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For stores today, omni-channel retailing is no longer a lofty goal. Emerging technology and mainstream mobile devices are making the seamless integration between online and physical stores not only a reality, but a requirement.
A recent article on The Guardian website highlights this trend. Technologies like radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near field communication (NFC), along with the rising use of smartphones and tablets, is making omni-channel retailing more achievable and important than ever before.
And yet many retailers still aren’t ready. They don’t have the right infrastructure. In fact, many still have mainframes. How can you take advantage of these new technologies with an aging architecture? It’s all about the flow of information. It’s one thing to have all of this data, but what are you going to do with it?
Retailers need a flexible, extensible environment to leverage these advances in technology. The good news is that a lot of these technologies are cheaper than they once were. Sure, retailers might have to bite the bullet and throw out their old infrastructure, but it will be worthwhile in the long run.
The article takes a look at how other retailers are moving ahead. For example, one national U.S. retail chain plans to have RFID in all of its locations this year. Customers will be able to purchase items at self-serve stations and through their mobile devices, cutting costs for checkout transactions.
It’s just one example of how retailers are making changes to “enhance the retail formula.” Retailers must provide convenient ways for customers get store information and share their shopping experience. It’s a lot like “the good parts of e-commerce, with all the fun and tactile richness of real life thrown in,” the article notes.
If omni-channel retailing is your goal, The Guardian article recommends three ways to make it happen.
- Spread digital operations across the organization: Too often, the digital operations work in “silos.” This prevents retail or other departments from taking full advantage of omni-channel retailing opportunities.
- Invest in technology: Some retailers have held off on implementing more digital capabilities due to high implementation costs. But the costs are dropping rapidly.
- Explore opportunities today: Keeping up and preparing for digital developments requires a long-term plan. Start planning today. Retailers should explore what they can do now to connect with their customers via multiple channels.
Source: The Guardian, February 2013
RECENT RETAIL MANAGEMENT NEWS
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.
As retail evolves, even customers are in the middle of a makeover. The CEO of a major beverage company wrote a column on Business Insider’s website that highlighted the top three consumer trends retailers should pay attention to: the aging population, sustainability and technology. A company’s success depends on how its leadership adapts to and executes global, national and local consumer trends.
Retail is starting to recruit more college graduates. A national retailer recently announced that it hired more than 1,000 students for positions in its full-time executive development program and for summer internships, according to an article on the Business Courier’s website. This is a sign that retailers are looking for more highly-educated employees that they can groom into future executives.
Forget phone calls. Nearly half of the 488 million Facebook users check their social network account on their phone, according to a recent report cited by social media blog Wildfire. This mobile trend signals what all retailers must do — optimize their content for mobile. Retailers need to make sure their websites are optimized for mobile’s small screen.
As more and more consumers check out a product in the store before returning home to buy it online, retailers are searching for a way to stop this trend. A recent survey, cited in an article on Marketing Magazine’s website, found that two-thirds of Australian shoppers treat the store like a “showroom.” These respondents cite poor customer service as the top reason they don’t shop in-store.
Rising gas prices continue to impact consumers’ buying habits, including grocery shopping, according to an article on Supermarket News’ website. Compared to last year, 26 percent of respondents say they’re making fewer trips to the grocery store but they’re still spending more. As Americans work longer hours, they have less time to go shopping. The trend is to shop offline and purchase online.
The retail industry isn’t just about product sales. It also offers opportunities for good pay and job growth. A recent column on the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph’s website highlights the economic contributions the retail industry should get credit for, such as offering jobs for teens and drawing tourists to area businesses. With $3.1 trillion in revenue a year, there is money to be made in retail.
The digital age may be redefining the customer experience, but retailers should not overlook the simple features that help make shopping attractive to a burgeoning age group — seniors, according to an article on Crain’s New York Business’ website. Elder-friendly features like comfortable seats with back support or low store shelves attract shoppers, many of whom have significant levels of disposable income.
Amidst online retail’s double-digit growth, brick-and-mortar stores are resizing their floor footprint into a leaner model that focuses on customer experience. A real estate industry report cited in a Anchorage Daily News’ article noted the innovation occurring in retail. Industry experts are seeing three key trends: reduced store size, strategic in-store inventory and teaming up with online commerce.
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.
Have a product to sell? “Pin” it up. Recent research cited on Forbes.com found that Pinterest converts more Internet surfers into shoppers than Facebook. Pinterest offers commerce, a showroom and social networking built into one site. But before “pinning,” retailers need to have their supply chain intact, understand the forecast and replenish these items very quickly.