Coupons are big business, but they require effort to keep track of. Digital coupons are bridging that gap. According to recent research cited in an article on CPGtrends.com, digital couponing is gaining momentum: usage grew from 88.2 million in 2011 to 92.5 million in 2012. For retailers to cash in on digital couponing, they need to coordinate with their IT departments to create hassle-free coupon redemption.
Stepping inside a store today is like taking a peek into the future: Retailers are using heat cameras, WiFi and radio frequency identification tags to track customers’ in-store behavior and trends, according to a recent Women’s Wear Daily article. While data mining applications have been around for a long time, brick-and-mortar stores are starting to use tracking technology to collect even more data.
The corner boutique is now in everyone’s neighborhood thanks to the Web. Boutiques are thriving in the digital frontier, according to a recent New York Times article. These stores are able to reach more shoppers online and still manage its digital operations with personalized flair. A Web presence is a great way boutiques can attract new customers and maintain relationships.
For retailers, having a great customer experience for online, mobile, social and in-store shopping is critical. The key to this is technology. A recent survey cited in a MediaPost.com article affirmed this important need. For 75 percent of U.S. retailers, creating an engaging in-store customer experience is the most pressing concern over the next five years.
When it comes to reaching today’s average online consumer, it’s not what you say, but how you say it — digitally and visually — that counts. Social media is shifting from a socially-based consumption model to more of an experience model. Mashable.com highlighted top trends that are transforming retail customers. They include making information more visual, using calming technology and neuromarketing.
Retail can take a few notes from print media’s digital transformation. Major newspapers and other media outlets are creating brands that are compelling, engaging and socially optimized, according to a report cited on Forbes.com. Retailers need to make sure that they’re taking advantage of the digital format by presenting their products in an engaging way and creating a strong social media presence.
The use of radio frequency identification tags could boost sales and help retailers monitor their inventory better, but many have not adopted the technology. That’s because it can be costly and requires many logistical details. Where RFID is really gaining traction is for high-margin, high-cost items. One major clothier said RFID led to a 1 to 2 percent increase in sales, according to LuxuryDaily.com.
QR codes are still trying to win over friends in one segment of the retail shopping world. Mobile Commerce Press recently cited a survey that found only 7.2 percent of retail stores in Boston-area shopping malls used the two-dimensional barcode. If retailers are going to use QR codes, they need to have the infrastructure to gather usable data while making sure the codes are secure.
A mobile-robotic system is the innovative backbone of one retailer’s distribution center. Shortly after implementing the new technology, officials said the order fulfillment process became more efficient. However, using robotics is a considerable investment. The system requires a very sophisticated IT system and very skilled people to take care of and properly maintain it.
A recent article on Mashable.com highlighted a prototype grocery cart that gives shopping a futuristic makeover. Paired with Microsoft Kinect technology, the cart can pretty much do most of your shopping, including crossing off items on your grocery list and ringing them up as you go. This innovative way to cater to the customer’s needs is the future of retail.
More retailers are reaping the benefits of radio-frequency identification as the cost of the technology decreases. RFID allows companies to track products from the manufacturer through shipping to the distribution center and on to individual stores. They can see where their shipment is at any time — even if it’s in the middle of the ocean. RFID helps companies cut costs and improve service.
Randy Misener, Editor-at-Large
Randy Misener is the Industry Executive responsible for Enterprise Retail Management solutions at Avanade. Majority owned by Accenture, Avanade was founded in 2000 by Accenture LLP and Microsoft Corporation and has approximately 15,000 professionals in more than 20 countries.