Three Major Trends Affecting Retail Technology
The exponential growth of communication and smart technologies in recent years has ushered in a highly diverse and dynamic era of commerce. This is not news to anyone who works in or near the retail marketing space; the technological complexity of our moment means more opportunities for targeted marketing. Retailers and manufacturers alike now have a broad range of options for assessing consumer habits and demographics, and for predicting consumer behavior to get the greatest value for their marketing dollar. Of course, more to work with also means more to stay abreast of, but fear not – read on to learn about three of the newest strategies for increasing traffic for the product you represent.
- Let’s Face it: Tech’s Focal is on Vocal
Smartphones have had a profound effect on the way people do just about everything, and while marketers have long analyzed multiple categories of collected data for insights into buying behavior, there is now a new dimension of their use to explore: voice-driven interactions. Where previously shoppers would have used their phones’ keypads to search for or purchase a needed service or product, they are now increasingly using services like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant to complete the same tasks while on the move, or devices like Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Home Pod while at home. These services are designed around voice commands and provide a new level of convenience and speed to the consumer by drastically reducing the effort involved in completing a purchase. These utilities offer retailers great potential benefit as well; by analyzing both the content of the user’s input and features of user’s voice, valuable insights can be gained on, among other things, how best to optimize search engine content to target potential customers.
Lesser-known, but also possessing great potential, are certainly beginning to see use in traditional physical retail spaces. These include systems that use real-time analysis of passive customer data to increase traffic to the location. Previously, this was an untapped resource, but marketers are increasingly incorporating this information into their game plans. In the U.S., for example, cameras are already beginning to be used to record the stream of customers into a store. With a base set of customer images to reference, retail software can then analyze customer attributes, such as facial features, and adjust exterior advertising to draw more shoppers from a certain demographic. Potential benefits extend beyond marketing, as well—in South Africa, the same technology is being applied to security, as it allows retailers to log and track known shoplifters.
- Revolutionizing How We Shop
More and more, consumers rely on their devices to reduce the complexity of tasks and to streamline their lives. With interactive technologies making just about everything more convenient and showing no signs of slowing down, it’s no wonder that customers’ expectations of the retail experience have changed accordingly. User-friendly trends in retail technology mean that, for instance, many shoppers are now abandoning their wallets in favor of smartphone apps which allow them to keep all of their vital information inside the same device that they use to search for and research the things they want to buy.
Both physical and online retailers are employing retail software solutions to adapt to fresh expectations for efficiency and convenience. Online retailers are offering to store payment information for future use, saving customers the hassle of inputting it for every purchase. Physical retailers are following suit by providing more options for seamless buying, like self-checkout and app-based purchasing options, which allow customers to prepay and skip the lines at the register, all of which helps to move the customer seamlessly from initial interest to completed sale.
- Optimizing Your Inventory Management
As successful as these new retail tech solutions have been at improving the buying experience for customers, they’ve created a new set of complications for retailers. To remain competitive and maintain brand reputation, sellers not only need to constantly update their customer experience, but the increased pace of tech-assisted commerce has made inventory management an increasing challenge.
Fortunately, there are retail tech solutions for these issues as well. By closely analyzing buying behavior, as well as user-generated content like product reviews, retailers can gain a leg-up on reputation management. Well-structured analysis can simultaneously strengthen brand presence and gather important insight into the most effective approaches to optimize supply.
Further, the majority of retailers—nearly 60 percent—are investing in logistics systems which combine artificial intelligence, business intelligence and transportation management systems (TMS) to more effectively manage the movement of inventory. Demand in the new market can be highly unpredictable.
Currently, the average retail supply chain has 93.5 logistics partners and 1,342 suppliers, and only 17 percent of organizations have full visibility over their inventory. The ability to forecast demand and optimize inventory can be what determines success or failure, so it is vital that retailers avail themselves of the retail technologies that help provide it.
Finding Where to Buy
One of the greatest challenges brands must face in the new technological climate is determining how to direct shoppers to their spaces—whether digital, physical, or both. Convenience is the major driving force in retail, and that isn’t limited to the ease with which a buyer can make a purchase. Shoppers also want to be informed about the products they’re buying and where to get the best deals on them, and they want that information to be easily accessible and clear.
With features such as the ability to choose favorite retailers and find sold-out items elsewhere, tools like PriceSpider’s Where to Buy application make the customer shopping experience smoother than ever. And the benefits go both ways: from a sales perspective, tracking customer usage via the Where to Buy utility provides marketers with vital information for assessing the space from the customer’s point of view, which allows retailers to better identify highly qualified traffic and strategize accordingly, helping to maximize marketing efficiency.