Technology - the key to retailer omni-channel strategy

Bright Masih, Retail Account Director, Black Pepper Software

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Families up and down the country used to climb into a car and do ‘the big weekly shop’ together, however, the world of online connectedness has changed our consumer habits for good. We now spend 23 pence of every pound online and many of us want to be able to shop anywhere, anytime, using any device as individuals, rather than as a collective family unit. This has presented retailers with a huge challenge in meeting consumer expectations.

A successful omni-channel strategy empowers the customer to purchase products across multiple platforms and channels, all connected by a seamless customer experience. It’s easy to see the retailers that are being successful - it’s now possible to collect eBay products in Argos stores, while John Lewis has an innovative new ‘click and commute’ service, allowing customers to collect orders at London St. Pancras.

To get it right, retailers need to power their omni-channel strategies with appropriate technology, bridging bricks and mortar with mouse clicks. From automated order processing software to real-time delivery tracking, technology is the key to unlocking competitive advantage in the omni-channel world.

Retailers are also starting to use technology to enhance customer experience in-store. Business Insider Intelligence has predicted that beacon technology will be used in 85 of the top 100 US retailers by 2016. Beacons can use Bluetooth to communicate with smartphone and smartwatch apps, allowing brands to track customers as they move through a store, sending them pop-up alerts, while providing the retailer with valuable insight in real-time. At Urban Outfitters, shoppers can already receive personalised messages on their smartphones, offering them targeted coupons and drawing them towards particular products based on past purchase data.

As well as targeting customers with vouchers and alerts, beacons can also have a significant part to play in customer service. It’s now possible for beacons to send notifications to smartwatches worn by staff, alerting them if a high-value customer has just walked through the door. That customer can then be approached by an appropriate person within the sales team or led to relevant products. This tactic not only makes the customer feel valued, it also helps to drive sales and increase customer satisfaction.

It’s clear our consumer habits are already a far cry from the traditional ‘weekly shop.’ It’s now the retail sector’s task to embrace technology in-store, as well as online. Ignoring beacon technology will cost retailers sales in the short term, and customers in the long term as competitors take advantage. Taking retail sales to the next level is no longer an option, it’s a necessity and failing to do so is akin to accepting failure. Retailers of all sizes simply cannot afford to be so short-sighted.

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