Tech in retail: the wave is coming, don't miss it

Retail & shopping is one of the fastest growing industry sectors for tech. If you’re in retail, and that fact isn’t on your radar - you may be in for a surprise very soon.

Hey - it happened to another industry that’s been around forever with little innovation and optimization for changing user behaviours...

App usage for shopping grew 174% in 2014.

85% of the top 100 US retailers will have beacons in place by the end of 2016.

By the end of 2015, it's expected that 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores will be digitally influenced.

One in two people in North America use a smartphone in 2015.

The numbers are there. After years of slumping following the 2008-09 global recession, there’s enormous potential for retail to take off again; smarter and more agile than ever before.

Operational waste = higher prices = disengaged customers

For years, retail depended on semi-accurate methods to track user data and behaviour. From estimating foot traffic through door opens/closes, generalized paper-based advertising/flyers, and even using *gasp* human salespeople. These methods have traditionally leaked at least a little efficiency - and the people paying for the resulting waste are the end consumers in the form of higher prices.

It’s part of the reason digital retailers have been thriving for years. Amazon knows my buying habits better than I seem to know them myself. Lower overhead goes a long way in bringing me that type of service - but a huge part of that is a lean philosophy that eliminates waste through constant optimization.

While pricing isn’t everything - it is a huge advantage to shopping with online retailers, so it’s something every retail business has to consider and pay attention to.

Know your customers better than they know themselves

“I don’t have to worry about price as much, I offer great customer service.”

Fair statement; but are you doing everything you can to capture what makes for great customer service? Coming back to my Amazon example - how well do you know your customers? Can you make decisions for them before they have to?

One of Canada’s largest grocery chains, Loblaws, has the right idea when it comes to this process - but doesn’t do a great job of execution.

PC Plus is their loyalty program that uses your past purchasing history to make weekly customized offers to you as a program member. Offers need to be loaded manually every week, through a clunky mobile app.

However, despite the fact that I shop at Loblaws often enough (out of necessity to eat) - I’m not interested in taking advantage of PC Plus.

The fundamental key to good marketing is: the right message, to the right person, at the right time. PC Plus hits the first two, but falls short on the last - despite the enormous potential available.

Why doesn’t the app tie in to public weather forecast feeds to connect the idea that I buy barbeque meats pretty often, and that it’s going to be hot this weekend?

Take it one step further: if I’m in the store, I’ve bought hamburgers in the past, and it’s hot outside, and hamburgers are on sale this week - send me a notification and let me know where I need to go to purchase those sweet meat discs!

It’s a basic example, but in most cases - the dots are there, but it’s up to retailers to connect them.

There’s potential: it’s up to you to take advantage

These are two examples of how tech fits into retail, but there’s an enormous potential to take advantage of a growing and well-documented trend.

At the very least - if you run a retail establishment, you need a responsive website. A ton of your customers are looking up info about you on smartphones now: so that info should be accessible to them.

In an ideal and of course, technically mature scenario: you can reduce costs, and connect the dots for your customers. In the end, this translates to higher sales, better loyalty engagement, and a major competitive advantage.



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Tagged with: Business Guides, Trends

Taylor Jamison
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Taylor Jamison

Digital Producer