There is an in-store technology gap for consumer facing solutions.
During the last few years, as consumer facing solutions starts to impact the retail industry, many retailers have been reluctant to embrace it within their business. In general, retailers lag most other industries for the use of consumer facing solutions due to the technology gap in the retail stores.
Over the years, retailers have been slow to adapt and incorporate new technology into their stores resulting in a technology gap with the in-store consumer experience. Go into any retail store and in general, you will finish your entire shopping experience without experiencing any technology to help you through the process. In many retailers, you also don’t experience any assistance from their staff either.
In many retailers, the technology is exclusive to the point of sale system which is at the end of the process. Their only goal is to accurately collect the transaction information and speed you out of the store. However, there are so many other opportunities for consumer facing technology to assist with the shopping journey for their customers.
Retailers clearly understand the value of technology. They invest in point of sale technology to collect transaction data. They also invest in supply chain to optimize and reduce expense using technology. However, there is definitely a noticeable lack of focus and investment in consumer facing solutions specifically in the stores.
We see a shift in retail from an operational centric approach to a consumer centric mindset. The next wave of retailer innovators will match their operational expertise with a clear understanding of the consumer to create a compelling experience.
One of the main reasons for this gap in consumer facing technology in retail is the perceived lack of return on the investment for this technology. While the cost of the technology has dramatically decreased year over year, it is still a very substantial investment for most retailers. Therefore, in order for retailers to see a return on their investment it is critical that they invest wisely.
In many ways, the lack of return on the consumer facing technology investment in the store is related to the way retailers select and deploy these solutions. Too often new solutions are selected based upon a new trend, technology or competitive pressure and they are deployed within a specific area within the business.
This approach is best described as a point-based deployment of a consumer facing technology and is typically not successful for a few key reasons.
It is not completely integrated into the business process of the retailer
It raises the expectation of the consumer but delivers a limited capability
It is usually fixed in nature and does not evolve, adapt or scale with the business or customer expectations
In other words, too often retailers deploy consumer engagement technology as a tactical solution to meet an immediate need. Retailers must shift their mindset on consumer engagement solutions so that they become a strategic part of their business.
Over the past few years, retailers developed their ecommerce sales channels and online has evolved into a very strategic part of the retail business. Most retailers understand the value of technology in the online channel. Online retailers focus on almost every technology detail and work to ensure that the consumer experience is exceptional throughout the process.
However, while the physical store remains the dominant sales channel, the consumer experience is significantly lacking in many ways.
Imagine a physical store experience where solutions like mobile, digital signage and kiosk based solutions are highly integrated into the core systems and operate seamlessly together to give the consumer a similar experience to online shopping. The retailer would know who is shopping in the store, where they are browsing, what merchandise they are considering and what they purchased. The retailer could also suggest, inform and incent the consumer throughout their shopping journey.
These objectives have been around for many years. However, the time is right to apply this technology model to the entire retail experience both online and especially in the physical store.