Evolving the Retail Tech Stack
By Amber Hovious (pictured).
VP of Marketing & Partnerships, Teamwork Commerce
Originally posted on: PCR Magazine March 2023
Retail is notorious for being a highly competitive sector with small margins. As such, the need for evolution is imperative in order to succeed. How do you think the retail industry has changed over the past couple of years?
Consumer behaviour remains at the heart of the retail industry and there’s no denying that any change in consumer trends has a direct impact on retailers. In the past few years, retailers have had to cater to evolving consumer demands both during and after the pandemic.
The pandemic changed everything when it comes to consumer expectations and with retailers needing to appeal to customers in any way that made them feel comfortable throughout lockdowns, an effective omnichannel strategy became an absolute necessity for retailers wishing to remain afloat.
Today, having an omnichannel presence does not ensure success. Consumers demand a huge amount of personalisation and convenience in their shopping. Not only do retailers need an effective omnichannel strategy, but they need to be able to cater to customer needs at every touchpoint – from initial interaction through to transaction. As technology evolves, delivering this is becoming more feasible, but in order to operate effectively, all technology deployments must be able to communicate seamlessly with each other.
2022 brought positive outcomes for retailers with post-pandemic recovery and the revival of brick-and-mortar shopping. But it did not end without challenges. As we consider the outlay of this year, what are the biggest challenges facing retailers in 2023?
One of the biggest challenges for retailers in 2023 is economic uncertainty. The recession is likely to squeeze consumer shopping budgets and make customers more frugal when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Of course, the knock-on effect here for retailers is the risk of reduced sales, whether customers turn away completely from stores due to item prices, or have found alternative products at lower prices from competitor retailers.
Furthermore, ongoing issues such as the labour shortage and supply chain challenges only make it more difficult for retailers to function smoothly. Consumers today want to leverage a blend of both physical and online sales channels. Retailers that lack the appropriate technology and staff to facilitate this will find it difficult to maintain the balance between online and offline.
In order to thrive in today’s competitive landscape and deal with 2023’s challenges, many retailers are turning to technology for support. But what should they be investing in?
There is no single technology or software solution that retailers should lean on when it comes to meeting consumer needs and dealing with today’s challenges. Retailers must recognise the value of a modern tech stack that includes a range of state-of-the-art technologies integrated with each other, allowing a seamless
flow of information across different touchpoints. However, one important factor to consider is complexity. Retailers should ensure that they can deploy a system that provides a single pane view of the sales funnel across different online and offline sales channels. This can create a streamlined and seamless operation that delivers high level efficiency as well as a top-quality customer service.
In addition, retailers must continue to update their tech stack with the latest solutions to meet evolving consumer needs. For example, using an outdated point-of-sale (POS) terminal is no longer an effective means to serve consumers in 2023. Instead, retailers could consider deploying mobile POS (mPOS) that can help sales associates serve their customers in any part of the store, minimising queues and improving customer satisfaction. Having an advanced mPOS that communicates seamlessly with other integrated platforms – such as order and inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), and analytics – allows retailers to strengthen their omnichannel capabilities. Retailers must look for omnichannel technologies that can be integrated seamlessly and function in real time if they wish to set themselves apart from the competition.
With evolving demands of the sector, technology has surely become an integral part of the retail industry. How do you think technology will contribute in 2023 to drive personalisation?
Bricks-and-mortar is likely to play a vital role in 2023’s shopping behaviours. eCommerce is quick, easy and convenient, but customers still flood in-store for the experience they receive – a friendly, personalised approach from in-store associates, and an environment where they can feel products, try them on and enjoy shopping. To ensure a seamless yet personalised in-store experience for customers, retailers can lean on the latest clienteling platforms that harness the power of data and allow sales associates to deliver individualised experience. Through individualised clienteling, store associates can curate experiences of consumers based on their previous interactions. For example, letting consumers know that the item they were waiting for is back in stock or offering them with personalised discounts – all this is achievable effortlessly with a clienteling platform. Modern clienteling platforms allow associates to send bulk messages through email, text or Whatsapp while ensuring they look like they were sent individually. This provides retailers with a great opportunity to follow up with consumers even after they have left the store which can help them build strong relationships in the long-term.
Personalisation has long been on the list of retailers’ priorities to help them stand out from the competition. 2023 is likely to see retailers take personalisation to the next level by customising not just products and offers, but the customer experience at every retail touchpoint throughout the purchase journey to ensure a highly curated experience.
Convenience in combination with personalisation can certainly drive consumer satisfaction. What further steps can be taken to ensure a high level of convenience for consumers?
As consumers become accustomed to convenience and they demand a frictionless checkout experience. One of the key factors in the checkout experience of consumers is the waiting time. Long queues can often cause frustration, so retailers must have a queue-busting strategy in place. With mPOS retailers can often serve consumers more quickly and at any part of the store regardless of the internet connection. This is a game changer in minimising long queues and reducing waiting times.
Queue-busting can be taken a step further, too. As was demonstrated at NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show, RFID powered self-checkout could soon revolutionise the retail industry. The solution allows consumers to scan all items in their shopping basket within a matter of seconds, saving them a significant amount of time at checkout while drastically reducing overall queue times for customers.
There is no doubt that the retail sector has continued its technological growth rapidly in the past couple of years and the future looks optimistic. Is there anything else you would like to add looking at the future?
The retail industry has many exciting things to unveil in the near future as consumer demands continue to evolve. Retailers who want to prosper must stay up-to-date with these trends and must continue to update their tech stack with cutting-edge innovations. Taking advantage of an all-encompassing retail technology solution can help retailers sustain their growth in the long term.
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