June 27, 2014 3:26 pm

5 Top Technology Trends in the Retail Industry

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Technology in retail is always changing – with the latest ‘big thing’ never too far away. With so much hype, it’s hard to know which technology trends to back and which to avoid. For those companies who want to take their mobile marketing to the next level, we put together a summary of the five current top technology and retail trends which are currently getting a lot of air time from analysts and experts.

1. Integration of two worlds:

According to the Forrester Research the convergence of the offline and online world means that many consumers are changing the rules for retailers. As a result they now expect and demand the same level of service and experience regardless of whether they are shopping in the physical world or the digital world. Either way, they want to be able to choose the right product, get it easily and be sure that it is a good decision.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers who also provide an online option (retail shops with both physical and virtual presence) are the ones who dominate sales in the industry, simply because they provide more convenience and flexibility to consumers that have different buying behaviour:

  • Search online and purchase offline –  enables consumers to gather product information and reviews from multiple sources online and then purchase in the shop of their choice
  • Search offline and purchase online – for those who prefer to see and touch products before buying them, many High Street stores are becoming showrooms for online purchase
  • Search online and purchase online – for those that have no lingering security concerns about ecommerce, online has become the main or only source
  • Search offline and purchase offline – many still prefer the old-style retail therapy of a trip to the High Street.

By having both an online and offline presence, retailers deliver a more flexible and fulfilling shopping experience that can satisfy demand 24×7. Consumers not only have more choice in terms of which channel to use to make a purchase, but are also able to gather more product information to help them make more informed decisions.

2. Reach consumers through multi-channel retailing

The move online means retailers need to consider an omnichannel retailing approach which provides access through every channel open to consumers, including: mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar stores, TV, catalogues etc. However, an omnichannel approach brings with it the need to:

  • Provide increased choice and information such as in-store displays and online reviews
  • New choices in logistics and fulfilment including online marketplaces, pay-in-store, ship-to-store, same-day pickup.

In other words, consumers now want to be able to buy what they like, when they like and collect or have it delivered at a time that suits them. This shows that a joined up plan that addresses every part of the purchase experience is essential to make sure you give consumers what they want.

3.Time to consider mobile wallets?

In 2013 the use of smartphones grew by 50%. With the increased use of mobile phones, consumers are now constantly ‘switched-on’ and online. They use their phones to compare prices, search for deals, read product details and reviews to help their purchasing decisions as well as making purchases. To capitalise on the opportunity means all sites should, at the very least, be dynamic so they adapt to whatever device is being used by shoppers.

mobile payments

Image Source HLundgaard

But improving the shopping experience also means providing payment options too. So perhaps it’s time to consider adding a mobile wallet option. Adopting solutions such as PayPal and Google Wallet will enable consumers to make purchases with just a few taps on their smartphones Mobile wallets are predicted to provide you access to a $90 billion market in the next few years so it’s well worth thinking about adding them to your technology toolkit.

4. iBeacons could bring a bright future for retail sales

The beauty of the digital world is that retailers can now capture relevant information about their consumers in terms of their interests and purchase history and use this to drive loyalty. The arrival of iBeacon technology enables retailers to use this information to trigger sales when shoppers are instore. There is a neat summary of how Beacons work if you click iBeacon Retailers can take great advantage of the potential that Beacons have to offer and can couple the information gathered through Beacons with customer loyalty schemes. They can also adjust their promotions, offers and other messages at relevant points, because the beacon can tell them exactly where the shoppers are located within their store, what they buy and also what their general journey through the store is. Beacons may be a little way off for some retailers but they offer a new way to trigger instant sales while people are on the move. They also help deliver a more personalised shopping experience which should be high on every retailer’s agenda.

5. The data needed to deliver a personalised experience

Retailers are now challenged to make the experience of shoppers as personal as possible by tailoring the experience to individual customer needs and tastes. The traditional ‘one-size-fits-all marketing’ doesn’t work anymore and as Forrester makes the point, “a great digital experience is no longer a nice-to-have”. But tailoring needs enough information about a consumer to target them with relevant incentives, offers and notifications. If you don’t make it very targeted then all you will achieve is a new form of spam and consumers will switch off fast.  But getting it right is worth it as consumers are likely to spend up to 50% more if they receive a personalised offer. So our final technology trend is ‘Big Data’. Big Data has been talked about for years and comes with a big price tag. It also has associated privacy issues. We think maybe Big Data should be renamed Targeting Data because you don’t need to know everything a consumer does to deliver a personalised experience they will appreciate. Thinking about what to collect, and why, could be time well spent. Which of those technology trends will you back? While these new trends and technologies are attracting a lot of interest, we recognise that they won’t suit every retailer. We believe any technology investment should be driven by what will give the best joined up experience to the consumer and deliver a better return to you today. We’d love to hear which technology you think will provide the best return for retailers in the next three years.