How To Use Technology To Drive In-Store Strategies

With over 18 years of experience, Kunal possesses significant leadership & management expertise in providing strategic direction, business transformation, customer experience, IT outsourcing, enterprise architecture, and many other areas.

We are living in the age where `Customer is the King', empowered by the internet and their mobile devices to demand an unprecedented level of service.

Changing consumer behaviour, preferences and expectations has made it imperative for retailers to meet customer demands and deliver a seamless, integrated experience across channels.

It has become an absolute MUST for enterprises to serve their customers anytime, anywhere.

However, various studies still indicate that shoppers still feel that `in-store shopping is most trusted and reliable, although retailers are struggling to keep the store experience relevant to new gen tech savvy millennial customers. They are trying hard to find answers on how to drive foot-traffic, integrate all social channels and enable omni-channel retailing.

In the midst of all this, technology has become a key enabler to drive customer engagement and sales. Some of the key trends that retailers are looking at are:

1. Mobility commerce: Use of technology instore (e.g. web kiosks), and customers own smart phones devices is one of the latest trends that retailers are cashing on. Retailers are using store Wi-Fi, mobile apps, and beacons technology. Also, social media is used to target customers with personalised offers, which can be done using next generation customer analytics. Improvement is underway to payment processes by making them more agile and beating the queues with mobile PoS, mobile wallet, mobile money to money transfers and others.

Retailers are trying hard to find answers on how to drive foot-traffic, integrate all social channels and enable omni-channel retailing

2. Proximity-Marketing: In the form of beacon and geo-location technology that catapulted Nintendo's `Pokemon GO' game to success could help stores better connects with consumers. Discounting in retail has become so ubiquitous that it has lost all meaning. However, building on the “Pokemon GO” spirit of urgency and play-fulness, retailers can do well by introducing location and time sensitive discounts in response to everything from political to weather or cultural events to engage consumers through some unscheduled serendipity.

3. Augmented Reality (Virtual trial rooms): Top fashion retailers are testing out tech-enabled fitting rooms by rolling out full length mirrorcum-interactive screens in stores. The technology allows the customer to browse through items and read product reviews, much like online. The customer could try on outfits without getting undressed with augmented reality, virtual clothing can be superimposed onto the shopper's mirror image. While the technology may seem to fall short of the real-life shopping experience of wearing an outfit, it enables faster turnaround times for busy shoppers. Further with enhanced data analytics, a curated stylist experience can also be provided. One of the key benefits for retailers is an almost limitless inventory, unrestricted by the store's actual stock.

4. Gamification: Gesture based technology tools being applied as a principle of game psychology on top of business applications. This combines cleverly structured applications with the deep emotional urges of human beings to compete, succeed and collect things in order to win. Gamification combined with commerce has the potential to build personalized experience, brand loyalty, increase sales and deeply engage with shoppers. In addition to providing a unique high-tech shopping experience these solutions also virtually display items without requiring the individual store to stock the inventory until the buying decision is made and the actual item is purchased.

5. Internet of Things (IoT) is being increasingly given focus in terms of voice user-interface. This is the next big platform for interaction with services ­ whether via smart-phones or devices at home. Microsoft's Cortana, Google Assistant, Apple's Siri and Amazon's Echo device featuring Alexa, are all playing in this space. It may initially impact the consumer goods space, but fashion brands have an opportunity to experiment and potentially a need to future-proof here too. Studies show that half of all web searches will use voice or image search rather than text. Voice-based interfaces are ramping quickly and creating a new paradigm for human-computer interaction. It's about frictionless experiences to purchase within one simple stream rather than multiple clicks away.

Physical stores are a key to retail success. Delivering an engaging in-store experience will rely on a retailer's ability to leverage the technology that creates more compelling brand experiences. Advanced digital technologies make the task much easier, allowing retailers to implement a single cross-channel platform that integrates the digital channels customers expect with contextually relevant content.