Industry experts share insights on how technology is shaping the retail sector and why you should think a little differently when it comes to deploying digital in your retail business.
Buying technology for any shop can be a costly affair, so it’s advised to ensure that any digital upgrades you make provide a worthwhile return on investment (ROI). This is because making a call on technology acquisitions is becoming increasingly challenging for business owners (as different types of technologies come to market regularly).
“We've already seen plenty of disruption from new technologies, and if the pace of innovation is anything to go by, disruption will continue. Retailers are starting to adopt a more data-driven approach, but it’s important for them to only invest in new technology trends if they can see a clear return on investment.”– James Paine, Inc.com
The relevance of technology in a retail business
According toInc.comcontributor and entrepreneur, James Paine, you’re in the midst of an exciting retail-tech landscape – where nothing is certain and everything is to play for. “Whether you decide to adopt new tech trends or not, you need to know about them if you hope to stay relevant,” he says.
Related: Is the smartphone making it more challenging to be a retailer?
On the local front, Edwill Nel, client experience executive: enterprise segment at Internet Solutions, explains that the way in which retailers are communicating with customers is changing at a rapid pace. “Predicting and meeting customer needs at the right time, while collecting more information about them can help retailers and merchants to gain a competitive edge on each other,” he notes.
From a business leader perspective, Nel advises that you give the role of information technology (IT) in your company a thorough assessment. “The role of IT is shifting and moving towards becoming key business enablers. IT can provide more strategic input. Factor them into the conceptual stages and consider how skilled data scientists can help you,” Nel explains.
The future of retail could look like this
Ping, ping: We sense you might need something
A retail store sends a valued customer an SMS or email to inform them about an upcoming sale on a particular brand of shower gel. “It is the customer’s favourite scent, the perfect size, priced at a discount, and timed just as the customer arrives home to discover they’ve just run out of shower gel. The customer takes only a few minutes to click a link, go online and order the gel before dashing off to the gym,” Nel explains.
Ring, ring: We’re here to deliver your purchases
The shower gel is delivered by a drone just as the customer arrives at the gym an hour later. “The retailer has even sent along a free pair of promotional flip flops to say thank you. All this, and John is the only human involved in the entire transaction,” Nel adds.
It might seem like a science-fiction fantasy film, but this is how retailers like Amazon are already looking at the future. Intelligent systems can help you predict customers’ specific needs and meet these needs at the right time. You can also collect more insightful information about customers’ activities, rate of consumption and shopping preference channels.
“Gone will be the spray-and-pray approach,” Nel says.
Related: The evolving retail sector opens up entrepreneurship opportunities
The technologies that retail customers want (and don’t want)
RichRelevance, a global retail organisation, recently released its annual‘Creepy or Cool’international survey. The report shows that consumers are willing to share more data for a better retail experience, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to elevating a shopping experience through digital transformation.
Wanted versus unwanted technology in retail
The majority of respondents to the RichRelevance survey said they would allow retailers to collect more customer data to improve the customer experience.
Most respondents also said data should be collected anonymously, while younger Millennials (currently aged 18-29) responded much more positively to cutting-edge technologies such as robots and virtual reality (VR) glasses for shops compared to older-generation shoppers.
The top ‘cool’ technologies for retailers to consider (according to consumers):
Voice search and biometric payment capability:
The ability to search for or order products using voice recognition technology in a store, and the functionality to use fingerprints to pay for items and receive automatic home delivery.
Augmented reality to make purchase decisions:
Digital screens, interactive mirrors or virtual reality glasses that display additional products. Trying on a hat using these devices? The system draws digital jackets that match it in store.
Non-human assistance and walk-out without paying:
Robots that guide customers to specific products within store aisles upon request and the ability to walk out of the shop without ‘paying’ at a register. Amazon is already testing its ‘just-walk-out’ payment technology.
Standard Bank can help you finance and insure your retail technologies. We can also provide you with safe and secure cashless payment devices such as Autolink, BluMobi and Snapscan.