As painful as 2020 was for retail, the lessons learned may have saved the industry from long-term doom. Retailers were forced to think differently. Forced to drop the lessons learned over decades of prior success. Forced to accept a new world and the new expectations of consumers. 2021 became the ultimate testing ground for retailers to understand the true relationship between shifting customer expectations and the ROI available to the business.
I believe that history will look back at 2020 and 2021 as one of the most meaningful 24-month periods in the history of modern retail. 24 months that have defined what our customers expect and what our employees will demand. While not all retailers will embrace these lessons, the lessons are clear.
Everyone is looking forward to returning to normal and moving past the pandemic. Here are 5 key technologies that retailers should embrace in the new age of retail.
- Smart stores improve experience and optimize available labor: We all understand the new age of smart homes. The same concepts are now an expectation for consumers who engage in retail across so many different channels. The amazing thing about a smart store is the ability to meet customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) expectations at the same time.
Smart store technologies are wide reaching, but some of the most impactful areas include AI, CameraVision, and IoT Devices. AI solutions that allow business to react in non-linear ways to elevate a shopping experience are creating the new “WOW” experience. CameraVision is driving new digital marketing, checkout, and security solutions. IoT devices are eliminating mundane tasks and activating more productive employee activities. It sounds scary, but in reality these solutions are attainable and can provide amazing new experiences for customers and employees.
- Store associates need mobile technology upgrades to support CX and EX: We can all agree that we live in a mobile world. We must also see that mobile retail is our best opportunity to engage employees, support customer expectations, and deliver results. There are approximately 6.4 billion smartphone users worldwide in 2021 and retailers need to embrace this world across all positions within the brand. As new employees are hired, how do they want to learn? Mobile. As employees are communicating with each other and customers, how do they want to communicate? Mobile. When a customer engages an employee either digitally or in-person, how do they expect to be serviced? Mobile. The savviest retailers will look to elevate the role of associates in the overall store experience through mobile technologies.
- Omnichannel experience must be seamless and accurate: Having an omnichannel strategy no longer simply means operating both a brick-and-mortar location and an online store. The pandemic allowed every retailer to understand how the digital and physical presence work together in a new model. Customers expect to meet uniform and engaging shopping experiences across channels, including websites, various marketplaces, and social media platforms. The key for retailers now is blending these digital and physical experiences to meet consumers where they are and how they want to engage. It should be easy for them to find the product they want, order, checkout, and receive it, when they want.
This seamless Omnichannel strategy requires a highly integrated technology model combining real-time information shared securely across hundreds of networks with hundreds of potential customer engagement points. Meet the customer where they are with accurate and meaningful experiences.
- New ways to pay are not optional: It may seem impossible that payment methods are changing so rapidly. It was just 5 short years ago that EMV was required and, now, the number of payment options are exploding. It seems like out of nowhere Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) solutions have exploded in popularity with major retailers like Walmart and Macy’s. By using BNPL apps that are integrated into a retailer’s checkout, customers can shop with thousands of stores, receive an order right away, and pay for it over six weeks—completely interest-free. It’s just one more example of how retailers are responding to changes in consumer shopping habits.
Customers want convenience and it’s now one of the main experiences that retailers can provide. These payment models are only going to continue to grow in popularity—benefiting merchants who adopt the solutions early and begin the process of educating customers on the benefits of these interest-free payment options.
- Networking and security infrastructure is priority: Finally, the foundation of our new digital world can take center stage. For years, retail’s CIOs and CSOs have begged for investment. They warned of the ramifications to both customer experience and business productivity if smart investments were not supported. It’s good news, sort of. Investments will be made to support all of these exploding technologies. But retailers must now invest in infrastructure, while also implementing these new technologies at the same time. The digital foundation has never been more critical.
Prioritizing and implementing all of this technology is a heavy lift for most lean IT retail organizations. Identifying the right partners to support fast and efficient deployment will be the key to all digital success. A great partner like Connection can support our new retail digital world from conceptual design through configuration and deployment.
If you’d like to talk more about how these technologies can impact your business or how Connection can help bring them to life, please contact us today!