What does the future of retail look like?
Ecommerce software was a major game-changer in retail operations, allowing merchants to take their business online to virtually limitless marketplaces. However, this is hardly the last frontier molding the retail landscape. Recent advancements in retail technology have presented decision-makers with exciting opportunities to re-imagine the way they engage customers and attract loyal patrons to their stores.
Rather than driving out brick-and-mortar storefronts, technology has offered merchants fascinating ways to interact with consumers across various platforms, making the most of the unique opportunities inherent in each one. Pointing to the omnipresence of retail possibilities and the extent to which technology can catalyze a merchant's success, analysts have noted that retailers would be wise to pay attention to some of the latest trends forging the future of the industry.
Here are a few insights from Forbes contributor David Dorf of Oracle and experts that participated in the recent Retail Technology Conference, as reported by RIS:
- More data, from everywhere. Physical stores will collect information in similar ways as online channels, Dorf predicted. With the Internet of Things offering greater opportunities for sensors and other connected devices, retailers can observe trends such as customers' paths around stores before they make purchase decisions. All of this data can contribute to retail business intelligence initiatives.
- Traditional methods work, too. Steve Siebel, vice president of merchandising for Aerosoles, explained at the RTC that his company mailed millions of catalogs, since they're still the "number one driver of store and online traffic." This goes to show that older strategies and new technologies can support one another.
- It's personal. Retail technology offers merchants the tools they need to conduct personalized marketing campaigns, with promotions and advertisements tailored to shoppers' unique histories and preferences. Dorf noted that a recent study showed that 73 percent of respondents preferred the idea of "individual retail."
- Customer service and shopping experiences are worthy of close attention. Not only are patrons' expectations changing in step with technology, but advancements have enabled retailers to set themselves apart by creating impressive encounters. Sam Hogenson, vice president of customer-facing technology for Nordstrom, told conference attendees that he gives his attention first and foremost to supporting employees who serve as the primary points of contact for shoppers.
- It's a fast-paced world. Customers expect instant gratification, inspiring merchants to develop ways to deliver products faster and more conveniently, Dorf noted. Similarly, retailers must keep up with ever-changing technology and consumer trends. Hogenson emphasized business leaders must "keep up with the speed of change. Stop thinking, start doing. Holding one-hour meetings for four weeks isn't moving fast enough."