Our series of web technology articles back in 2015 was a big hit. A lot has changed since then. Here is where you should be focusing your investment in the eCommerce and retail technology space today.
Customers today are as tech-savvy as ever and have come to have a profound impact on retail. Gone are the days when a customer would simply blindly walk into a shop to locate and purchase the items they were looking for.
Consumers now have a wide range of tools available to them as they shop in order to gauge prices, find alternative goods, locate coupons, and receive push notifications directly from retailers.
On the other side of this, retailers now have the opportunity to be much more connected to the consumer, and interact with them on a more personal and direct level. Altogether, technology is changing the way business-to-consumer transactions happen, and this creates an opportunity for both sides to succeed.
Looking back within the last decade, it is clear that technology has become a large part of everyday life for the average consumer.
The Smartphone Effect
The smartphone has probably had the biggest impact on retailers and consumers due to how it has changed the fundamental way consumers interact with the retailer.
In the past, the ordinary shopping experience probably included a consumer walking into a store, finding what they wanted, paying the listed price, and walking out. Today, a customer can walk into that same store, find the product they have previously researched, compare the price of that product to other retailer’s prices, locate a coupon to use for that purchase, and then decide whether to buy it.
Altogether, this puts the consumer in a position to be more in control of the way they spend their money, which could lead to continued business transactions with a retailer that facilitates consumer confidence.
Further, smartphones have come to allow retailers to create meaningful and timely interactions with the customers they want to target.
The use of apps allows retailers to send direct notifications to customers, as well as form a connection that goes beyond the boundaries of the store. Mobile apps serve as a constant presence on the phone of the customer to remind them of the opportunity to shop and regularly interact with that specific retailer.
Therefore, even when a customer is not shopping, they can be reminded of a great sale or store event that they might like to take part in, or simply open the app to engage with the retailer.
Additionally, the app presence allows the retailer to participate in the shopping experience. Some stores have embraced this participation through the use of location-enabled interaction between the smartphone-carrier and the store, where a coupon or message is transmitted to the customer as they enter the store.
In fact, Cooper Smith of Business Insider states that this utilization of smartphones from retailers is expected “to directly influence over $4 billion worth of US retail sales this year at top retailers (.1% of the total), and that number will climb tenfold in 2016.”
With that kind of growth expected, it is clear that mobile apps must become a part of a retailer’s business model in order to stay competitive.
There is also the opportunity for the retailer to provide consumers with important product information, or expose them to advertising through the scanning of QR codes.
Ekaterina Walter of mashable.com noted the success of Verizon Wireless’ mobile marketing campaign where “in-store customers scanned a QR code that shared their competition entries on Facebook. If a friend used that link to buy a Verizon mobile, the original customer would win a smartphone. Verizon saw a $35,000 return on a $1,000 investment, plus brand awareness on 25,000 new Facebook profiles.”
QR codes provide countless opportunities for retailers to demonstrate the value in their product, and this ultimately may lead to increased sales.
Staying on top of mind
The older method of email is something that can be ignored or filtered out of sight of the consumer, or even forgotten about. Push notifications and apps require the direct attention of the customer.
Therefore, the technology available to the retailer allows them to be sure that their message is being heard, or at the very least, not immediately filtered out by a spam detector.
The smartphone has become a tool at the disposal of the marketing team to direct consumer attention in a way that has never been done before. This means fully embracing a business model focused on things like smartphone apps and push notifications, providing ways for consumers to interact with the products via a QR code, and granting access to coupons in order to elicit a sale.
Altogether, retail shopping and technology are becoming increasingly more linked. As time progresses, retail companies can be sure that they will need to adapt to the changes in consumer interaction in order to stay competitive. If a consumer can have a range of tools available to them as they shop, the consumer can be sure that they are making a good decision by shopping at a particular location. The retailer can ultimately benefit from the continued business of a satisfied customer. In this way, technology has changed retail to create a situation that both the retailer and the consumer can feel good about.