The rapid advancement of technology, with its inherent connectivity, has dramatically affected individual behavior. One of the instances in which this shift is most evident is in retail. Today, a shopper interacts with a brand in the store and at home, via social media, on his or her mobile phone, and through a store associate. There is no longer an online or an offline experience: engagement is singular. Consequently, retailers are struggling to piece together the omnichannel path to purchase.
Historically slow to adapt to cutting-edge advancements, retailers now realize that technology is a vital part of their operations – both online and in the physical store. Specific to brick-and-mortar retailers, technology is a necessary method for coping with declining traffic and heightened consumer demands. However, mass rollouts of technology are expensive, ROI is challenging to determine, and consumers are temperamental. As a result, retailers are hard pressed to justify investments and, instead, they overrule innovation with worry.
With this in mind, it’s imperative to first note that brick-and-mortar retailers should consistently investigate various technologies in an attempt to maintain their footprint and create the store of the future. Why? Because the store of the future seamlessly integrates technology across the physical store in order to optimize operations – e.g., staffing, inventory, loss prevention, product engagement – while better meeting shopper desires and increasing revenue.
For example, a women’s apparel retailer can integrate a virtual mirror into its fitting rooms, allowing female shoppers to only try on a single item, while also experiencing the style and fit of various other pieces. Not only does this save a shopper time, but it enables a retailer to suggest additional products and increase potential conversion.
The scenarios will differ across verticals. Regardless, technology is the crux of the store of the future.
Recognizing that the adaptation of technology is a fundamental necessity, retailers move forward thoughtfully. By that, retailers need to first examine their operations and identify a specific set of problems that needs to be solved. Initial ambiguity is a catalyst for failure, regardless of the potential – thus, key decision makers in the organization need to outline specific issues, or a hypothesis, that are clearly measurable and then follow through with communication across the organization, prior to making a monetary investment in any technological offering.
Pushing beyond that, retailers need to be willing to fail – and to do it quickly and on the cheap. The great thing about technology is that it is ever changing – constantly in a state of evolution and betterment. Apple is a master at this. Certain solutions seem ideal: you test them in a controlled environment (cheap) and, after a designated period of time elapses (fast), you assess performance and kill the solution if it isn’t working. What’s that old saying? Beating a dead horse isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Finally, it’s most important that retailers choose trusted solution providers. It’s easy to get distracted by the newest, shiniest offering, but organizations need to engage with solution-oriented partners that can scale to their level, provide data-backed insights and offer ongoing support. Retail is evolving rapidly and the right solution provider can keep your business one step ahead.
A version of this article was originally published in Innovative Retail Technologies.