Adapting to Retail’s Evolution
On the surface of it, 2017 has not been the most auspicious of years for brick and mortar retail so far. American retailers have been closing stores at pace as they confront the impact of e-commerce on the bottom line, and headlines paint a gloomy picture of future. Not everyone is downbeat. Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson, for example, is bullish on expansion – even while he acknowledges that retailers face some tough challenges in the years ahead.
No-one could deny that we are at an inflection point in retail – no longer are shopping malls the hang out destination of choice for teenagers, baby boomers are adapting to the benefits of online shopping, and those in between are buying more than ever on mobile devices or during office downtime. All of this equates to a seismic shift in consumer expectations and behaviors. I tend to share Johnson’s optimism though, and, to borrow from famed author, Mark Twain, I suspect that rumors of in-store retail’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. That’s not to say we won’t see incredible changes to the big brand stores that have populated main street for years, and those that can’t evolve will be left behind like Radio Shack and Borders before them.
The challenge for today’s retailers is how to deliver the consistency of experience and personalization that consumers have come to expect from e-commerce, as well as give them a reason to travel to you – and all without impacting the ever-squeezed bottom line.
While easier said than done, delivering a consistent experience is critical to a business. The modern retailer can’t afford to claim that they’re in the dark about what today’s consumers hold dear – they expect an experience that is built for the individual with the access of the mass-market. The wealth of research available tells us that the retail hierarchy of needs includes impeccable customer service, speed and efficiency (ain’t nobody got time to wait in line), the right information and availability of products, and lastly, an element of personalization.
Time and again, these are the factors that entice potential customers towards the ease of e-commerce and away from the in-store experience that requires a higher level of time and attention. Quite the challenge, and yet, I suspect this is one of the reasons that we see greater enthusiasm from the likes of Johnson than we do from some of his department store peers. The quick-service restaurant industry has much more quickly seized the opportunity offered by digital and mobile technologies to deliver maximum impact while reducing costs than its retail counterparts.
Technologies such as mobile point of sale (mPOS) systems allow retailers to deliver the level of experience expected by today’s consumers – reducing time to purchase, delivering tailored offers to increase conversion, and ensuring that the right products are available when required.
For example, one of the major costs for retailers is its staff base. Over or understaffing can penalize retailers both in the short and long term, in lost sales as well as unnecessary salary outgoings. POS systems can provide much-needed insight into when more staff are needed on the ground to deliver great service, and when a skeleton staff will do.
Good customer experiences are not solely dependent on your sales associates, however, Bluetooth or beacon technologies using geo-tracking can be leveraged to detect and push out targeted notifications to entice customers to new experiences and increasing the retailers’ upsell opportunity.
All this effort is in vain if the consumer is lost at the final hurdle. A majority of customers and money is lost due to long wait times. According to software business, Dynatrace, 50% of today’s consumers will jump ship if a retail website takes longer than three seconds to load. If that’s the competition, brick and mortar retailers need to be able to identify and respond to potential buyers to avoid similar levels of shopping cart abandonment. mPOS technology can eliminate the need for long lines with mobile devices giving every sales associate the opportunity to offer a mobile checkout, proactively approaching customers and expediting purchasing.
Modern mPOS and POS systems are offering today’s retailers an efficient route to better and more personalized customer relationships. By adopting and integrating these technologies into legacy systems, even the most mass-market and high-turnover retailers can mimic the bespoke and tailored customer service of the smallest mom and pop shops to encourage greater and more regular purchasing patterns from today’s ever-more demanding consumer.
About the Author
Jeff Scott, CEO Infinite Peripherals
Innovative, humble, and a pioneer in mobile solutions and technology, Jeff has helped some of the leading brands in the U.S. since co-founding Infinite Peripherals in 1993. His focus at the company has been playing any role that’s needed to understand client challenges and then help them become more efficient when transacting business with their customers. The long roster includes a number major companies spanning across retail, healthcare, transportation, and direct store deliveries. Jeff’s biggest innovation occurred when Infinite Peripherals became the very first company to develop an enterprise-based product for a multinational technology company’s product line. The success of that partnership has helped propel Infinite Peripherals into one of the leading providers of enterprise solutions – with more than one million accessories and peripheral devices deployed. He has been an avid contributor in sharing his perspectives on improving businesses and can be found on TotalRetail and Payments Source.
Having graduated from the University of Southern California, he also remains a big supporter of USC athletics—especially the football team—and has been a season ticket-holder for the Los Angeles Lakers for many years. Jeff is also an avid coin collector, especially international coins.
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