Is it the holy grail of retailers to have their stores bristle with technology to attract customers?
Every business owner likes to think about maximized foot traffic and consistent profits, and technology certainly holds a key to achieving these, but using technology for its own sake can be a fruitless exercise.
Some devices, even some of the most exciting looking ones, are still just “solutions in search of a problem.” For each the question remains, “what does the retailer want to get out of it?” There must be a direct connection between the systems and the customer, and that connection is data. It is data that can best measure success.
All commerce-related information, whether amassed through an online site, in-store, or both, should be tied back to the problems that the retailer is trying to solve. It must match in some way to the goal of understanding the customer and supporting the brand. It must cure pain and deliver benefits. This starts with baseline data, to which metrics are applied afterward. The retailer must figure out what it is they want to do, and then leverage the technology to do it. This helps ensure the results can be translated and applied.
There has never been a better time to use technology to measure success in the world of retail.
Timelines and cost have both shrunk considerably. In the pre-mobile days, technological innovation required massive upfront investments paired with equally costly implementation. But, new models, hosted in the cloud and supported by subscription, are changing this. The chief investment now is in people rather than machinery. When a highly evolved and carefully chosen software solution is paired with mobile commerce technology, this changes the route and the time to profitability for the better.
Another critical element in measuring success is that much of the data will come primarily from technologies that consumers are already familiar with. Regarding immediate ROI, retailers should look at the supercomputing power the customers already hold in their hands – their smartphones – and strive to leverage it in a way that gives these customers new types of interactions. These specifically could be exchanges that they have not experienced in a sales transaction, but might have elsewhere.
Snapchat would be a good example of this. What would it be like if Snapchat became the facilitator between a sales associate and a consumer for a quick sale? There are new types of connections that can be had through the tools that are already sitting in people’s hands. It is not necessarily about digitizing the store so much as taking advantage of the digital relationship that could already exist between the consumer, the store, and the store associate.
Successful use of data demands appropriate observations. Retailers must decide on their focus area, such as simplifying the shopping experience, or engaging the customer. They must observe their customers and look for patterns, and then use that data to drive decisions. What they must try to avoid, however, is the potential for “data smog.”
Everything is measurable, from where people are standing in the store to how frequently they abandon potential clothing purchases in the dressing rooms. So, there will be a lot more data to look at, and too much of this only creates a fog that wastes time and resources. This means that the role of data scientists in retail will likely become much more important since these are the people best qualified to sort out and interpret the numbers.
This is retail coming full circle. Success has always been based on how well products sell, and the profitability of the store. Now, however, this is not so much measured in money as it is in numbers of other kinds. In the mobile world, data is king. In some cases, it is worth more than the retail price of the object itself, and consequently, certain items may end up being given away for free, since greater monetization opportunities arise through the data these items send back.
Success is measured in numbers, and mobile commerce technology is the easiest and most secure way to pull those numbers from the customers and use them to build the future of the connected store.
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