Most of us probably don’t know what it takes to run a retail store. Put a bunch of products on the shelves and wait for customers to walk in the door to buy clothes, electronics, food, furniture, you name it. But as consumers, the quality of our experiences has a lot to do with technology. From the cash register to neon signs to shopping carts with wheels, new tools have made shopping easier for us and more profitable for the retailers.
Here in the 21st century, consumer behavior and expectations change constantly, which means that retailers have to adapt to technology quicker than ever before.
Successful retailers keep an eye on consumer trends and adapt accordingly. They make investments in all sorts of technology for marketing, operations, the supply chain and more. Here are just some of the actions they’re taking:
Mobile all the time
We now live in an omni-channel world, where consumers can shop anywhere, anytime, from any device. In most cases this means mobile shopping, which is why retailers have heavily invested in adapting to mobile functionality.
In fact, many retailers are now implementing a “mobile first” strategy, with the assumption that the bulk of buying decisions – from research to the actual purchase – will take place on a mobile device. This approach doesn’t just include content optimized for mobile, it also means social integration and personalized content.
Using data to take immediate action
Retailers of all sizes use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) analytics to slice and dice consumer behavior. This data allows company leaders to make more precise decisions about product offerings, marketing strategies, and other factors that directly affect the bottom line.
In the past this type of work would get passed to the IT department. But with such a fluid retail landscape, where trends can literally change from day to day, management now recognizes the need to make immediate decisions. Data has gone from being static numbers to actionable intelligence.
All channels lead to the same place
Retailers employ a number of consumer engagement channels including email, e-commerce sites, social media and mobile applications. They’re now integrating these channels so consumers have a single brand experience, rather than various experiences within various channels.
This integration of channels lowers costs in the long run, and allows companies to better meet the needs of today’s omni-channel shopper. This scenario is becoming more viable due to more secure networks, cloud technology, agile development, and the proliferation of social media.
A new way to look at the supply chain
The supply chain and omni-channel strategy go hand-in-hand. One drives the other. Armed with truckloads of useful data about consumer demand, retailers have changed the way they take on order management, production and fulfillment.
By virtue of their behavior, consumers tell companies what they like and don’t like, how they prefer to shop and what they expect from a brand. From that data, retailers can better segment audiences and deliver personalized experiences and options regarding stock, features, colors and more. All of which lowers costs and avoids unnecessary operational spending.
Taking advantage of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) has morphed from a grand idea to a full-fledged ecosystem that connects devices, wearables and beacons to kitchen appliances, cars, lighting, security systems, garage door openers and coffee makers.
The IoT typically is hailed as a benefit for consumers, but retailers are taking advantage of it as well. They’re using the IoT to collect and analyze data, which allows them to automate critical business processes like planning and marketing. Again, the better the information, the better the decisions, both in-store and in the conference room.
As technology changes, so does consumer behavior. The retailers that are adapting to both won’t just win sales, they’ll gain long-term customer loyalty.