Are retailers being blinded by the shine of new technology?

David Buckingham
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Shiny is good. We’re all guilty of focusing on new gadgets and being swayed by the novelty factor. But when it comes to implementing technology on a large scale in the retail space, does common sense prevail? Or does the appetite for new tech override what the business actually needs? At times, the use of technology seems almost counterproductive. So how can retailers ensure that the technology they’re implementing is fit for purpose and delivering value to the business, not just for the future, but in the immediate term, too?

To put things into perspective, consider what we’re all like as consumers. When it comes to shopping, most of us value convenience. That’s one of the key reasons that online shopping has become so popular. In turn, retailers with physical stores, or those with omni-channel aspirations, are focusing on the convenience factor when streamlining or re-imagining the customer experience and the technology needed to enable it.

This combination of technology and convenience is widespread, from click and collect kiosks to mobile point of sale devices. The key to success for retailers is delivering the best possible customer experience (which of course means convenience) and balancing that with making a profit and growing market share. But at what point does the hunger for new technology overtake what’s in the best interests of the business?

Technology for Technology’s Sake
This is not to say that all retailers are being swayed by technology implementations that are counter-productive to their objectives. Consider innovations like endless aisle technology that is particularly useful in fashion retail, or the use of robotics to streamline the supply chain. There are also many retailers leading the way in implementing technologies in-store that further add to the customer experience and help boost revenue at the same time. And these technologies aren’t even ones that require steep investment or a complete overhaul of existing infrastructures.

The same can be said of the implementation of software at the point of sale that enables physical and digital coupons, and messages on receipts — all of which are proven to be hugely effective in driving customer engagement and delivering incremental revenue.

Also consider the emergence of digital receipts, which can be used for a lot more than just proof of purchase. Depending on the retailer and the product purchased, the receipt can be used for personalised product promotions, value-add messages (for example: 'watch this YouTube video to learn how to take care of your new barbecue'), and discounts on complementary products – all of which helps boost customer experience and loyalty. More than that, they are also convenient for the customer and make keeping track of warranties, for example, much easier. Again, implementing digital receipts doesn’t require a large investment because it works with existing infrastructure and can be easily integrated into the technology ecosystem.

The Future of Retail Technology
Ultimately, it’s all about finding that balance between new technology, business benefits and customer demands. As retailers remain focused on delivering the best possible frictionless experience, the technology they choose needs to support that goal and the wider objectives of the business, increasing revenue and market share.


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