This year’s NRF Big Retail Show showed that smart retailers know the best customer experience fuses online shopping convenience with the physical store experience. This blend goes by many names; omni-channel, converged commerce, boundary-less retail, all boiling down to a seamless commerce experience. Leveraging the power of technology to create a unified experience for consumers is a competitive differentiator in retail this year and for years to come.
In the past few months, large retailers have closed hundreds of stores nationwide. Evolving consumer preferences are pushing the big box brands to restructure their business models. Buyers are becoming accustomed to specialized, curated selections, and retailers that want to thrive must find a balance between cutting costs and maintaining customer loyalty and convenience.
Bringing together ecommerce and point of sale (POS) platforms gives consumers an easy, fast, secure way to make a purchase. With consumers feeling pressed for time more than ever before, a positive, unique experience will bring them back to the store and build brand loyalty. Mobile POS is a must to break through the wait-in-line dynamic of the traditional retail experience, enabling consumers to complete a transaction in a convenient, personalized manner from their mobile device even while on the sale floor.
Smartphones and geo technology are increasingly important in cultivating an engaging retail experience. Loyalty programs and mobile apps, as well as old-school mailing lists, allow retailers to reach target customers instantly, understanding buying preferences and influencing purchase decisions. Flash sales have reemerged and are working better than ever, as they increase the urgency for consumers to make purchases immediately and allow retailers to quickly move older inventory.
AI: A Futuristic Concept No More
With growing popularity of artificial intelligence products such as Amazon Echo or smartphone-based AI such as Apple’s Siri, retailers can leverage tremendous pools of data about their customers to enhance everything from customer service to merchandising. These products can act as personal assistants; finding stores, providing directions, playing music or making suggestions for lifestyle changes. While humans may not be replaced by robots in the near future, AI can be a strong competitive differentiator in how retailers position themselves in the market and how customers receive information and recommendations or complete transactions.
Proper industry-specific technology to enable these impression points is essential to succeeding in the changing retail landscape. Working with a solution partner that understands emerging trends and how to leverage them for better inventory management, price optimization or merchandising and supply chain processes can help you stand out at the store or online and optimize your Infor IT investments.
Andy Cariveau is vice president of Retail at Avaap, where he is responsible for helping retailers implement Infor technology to improve processes and enhance the customer experience.