Few industries have evolved as rapidly as retail, which saw a recent wave of transformation following the introduction of new technology like cloud and mobile devices. The rapid-fire change has led to heightened competition that has proved favorable for consumers. With online retailers commanding more market share with total sales that are expected to climb to $523B by 2020, retail players have been faced with more competition for consumer attention. Shoppers flocked online for the convenience, immediacy, and competitive prices they found there. Meanwhile, online retailers thrived given the lower overhead and wider consumer base.
In an effort to retain consumer attention, and keep online competitors at bay, traditional retailers have incorporated a number of new technologies. Technology has played a central role in the evolution of traditional retail, which for many years had stood unchanged prior to the advent of e-commerce. Now tasked with keeping up with the convenience and personalization that consumers have access to online, traditional retailers have evolved the brick-and-mortar experience to echo that of its e-commerce counterparts. Some key trends we’re seeing as a result are as follows.
Sensory Experiences in Retail
With consumer expectations on the rise, and the competition steep, many retailers have evolved the retail experience to up the appeal to its consumer base. This includes more than just the visual appeal of its products.
As described by Business2Community, “A store today isn’t just about the products and service you expect to find there—its look, feel, and, increasingly, its aroma are all key brand markers.”
When shoppers can re-order a preferred product with a single click, or even subscribe so their orders are automatically fulfilled, the task of going into a store, finding a product on the shelf, and waiting in line to pay for it, just doesn’t seem that appealing. Today, retailers look to unite the shopping experience and cater to customer preferences, so customers feel that retailers are catering to their unique preferences. Tracking their behavior, personalized marketing and messaging, and an interconnected purchase history that includes both online and brick-and-mortar purchases – all contribute to perceived familiarity with customers.
Investment in Operations and Infrastructure
To pivot, and stave off the competition, retailers should also give due attention to their internal processes and infrastructure.
As described by Shopify.com “What happens inside retail organizations may be the most significant. Companies will start adopting different organizational structures that break down silos and integrate information and systems to facilitate those customer experience improvements.”
The cloud offers an ideal platform for modernization. It also can act as a springboard for retailers looking to implement some of the aforementioned trends. The cloud offers device mobility and easy access to data, which can enable, for example, mobile sales associates stationed throughout the store instead of just at cash registers.
However, with lingering security concerns after some high-profile security breaches in recent years, retailers should be discerning when selecting a cloud provider to ensure they have the right controls in place to protect sensitive consumer data.