process quicker, easier and worth sharing with friends and family.
In-Store Digital Integration – ‘What are they looking at?’
Customers like to feel a part of something vibrant and exciting, and digital integration is an easy way to do that. Developing apps around loyalty cards will get people pulling out their phones while browsing, while in-store Wi-Fi could allow them to connect to the internet to see further information on a product, or even videos of it in action.
Making smart use of displays, body scanners, and projection units all sounds like stuff from futuristic films like Minority Report, but these technologies are now available to retailers, and the more funky, modern, and technologically-integrated a store can be, the more interested the shopper is going to be as they walk around it. It’s all about attracting people to your store, and then making sure that they stay for a while. Don’t forget, ‘a crowd makes a crowd.’
Cloud Services- ‘My experience is always consistent with this brand’
A Cloud model will allow for a consistency in IT experience across remote sites. By nature, retailers have a lot of remote sites, and having that consistency allows for easy tech support in the event that something goes wrong, minimising downtime and customer frustration. It also allows retailers to share loyalty programs, reward schemes and on-off specials across all stores with the click of a button.
A cloud solution will also be essential for retailers in tying any technology strategy together as it gives them the ability to outsource technology and access the skills of experts for critical functions.
Retailers that are technology aware and willing to make investments to prepare for 2014 are going to find themselves with a more loyal customer base and many more opportunities to make sales. In other words, they’ll be the successful ones in a tough retail environment.