What Retailers Should Consider When Investing in Tech

Sarah Nesland, General Manager of Retail, Transportation, and Logistics at Extreme Networks
Sarah Nesland, General Manager of Retail, Transportation, and Logistics at Extreme Networks
Today’s consumers expect two key things from retailers: speed and personalization. The moment a consumer enters a store, the journey through each aisle to the checkout counter must be hassle-free. Retailers who are successful in making the experience easy and enjoyable understand what their shoppers need in that very moment to satisfy their quest for a certain item.
Amazon has achieved both of these so well that it has been able to expand into other markets. As a result, competing retailers have started to feel the pressure to innovate or close up shop as the Amazon effect has created an invisible benchmark for the customer experience. But what if brick-and-mortar retailers could embody the speed and personalization that an online entity can provide, within their physical store locations? By investing in the right location-based services (LBS), retailers can begin to evolve their business model to effectively engage customers and offer the speed and convenience they are used to with e-tailers.
Location, Location, Location
As a gateway to personalization, LBS technologies allow brick-and-mortar retailers to gain a better understanding of store visitors’ demographics, what departments they visited, how long they stayed, and a host of other details that e-tailers naturally have at their fingertips. This trackable, actionable data provides retailers with deeper insights into customer preferences and in-store behaviors, which can then be used to optimize the store layout, improve how sales associates interact with customers and identify when is the right time to deliver push notifications or incentives.
Yet when implementing LBS, retailers face a critical decision. They can hire data scientists and tie up valuable IT resources to develop a fully custom tech solution based on multiple third-party products or partner with a vendor directly to deploy a pre-integrated solution that gives them access to customer details instantly.
To make an informed decision, retailers should consider three key things: how quickly the solution can be used, who owns the data that is collected and whether the solution is future-proofed.
How Fast Can You Get Off the Ground?
Although developing a custom solution might be an attractive way for retailers to differentiate themselves in the market, the time that it would take to do so could cause more harm than good. From conceptualization to development, testing to deployment, retailers may have to wait months for the solution to generate useful data. On the other hand, some vendors offer “plug and play” solutions – technology that can be installed in any retail environment without significant reconfiguration – which can be used immediately after installation to gather data.
With the retail market changing rapidly, retailers must innovate to generate revenue today instead of waiting for a third-party solution that works tomorrow.
Who Owns Your Data?
Data empowers retailers to make key decisions around hiring sales associates, opening stores, marketing products and targeting customers, but if it can be sold to other entities or if the retailer is restricted by a third-party solution that doesn’t allow easy access to key insights, it hinders the retailer’s competitive edge. When it comes to data collection, retailers must consider a solution that not only gathers helpful insights into consumer behavior, but more importantly, one that gives them ownership of this data so it can be used to personalize the experience. This is also critical in a time when, because e-tailers’ transactions are online, they have the ability to collect data, push ads and adapt their sales strategies in real-time. If brick-and-mortar retailers wish to compete in such a fast-paced environment, LBS can help them leverage data immediately to target and retain customers.
How Can You Future-Proof Your Business?
As retailers know, today’s decisions affect businesses tomorrow. Making a technology investment can be a significant undertaking, so ensuring the technology will still be viable in the next five+ years will help ease this burden.
The best LBS solutions provide flexibility and agility for retailers—no matter how large or small. For example, if a large retailer deploys LBS, they should ensure the solution is scalable should they expand into new locations or retail markets. Alternatively, if a smaller retailer decides to open an online store, the LBS solution should be compatible with their online data-tracking tool, so the retailer can easily understand customer shopping trends, product sales and traffic both in-store and online.
Retailers like Nordstrom are already taking advantage of LBS, but many don’t realize that they don’t need to be a major retailer to benefit from this technology. In fact, all brick-and-mortar retailers are affected by ecommerce, so it’s important to begin thinking about solutions like LBS that will help you remain competitive.
With the Help of Tech, Retail Isn’t Dead
The speed of innovation is fast and the way customers declare satisfaction is even faster. Having the ability to quickly deploy game-changing technology that enables retailers to personalize the in-store experience and engage customers in their preferred manner (e.g. coupons, sales associate interactions, etc.) is possible right now. To free-up IT teams, empower data scientists and unleash marketing gurus to delight their customer base, retailers should consider deploying out-of-box LBS solutions that will get them up and running to compete with the retail giants in 45 days or less.