Retail Uberisation: Harnessing Smart Technology to Enhance the Customer Journey
In 2020, digital transformation continues to hold the key for business organizations that wish to standout and gain the upper hand in today’s highly competitive global economy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in retail – an industry that previously held impersonal, transactional relationships with customers, but now must offer highly personalized omnichannel shopping experiences.
For retailers, digital transformation has not only made it possible to reach, engage and convert shoppers across all commerce channels – from brick and mortar, to web, mobile and social – it has also enabled the ability to collect and analyze data in real-time in order to make faster and smarter business decisions across areas ranging from product development, to inventory, promotion and pricing. This increasing data reliance however places new demands on the enterprise network, particularly at the edge where the true opportunities are born and constantly evolving.
Innovative and engaging in-store experiences is a strategic priority for retailers if they want to deliver against the expectations of today’s on-demand consumers. Consequently, the brick and mortar store is evolving rapidly. Consumers demand more payment options, especially options that enable them to avoid standing in-line to make purchases. Moreover, they want to leverage their smart device in hand, to review products with the quick scan of a barcode or take advantage of VR technologies to virtually try-out or try-on products.
In a world where consumers increasingly expect to browse and purchase products with a click (or even a voice command), find products fast using in-store location technologies or view endless aisle product options at the click of a keypad, success essentially hinges upon being able to successfully layer digital on top of the physical experience to connect with – and serve – shoppers more effectively. In other words, there must be the proper network bridge and technology infrastructure in place to securely bridge the divide between the store, the data center and HQ, that can support a host of new in-store devices and infrastructures – including corporate and customer WiFi connectivity.
With 3D product displays, AI-powered shopping assistants, virtual catwalks and virtual brochures poised to deliver new and highly immersive in-store experiences, realizing the store of the future means the physical store will need to get a great deal more connected, mobile and smarter.
The continuing ‘uberisation’ of commerce means that the next retail innovations are likely to go beyond simply enabling same day delivery or rapid pick-up at a location that’s convenient for shoppers. One example of such an advancement includes what is now known as sustainable rental fashion. This is the latest phenomenon to take the retail industry by storm, as Millennial and Generation Z consumers, who value access over ownership, buy into the concept of hiring clothing at a fraction of the full-purchase retail price.
Likewise, the pop-up retail store concept is evolving fast as brands and retailers look to strengthen emotional connections with consumers in order to drive longer lasting relationships. Today’s retailers are thinking outside the box to create memorable ‘Instagramable’ experiences that excite and enchant consumers. It’s an approach that’s spawning a completely new go-to-market channel for retailers and brands alike, as they tap into consumer desires for tactile and sensory experiences that can’t be matched online.
Open for just a few days or hours, these tech-infused spaces feature shoppable screens, virtual checkouts, and gamification, alongside carefully crafted concepts intended to showcase merchandise that’s expressly curated for the event. Likewise, brands and retailers are also getting clever about how they leverage in-store concession spaces; for example, launching new items on selected days to test market response or entice repeat shoppers.
As retailers rethink how they go to market, as well as reinterpret the physical store for a whole new generation of shoppers, they’re having to adapt their operational models fast. Thriving and surviving in an era when digital disruption has become the paradigm is dependent upon employing smart technologies to realize success in four key areas; to build closer and stronger customer engagement, extend the range of payment options on offer, optimize supply chain and logistics strategies, and augment business processes using technologies such as IoT to enable hyper-localised merchandising. Predicting what’s to come in the retail industry is no easy task, but with the right network infrastructure in place, retailers will be well positioned to roll-out new services and deploy in-store fast – no matter where their retail presence is located, or for how long.