Survey Reveals Key Technologies to Evolving the Retail Digital Experience
The retail industry is changing dramatically, with disruption from online channels and digital services that is shaking up how customers want to shop and buy today. And with the closure of thousands of brick and mortar stores in recent years, retailers are also rethinking business models. An example highlighting this transformation is Amazon Go, which recently launched its first store in Seattle. Customers don’t check out of Amazon Go, they literally check-in—with an app. This is an idea that could literally disrupt the retail and grocery industries.
Retailers must adapt to online channels and an omni-channel approach to stay competitive in an ever-evolving industry where consumers are using websites and mobile apps to access content. Customers are demanding an always-on experience, that is both seamless and accessible from anywhere, regardless of location or device. Brick-and mortar retailers now have a huge opportunity to completely rethink the in-store digital shopping experience.
This opportunity is driven by technology, which will enable retailers to stay ahead of rapidly shifting customer expectations and not only deliver exceptional customer experiences, but also drive digital processes and models that reduce store costs and increase profitability. But the window for capitalizing on this opportunity is not going to be open forever, so execution is going to be critical.
Riverbed recently conducted a survey titled, “Riverbed Retail Digital Transformation Survey 2018” which asked over 300 IT decision makers from the retail sector to determine what technologies could facilitate this transformation and enable retailers to enhance the digital shopping experience.
Here is a more specific look at what these decision makers said.
Technology now critical in transforming the retail experience
Ninety eight percent of all respondents are in agreement that technology—and most notably, cloud-based solutions—that improve the customer experience are critical to transforming the digital retail experience. What does this mean? Specifically, 53% said this means implementing applications that reduce friction from the purchasing process that support both employees of these brick and mortar outlets as well as the customer.
The technologies that are deemed of highest importance for evolving the brick and mortar digital experience to meet future customer needs and demands include:
- The technologies that are deemed of highest importance for evolving the brick and mortar digital experience to meet future customer needs and demands include:
Retail apps to track inventory (40%)
- Virtual assistants and digital personal shoppers (37%)
- Mobile point of sales technology (35%)
- Mobile apps with augmented reality (34%)
- Personalized in-store experiences based on customer loyalty data (34%)
- Push notifications while in-store (33%)
- On-demand in store video streaming (29%)
The challenge here is that while there is almost unanimous agreement that technologies like these are vital to transforming the customer experience, and thereby staying competitive, almost half of the same decision makers feel brick and mortar stores have three years at most to adopt them.
Enhancing the customer and end user experience
In the survey, nearly half of retailers (48%) said they plan to invest in tools to better monitor customer apps and the end user experience within the next 12 months. That’s because retailers understand how critical it is to deliver an exceptional and consistent customer experience—whether the customer is shopping online at home, using an in-store application such as a virtual kitchen remodel app, downloading digital offers from a mobile customer loyalty app, or trying to quickly pay at checkout. And retail executives are asking IT organizations to play a key role in helping them monitor the customer experience.
There are digital and end user experience monitoring tools in the market today, that measure the actual experience a customer is having at home or in the store. This allows retailers to make network adjustments that optimize customer-facing apps and digital services, which ultimately helps to drive more purchases and improve customer satisfaction. These end user experience monitoring tools are especially critical during busy shopping seasons such as the holidays or back to school sales.
Wi-Fi is a differentiator
49% believe that improving the in-store Wi-Fi and mobile experience for employees and customers is also critical. Mobile devices are in use by employees for point of sale transactions and by making this component of the network a priority, employees can be both efficient and expedient with sales.
For customers, who all have a smartphone, Wi-Fi connectivity is an expectation. This allows for greater access to product information and, through effective online tools, can suggest additional products for consideration of purchase based on customer interest. This has the dual benefit of boosting sales while also keeping the customer better informed and engaged, two goals that every retailer is scrambling for while under the pressure of ecommerce outlets.
The future of retail? Nothing but network
The common thread among the IT decision makers surveyed is that these changes can be supported with the right network infrastructure that includes cloud networking and SD-WAN technology, and digital experience monitoring and management tools. Modernizing networks can facilitate digital transformation of the retail experience and enable greater flexibility to respond to customer needs. For the IT organization, this means the benefit of more streamlined operations through the removal physical network devices, which are expensive, greater visibility into the performance of in-store systems, for greater efficiencies; the agility to rapidly connect new stores or pop up stores in hours versus weeks or months; faster response times to any potential peaks in demand—or worse outages—so that the customer experience is never impacted and satisfaction is maintained.
These are just a few of the insights gleaned from the retail survey that, overall, bring an interesting fact to light. The best way for today’s brick and mortar outlets to compete with the online threat, which is driven by technology, is to leverage technology to combat this threat. The evolution of the physical retail experience will be critical for success. As acknowledged by these decision makers, time is of the essence for retailers to make these investments. But by embracing the challenge and making sure the right technology is in place, supported by a modern network infrastructure, retailers can deliver a superior customer experience, streamline operations and drive sales. And that is music to a retailers ears, and dollars in the digital cash register.
Originally posted on Forbes.com.