Inside This Issue - Opinion
Technology emerges as game changer in retailing
April 23rd, 2012
by Dave Wendland
It may come as no surprise, but the biggest retail trends to watch all involve technology — mobile computing, Web-based interaction, social media, gamification, augmented reality and more. New-fangled gadgets, terminology and demands have changed the landscape of the retail business forever.
As consumers become better at defining their preferred shopping experiences, they reevaluate people and organizations with whom they choose to connect, and therefore technology will be at the center of most key strategic initiatives. Connected consumers discover and communicate differently than their traditional consumer counterparts.
To adapt, retail operators and their supplier partners need to examine the impact of technology on consumer behavior, and to understand its effect on consumer decision making and peer influence.
The exponential growth in the number of smartphones worldwide is one cue that retailers must familiarize themselves with mobile as a key medium for customer engagement. Mobile technologies are fast becoming just as revolutionary as the Web was in the 1990s. The simple fact is that they free people from tethered systems and give them anytime, anywhere access.
With this rapid change, retailers must step up efforts to connect with customers and prospects in newer channels. They need to build awareness and strengthen relationships. To attract consumers and earn their loyalty, businesses must use technology where appropriate and combine it with a sensational in-store experience.
Here are eight considerations:
• Identify where connected consumer attention must be delivered.
• Give shoppers something tangible and genuine to align themselves with.
• Establish an identity that offers shoppers an opportunity to be part of a community.
• Design strategies to be shareable — after all, it’s all about shared experiences.
• Localize content and storefronts to match the culture and activity within each community.
• Remain consistent, dedicated and approachable through meaningful interaction.
• Recognize and reward participants — this leads to stronger relationships.
• Ensure that brand consistently remains relevant and valuable.
How to keep up with and benefit from electronic engagement with shoppers? Resolve to adopt these four trends during 2012:
• Online shopping — must have, no longer “nice to have.” The idea of launching an online shopping environment is often countered with the ill-informed assertion that “my customers don’t shop the Web.” An online retail presence offers customers a glimpse of what’s in the store and what lies behind the shelves through drop-ship or other distributor relationships. In short, it powers preshopping.
With online shopping, even small-town pharmacies that may have existed in the same brick-and-mortar building for the past 50 years gain a branch store on the Internet.
• Convergence of brick and click. Brick-and-mortar retailers must exploit online technology to offer research-before-you-buy options to consumers, as well as more expansive knowledge and online guidance to lead consumers down their path to purchase.
In a world of pop-ups, virtual shopping aisles, increasing numbers of consumers taking the reins and retailers struggling for a point of difference, cracking the code on brick and click is a pursuit that is worth undertaking.
• Ubiquitous out-of-store shopping. Deemed “anytime, anywhere” shopping, this concept means consumers no longer want — or need — to go someplace that is convenient for the retailer. They want to shop whenever and wherever they have the urge or the need.
Tesco successfully launched virtual wall technology in South Korea and Germany using QR codes. Procter & Gamble posted a virtual wall in Prague, and Sears/Kmart brought it to the States in their catalogs before the holiday season. Where will it end? Actually, it’s just getting started.
• Personalized messaging. Going well beyond traditional e-mail messaging, one-to-one communication will continue to expand. In addition to the creation of online communities that unite like-minded individuals, targeted messaging that is delivered directly to each individual is coming of age. There are even technologies that allow different messages to be displayed as consumers interact with a personalized QR code.
Imagine the possibilities. Technology is indeed shaping the future of retail.
Dave Wendland is vice president of Hamacher Resource Group.