As customer expectations shift and the retail landscape continues to become more competitive, many brands are looking for new ways to stand out from their competitors and attract loyal customers to their stores. With so many options available, customers can choose to shop anywhere and are increasingly willing to change brands over a single negative experience. According to NRF, 70 percent of customers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business to a competitor.
One way retailers often choose to attract customers is through lower prices. But competing solely on price is a risky strategy, and one that is not sustainable in the long-term. While you may see an immediate bump in sales, you will most likely damage margins and profitability going forward.
Instead, you can differentiate your stores by building a better overall shopping experience. The best brands make acquiring the product itself secondary to the unique, personalized and convenient experience a customer has while in the store. This strategy not only avoids the race to the bottom, it also incentivizes customers to stay with your brand because they cannot get the experience you provide anywhere else.
For Good or Bad, Retail Technology Defines Your Customer Experience
The rapid advancement of retail technology is playing an important role in how retailers create their in-store experience. But it’s not enough to simply have the technology installed. The equipment you invest in and deploy will either keep customers coming back or drive them away.
Retail technology that improves the experience, is easy to use, available when a customer needs it and adds real value to the shopper. For example, a customer who is deciding between two brands could use their smartphone to scan the barcode and immediately get more information about the products, including reviews, specifications and complementary purchases. Similarly, augmented reality can be used to help customers virtually try on clothes or see how furniture will look in their homes. These are great examples of how technology can create a positive and unique experience.
On the other hand, equipment that is broken, difficult to use or poorly implemented will frustrate the customer rather than delight them. Many stores are investing heavily in their inventory and supply chain systems to display store inventory levels on their website or on employee mobile devices. However, if these numbers are inaccurate, or don’t reflect real-time inventory levels, you could end up disappointing a customer who checks online and comes to the store only to find the product is out of stock.
Another big issue for retailers is checkout times. Deloitte showed that the single largest inhibitor to making a purchase was long lines at the checkout. Any POS downtime or other issues that slow down the checkout process can quickly result in abandoned carts and lost revenue.
How Analytics Can Help You Get the Right Technology
Retailers now have access to massive amounts of data. The key to taking the next step is to use this data to make stronger business decisions. One potential application is to use data to identify the right retail technology to help turn lost sales into revenue.
For example, using data collected from POS systems, customer tracking software and cameras placed around the store, you may notice that you see a significant drop off in sales of large items –furniture or appliances – if a customer is forced to go to the front of the store to pay for it. The added friction between the aisle and the checkout gives the customer the chance to change their mind.
Recognizing this, you may decide to implement mobile POS devices that allow your front-line staff to look up product information, schedule delivers to the customer’s home or office and collect payment immediately without adding any extra steps. All this, just by having the right data and analytics capabilities in place.
Make Sure Your Retail Technology is Leaving the Right Impression
When technology is working properly, designed with the customer in mind and creating a unique experience, it can become an extremely powerful competitive advantage. Instead of competing just on price – a difficult battle to win – you can instead differentiate your brand by providing an experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
However, simply implementing technology isn’t enough. If it’s not working, or it makes the shopping experience more difficult, you can easily turn a sale into a lost customer who goes to your competitor instead. Your retail technology will leave a lasting impression on your customers. Whether that impression is good or bad is up to you.