The world of retail has been upended by the Amazons, Dollar Shave Clubs and Instacarts. Simple purchases are now done in a single click. We’ll continue see emerging retail trends leveraging technology and digital media with it having become the new set of expectations as shoppers demand a more robust and dynamic brick and mortar experience. The retail industry is growing to be one of the largest spenders on digital transformation as a result of this change. Retailers are aware of the importance of adding various customer-centric applications and generate the critical amount of data required to build key insights into how their customers behave.

Retail brands are ensuring that they cover the entire spectrum of the retail value chain through their application integration.

In an omnichannel world it won’t be easy to connect customer presence, the physical presence, the online presence, as well as the ecosystem of payment processing, suppliers, logistics, warehousing, inventory, etc. The good news is that it’s not the end for offline retail; it’s simply changed. Stores – like Whole Foods, Safeway and Best Buy – that have understood the ways to make the in-store experience worthwhile using digital technology are already succeeding. Using technology in the shops to meet the demands of tech-savvy shoppers is a challenge, but many leading retailers are investing to ensure the in-store experience complements customers’ online experience.

Successful digital transformation across all of these areas will require one key component to operate both efficiently and at high performance and agility — their enterprise network to their stores. This is what will determine the quality of experience store associates, corporate employees, and customers will see. The key is to understand exactly what customers need from a website and a store. The fact that many consumers now prefer to shop online means their expectations of the in-store experience are higher than ever and should match, if not exceed, the technological advancements they enjoy online. Brands, like Apple, that have got it right replicate the brand experience at every touchpoint. The Apple experience is replicated across the stores, the websites and with resellers. Store employees interact with customers actively and demonstrate Apple products, thus increasing their connection with the customer.

Retailers are using digital devices in-store to display or capture product and customer information, digitally offering the full catalog of products or promotions not necessarily available in stock within the physical store. Some savvy retailers are also offering in-store WiFi to allow consumers to connect and share information, and harnessing footfall technology to capture shopping patterns.

Shoppers expect to have a good in-store experience with state-of-the-art technology to complement the other channels they shop through. Retailers that get this are providing a visually engaging digital experience with lots of dynamic content, either on the walls or on mobile devices. They are using the information they have about the consumer to enrich the personal experience and make it more tailored and relevant. 

The focus on mobility, flexibility and fulfilling customer expectations quickly and efficiently is also impacting POS systems, as customers do not want to be stuck or held up at any point in the transaction process, especially when it comes to making a payment. Trends indicate that as cash payments decline, mobile pay stations or enabling sales advisers to take payment wherever throughout the store will become more prevalent than fixed e-POS.

Digital transformation for retailers is about looking beyond marginal enhancements and rethink processes, creating a connected engagement enabled by meaningful application of technology. It is not only about customer centricity, agility, innovation, data intelligence and new value propositions, but also about streamlining processes, reduce costs and improve efficiencies across the transactional cycle by transforming. The future of the physical store depends on how well retailers can use technologies to improve the personal shopping experience, tailored to meet individual needs and to help deliver excellent customer service. Retailers that have the ability to offer personalised services using technologies to recognise customers are more likely to succeed. With the rules of the game changing, retailers need to rethink every aspect of their business – from sourcing and pricing strategies to inventory planning, employee training and customer experience management.

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About the author

Anil is the Director of Technology at Zuci Systems. He is an industry evangelist in retail. With 17 years of experience, he has managed projects with Fortune 1000 companies and successfully implemented relevant technology for innovation in retail. Know more about him at Anil Kumar