Disruptive Retail Technology – causing a commotion
Technology changes the way we work, communicate and interact with each other, but the use of technology in retail is disrupting the whole sector. Advancements in retail technology have seen considerable improvements in the customer experience but what’s the real benefit?
The customer journey, no matter the channel, is a 360-degree experience of the brand. Disruptive Retail Technology pulls together every avenue to market taken by the customer. The customer benefits by having all historical shopping data and preferences in one central location and are notified of offers, deals or new product lines via a personalised account. The brand and store associate benefit by having access to the same customer information via Keytree In-store Technology (KIT), which empowers the store associate with instant access to stock, inventory and customer preferences.
KIT is a prime example of how retail technology is pushing the envelope when it comes to providing customers with a fully rounded shopping experience but how will technology impact the retail sector – what will change?
The man-machine – the rise of the robots
Folding sweaters, opening and closing the store, checking out customers and being the brand expert have traditionally been the responsibility of the store associate. But for how much longer? Stores are already testing, and in some cases using robots, which can carry out and execute some of the more traditional in-store tasks. There’s no concern around manoeuvrability as sensors embedded in robots will ensure they avoid bumping into customers.
Robots can relieve the store associate of specific tasks and if a customer has a question the robot is unable to answer – they start a live video conferencing session with an operative who can assist. The human element will always be required at some point in the customer journey, but maybe the use of robot technology in retail will free up valuable time for the store associate to spend more time with the customer.
The future of the store
KIT acts as the conduit connecting hardware, sensors, POS systems, Wi-Fi access points, and RFID networks and also leverages iBeacon and Bluetooth technologies to identify nearby customers.
The store of the future will not only identify a customer upon entry – Beacons will bridge the physical and online experience and push content to your device when walking down a particular aisle. Once an item is chosen there will be no need to search for a changing room – smart mirrors will superimpose the item onto the customer. There is no need to undress, or even worry about the product being in stock as the smart mirror can superimpose any object onto the customer.
An auto checkout will enhance the shopping experience even further. The store knows you have arrived, notifications are pointing you to the part of the store you’ll visit next and all the while – there’s no need to stand in line and pay for the items gathered. Walk out of the store and the items are scanned and charged to your account.
The increased use of technology in retail will provide obvious benefits for the customer, but for the brand, a superior level of data is now gathered on a daily basis, which will give the store associate a much-needed advantage over competitors – and inform future strategies for the organisation.
Disruptive Retail Technology will see the customer journey and experience altered in many ways. Although technology becomes more commonplace it can never provide the genuinely personal touch, which will always come from human interaction.
Around 10 percent of in-store sales are lost because an item is not in stock. If we consider this with how customers review product ranges online, expecting to see and purchase these items when they arrive at the store, then we have the key drivers for an endless aisle. Customers still enjoy the personalised support available that they experience in stores and enjoy the freedom to touch and explore before deciding to purchase a product.
Retailers continue to rethink and reinvent the shopping experience and offering an endless aisle gives the physical store a much better chance to avoid lost sales. Keytree In-store Technology (KIT) gives the store associate access to the store catalogue, the full inventory of the brand and provides the customer with real-time access to products. However, the capabilities of endless aisle do require a full integration of the right technology and processes.
There are various challenges that retailers face when setting up an endless aisle functionality. These are as follows:
- Keep your inventory up-to-date in real time knowing when and where the stock is available, otherwise you will not be able to order the item that the customer demands with any confidence.
- The inventory can change constantly across your multiple channels, i.e. the online store, the physical store or placed orders with dropship suppliers.
- Knowing how much stock you have to hand, which means that key systems are integrated with each other, so that inventory levels are constantly updated with each sale and you always know what stock is available at any given time.
Keytree In-store Technology can be integrated seamlessly with systems such as SAP CAR to provide a comprehensive endless aisles experience for your store, making sure the customer never leaves wanting – as customers can continue to browse products online while in the store but with the full support of the store associate. Items available online, including any offers can be redeemed, and if the product is available to view or try on in the store, the store associate can use KIT to locate accordingly – regardless of the location.
Enhancing the customer experience with more choice
An endless aisle of products will ensure the store associate is no longer restricted to the in-store inventory and gives shoppers access to a range of products that are always available.
If a customer wants an item in a particular size and colour, but the item is not available in the store, this potentially is a sales opportunity that could be lost to online competition. An endless aisle will combat the possibility of losing out to another store or website by allowing the store associate to show the customer the requested item online. The customer can then decide on whether they want the item delivered to the store or conveniently to their home address.
Providing the store associate with instant access to the product catalogue and current, real-time stock inventory, allows the store associate to share an endless aisle of items with the customer. Making available online what you are unable to get in-store, hands the impetuous to the store associate and with the right technology, empowers the store associate to offer alternatives and suggestions to guarantee the customers gets the item they came to buy in store.
How physical and digital retail experiences can successfully converge in the hands of the store associate
As retailers continue to modernise and invest in the in-store experience the world of online retail is now recognised as an integral part of the bricks and mortar experience, a synchronisation referred to as retail convergence. Although lavish fittings and interior design are still key components of high end fashion retail it all starts with the store associate. This role is at the very beginning of the transformational journey.
In the past, and even today inside some retailers, the store associate had little insight into their customer’s needs, tastes and habits. Customer information was held in distant CRM systems or fragmented among multiple sources and only accessible to those who often did not have direct contact with the customer. Without quick and easy access to this data, it was next to impossible for the store associate to track buying patterns & preferences and therefore provide an in-store experience that encouraged and nurtured customer loyalty long term.
Invest in the store associate
By giving the store associate real-time access to stockroom inventory, the ability to jump the checkout queue and continuous communication with the customer – retailers not only bring the online world into the physical store but also give store associates a new toolset that will dramatically transform and improve their working day.
The store associate should be more than a person who replenishes stock or directs a customer to the nearest checkout. For example with the right technology such as a Lookbook app, they can engage with customers even when they are physically not in the store by creating engaging content based on a customer’s interests, which they can then share via email or text.
The store associate can build trust within the brand – they can know when a registered customer has entered the store, allowing them to meet and greet before showing them a new item, which is of registered interest in their 360-degree customer profile.
Digital Retail Convergence
Keytree In-store Technology (KIT) can bring this converging digital experience into the store so the associate and customer get the best of both worlds – it’s important to remember that the success of the new generation in-store experience should fall firmly onto the shoulders of the store associate. Without the dedication of these individuals, working face to face with customers on the shop floor, none of these remarkable technological breakthroughs will have the much-needed impact on the customer’s in-store experience.
Retailers should not underestimate the role of the store associate as they go through any transformational process. They are the key element that gives customers access to everything that online should offer while in the store. The store associate is the face of the business and is the font of all knowledge as everything that’s worth knowing is in the palm of their hand in one easy to use application, which is linking together the best of both worlds.
Lookbook, Omni-channel baskets, Inventory and mobile payments will become more commonplace in the retail sector, due to the influx of Clienteling software – aimed at enhancing the customer journey to provide the ultimate Omni-channel shopping experience.
Keytree In-store Technology can bring together retail convergence into the new generation of digital stores – it’s important to remember that the success of the next generation store requires this forward-thinking technology to grow and enhance the new experience. However, there’s no point in merely handing over new technology to the store associate and expecting instant success – training, product updates with research and development are essential. The technology also needs to be easy to use, so it doesn’t become a hindrance, and the data must be accurate – so the solution can be trusted.