For many years retailers had been able to sidestep the need to invest in technology and leading edge IT solutions for the storefront. The new advances in technology have led to significant changes in the way consumers shop. As a result the retail industry is poised to witness rapid returns by embracing technology advances and acting early as opposed to playing catch-up. The most glaring change in the way people shop, particularly those shoppers under the age of 45, is that product decisions are made before even entering a store. Also, shipping of goods is acceptable as a means of getting the product into the consumer’s hands as is buying in a region outside of your own; and brand loyalty has never been tested to the extent it is being tested today. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of technology for today’s retailer.
Retailers embrace technology.
Retailers today need to ensure that their business strategy includes a technology strategy in order to stay relevant in today’s market. They need to make sure they have a solid Omni channel solution in place or, at the very least, an Omni channel strategy waiting to be delivered on. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are also key to better understanding how and why your customers are shopping and buying your products. Retailers must better understand their customers and must be willing to trade off additional value in order to gain insightful personal information from the shoppers. Providers of IT services will also need to meet the expectations and budget requirements of retailers by providing out-of-the-box, rapid implementation solutions. Retailers need systems that provide all required information including KPI and dashboard analytics.
How’s your website working for you?
As mentioned, buying decisions are often completed before ever stepping into a store. This means it’s critical for websites to be as inviting and attractive as in-store merchandise layouts. First impressions still count, and for many retailers the first impression is a visit to your website. Although a great website is important, it also needs to be mobile compatible. Mobile and tablet devices are outselling desktops and laptops. The traditional website does not make for great viewing on a smart device. Money walks and frustrating your customers with a poor website or a non-mobile site is a good way to have them move to the competitor’s site. Being able to view and make decisions on a tablet or mobile phone, in the fastest time possible, also contributes to the overall positive shopping experience.
Loyalty programs will keep them coming back.
The key to collecting data on your customers is the getting them involved in your loyalty program. Loyalty programs must be engaging and worth the exchange of their data. In other words, the trade of rewards for information must be fair. Once loyalty programs have been established, and proper IT systems are in place, retailers can start to really dive deep into customer trends and buying patterns, leveraging big data trends and using this information to augment offers to specific customers.
Retailers will also need to embrace a comprehensive social media strategy, one that allows customers an open line to comment, recommend, criticize and review products and services. Retailers not confident enough to allow social media feedback will find their customers holding back rather than providing information and other critical data that enables the customer/retailer relationship to grow.
For many years retail managed to avoid doing a retail technology deep dive preferring instead to invest in warehouse solutions, supply chain initiatives and inventory management projects. However, with the wave of smartphones, tablets and the growing popularity of the ‘app’ world, it has become essential for retailers to embrace technology or be left behind by those who do. For help developing your retail technology strategy, contact BDO Canada.
By: Chris Johnsen, National Managing Partner, BDO Canada|Solutions