Sweeping changes across the connected retail landscape are upping the game for retailers throughout the industry. Are you ready? I sat down recently with World Wide Technology to discuss “The Customer Experience in a Retail Environment,” a conversation that gave way to compelling insights into the top trends in connected retail. Watch the webinar.
Conversations over the past months with retail executives suggest three big themes in the industry today. The first, clearly, is the evolution – even revolution – of omnichannel. We’re now in what I think a lot of retailers would say is a post-channel world. From a shopper’s perspective, channel distinctions are not just irrelevant, they’re hurdles on a shopper decision journey. Disconnects between the channels (especially in customer recognition, availability, and fulfillment) are increasingly unacceptable.
And it will be that way as retailers begin to explore (and pilot) the new fourth channel – where retailers (and even their vendor brands) deliver directly to the home, and the pantry the replenishment shelf. The fourth channel offers retailers the opportunity for remarkable brand “stickiness” and the ability to create and monetize new services.
Data-driven Decision Making
A second major trend on the rise is the increased emphasis and investment by the industry in data-driven decision-making. The challenge here is to effectively turn the enormous volumes of traditional transaction, customer, and product data into value, which is a significant Big Data play – and to prepare for the future of the sensor and RFID-smart instrumented store. I’ve been extremely impressed over the past many months with World Wide Technology’s top-shelf expertise in data center design and optimization, as well as their capabilities in industry smart data science and analysis. Tim Brooks at WWT has put together a tremendous team in this extremely important realm.
Mobile Grows Up
This also taps into a third shift, the maturation of mobility in the industry. We now clearly understand that mobile devices are a tool for the delivery of actionable content within a business process. Let’s repeat that slowly: content. In a process context. Tied to a business imperative. To drive conversion or basket or labor optimization of faster decisions. It’s also about mobility tools that fit seamlessly into existing (and well-managed, highly secure) IT environments, that offer the IT efficiency and productivity long delivered in the PC space.
A Gutenberg Moment for Retail
We’re at the age of something extremely exciting right now and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. In the past few years, we have rapidly developed an understanding of how to structure and use retail data, transaction logs, CRM, product attributes, and connect it to the realm of big data. We’ve also had RFID and sensors and beacons. The real excitement is bringing all that together into what is now the post-channel world.
We’re at the edge of streaming unstructured, external data and connecting it with the structured standard foundational data of retail; comparing it, finding correlations, finding causation. It’s a very exciting prospect that creates value when it is connected to data-driven decision making.
During the past 18 months, the whole industry has changed to a degree where now instead of shoppers expecting the online to reflect the physical world, they’re expecting the physical world to reflect the online world. Which is a brave – and exciting – new world for retail.
Read more retail blogs on the IT Peer Network. To learn about Intel IoT connected retail solutions, visit intel.com/retail and visit @retailerinsight on Twitter. To stay up-to-date with Intel IoT developments, keep your eyes on this blog, intel.com/IoT, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.