Technology by Team July 13, 2015
Retail has grown into a complicated sector, wherein it is no longer about stocking shelves with desirable goods, with shoppers flocking through the door. Technology has changed the game. Today, modern retailers are making their products available through websites and mobile apps, and running efficient e-commerce operations alongside. Rapid developments have enabled even the brick and mortar stores to deliver goods to the consumer’s front door and be prepared to manage a backlash on social media in case things go wrong.
Consumers, too, are becoming demanding and less willing to suffer failures on part of the retailers. They seek a desirable shopping experience while interacting with retailers. They might also check out products online on their mobile, continue on the same page in their tablet or PC at home. With technological prowess, retailers are able to ensure a seamless journey from selection to payment. All the requirements and demands are actually making retailers look for ways to satisfy the shoppers.
The challenge of technology is both daunting and potentially rewarding. The challenge is that consumers want all shopping portals to be fast and efficient and they are quick to discard any that fail in this aspect. Most retailers will agree that consumers have become more impatient and it’s becoming really hard to provide them with hassle-free platforms at the rate that they are demanding.
As per research on the retail andecommerce industry, the challenge of selling to so many customers across so many different platforms – mobile, websites, store or even social media – is actually disintegrating the brand and thereby leading to its loss in consistency. Therefore, different vendors in the retail sector are focusing on becoming structured to deliver consistently across all such avenues. Most importantly, retailers also needs a clear understanding of brand values and ensure that these percolate across the organization.
There are usually vigorous debate regarding how a brand should deal with online criticism. Most retailers would say this would be one of the dangers of being too open in social media; however, others would say that brands need to respond to customer discontent immediately so that it doesn’t go viral.
Social media is a two-way technology that allows even the consumers to take part in brand activity through co-creation. This involves a brand giving public a say in how ad campaigns are to be created, or using comments that fuel the marketing content. It can also use the platform as a development tool where customers can suggest improvements to products and ranges.
This co-creation of content was seen by participants as a way to open up brands and make them more responsive to consumers. However, it has been agreed that it does require humility from retailers so that they are also able to take the comments in a positive manner and use it to their benefit.
It is expected that the latest technology such as robotics and 3D printing would also have radical implications for retail brands. So, what would the future physical store actually look like? There were lots of suggestions from market experts like pop-up shopping malls, and places where people could choose from a wide variety of products, order them via iPad app and get them delivered to their home within three days. However, retailers were skeptical that the consumers might feel cheated if they had to buy from physical stores and yet wait for days to get them delivered. Inspite of this, others thought that this model is perfect for those who search for obscure brands and need a store with a wide range.
Furthermore, the problem for most clothes retailer is that people insist on trying clothes and shoes before buying and therefore most retailers have to offer free returns on products that don’t fit. Experts on the retail and ecommerce industry suggested that retailers could keep details of people’s sizes for different brands for a more seamless shopping experience.
The much talked about transformation brought by technology and retail sector is sending messages to consumers’ mobiles when they are near or inside a store. These messages would include significant discount coupons or directions to a special offer. To cite an instance, the Apple iBeacon is a transmitter that allows retailers to send information directly to smartphones of people who are within a few hundred feet of the store.
There are people who might think this is intrusive, and consumers might actually need to opt in to receive messages via iBeacon. However, if multiple retailers texted at the same time when consumers entered a shopping mall, it might be irritating for the consumers. Others propagated the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) system of messaging, as it requires active choice from the mobile user, who has to move the phone close to the transmitter. But research showed that shoppers were extremely opposed to retailers sending text messages to their phones when they are in or near stores.
Whatever be the method, retailers need to offer a seamless experience across different channels to consumers. For this sector, keeping up with the latest technology is not an option but a necessity.
About Author: Aditi Biswas is a research and communication expert at a global research firm that conducts business research and provides market intelligent services. She helps firms gain actionable insights based on technology and best practices, thorough detailed market study and analysis.