Technology Issues Facing Retail Businesses

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Today’s tech-savvy consumer expects retailers to provide the best shopping experience possible. They want seamless channel functionality, personalized shopping recommendations, comparison-shopping, and privacy.

Yet, in order to accommodate these demands, retailers are forced to develop new strategies and employ new technology features, many of which require trial and error testing.

Here are some of the challenges we’ve identified and how they can affect your retail commerce platform.

Implementing Omni-Channel

In our previous blog, Top eCommerce Trends for 2015, we discussed how omni-channel provides retailers with several benefits, such as higher conversion rates and measurable ROI, when implemented correctly.

That’s only if it’s implemented correctly, though.

According to Forrester Consulting, 94% of the 250 retail and manufacturing decision makers surveyed said that they faced significant barrier when initializing omni-channel capabilities.

Syncing Inventory

The discrepancy between what consumers want and what retailers can provide is bigger than ever, which leads to issues with inventory. Nearly half of consumers expect to purchase products online and pick them up in-store in order to eliminate shipping costs. Unfortunately, only 36% of retailers are able to meet that demand.

Implementing omni-channel commerce can help maintain real-time inventory management, but even then, problems occur. Take Target’s recent website crash, for example. Within minutes after the unveiling of their newest clothing line, their site stalled and inventory was wasn’t matching what they had in stock.

The key thing to remember is online you’re always open, even when your brick-and-mortar store isn’t.

Diffusing Big Data

Omni-channel marketing provides retailers with the ability to track the engagement they have with their buyers through multiple channels. Retailers can see what consumers click, pages they browse, items they like or dislike and even their buying habits.

The question is what do you do with all of that data?

Many retailers believe that the goal is to collect as much customer information as possible, but in reality most data is irrelevant. The power of data isn’t based on the quantity; it’s dependent on how retailers use it. They must adopt tactical approaches to pull insight from the data and provide personalized experiences to customers.

Smartphones

Mobile dependability is rapidly increasing and without a mobile friendly site, retailers are losing out (Google’s most recent algorithm update has made sure of that). In America alone, 64% of adults own a smartphone and 10% of those adults rely solely on it for Internet access.

But simply making your site mobile friendly does not ensure you’ll attract consumers.

Optimal Design

The design of your mobile site plays an intricate part in how engaged consumers become. A bulky, unorganized mobile site will affect the user’s experience as well as the brand perception. Customers should be able to find what they are looking for with minimal effort.

In relation to omni-channel, your mobile site must also be designed to mirror the look, feel, and functionality of both your main website and store locations. Retailers must evaluate how their customers are using their mobile site and adjust it to fit their habits.

Smartphone Marketing

In addition to assessing how buyers use their mobile site, retailers also have to decide what smartphone marketing tactics attract the most attention.

Mobile shopping apps have gained recent popularity among retailers. Allowing consumers to download your app eliminates the search engine and gives shoppers a direct channel to your store.

There are some downsides though. For one, seeking out customer support help isn’t always easy. Emailing support teams or engaging in live chat is more difficult via mobile. Another challenge is the limited use of rich media. Viewing product videos, 360-degree product views, or zooming in on images is a big hassle and most consumers avoid them.

Some retailers have begun offering mobile loyalty programs, which include, for example, a mobile “punch card,” text messaging, and mobile coupons.

Starbucks has set the bar high in mobile loyalty programs by allowing coffee drinkers to pay for their morning cup of Joe, add money to their account, and collect rewards on every purchase all through their smartphone. Despite their current success, it took Starbucks several years and countless tests to develop a loyalty app that worked for their client base.

Leveraging Showrooming

Along with the growth of smartphone owners, the practice of showrooming, where consumers check competitor prices while they are in-store, has increased as well. It has become a problem for many retailers especially with the expansion of products offered by Amazon.

How do you prevent showrooming?

Customer service and in-store experience plays a large role in whether or not a consumer engages in showrooming. Some retailers have found that offering in-store price matching has helped deter deal driven shoppers. Home Depot went one step beyond and offers 10% off in addition to matching the price.

Unfortunately, not all retailers can afford to match their competitors’ prices.

Security

With the recent credit card debacles of Target and Home Depot, the demand for stricter security measures is stronger than ever. According to Internet Retailer, 62% of consumers feel that brick-and-mortar stores aren’t doing enough to protect their credit card information and 60% feel the same way about merchant websites.

To reduce the consumer’s apprehension about shopping online, retailers must be able to communicate how much they value consumer protection. Online security certifications such as TRUSTe, Google Trusted Store or Better Business Bureau help ease uncertainty among online consumers.

But what about in-store?

US credit card companies are trying to solve that problem with the new implementation of chip-enabled cards. The chip is to help prevent card cloning, but will only require a signature from users.

However, with this new change, retailers will also have to upgrade all of their pay terminals to accommodate the new cards. Upgrading one payment terminal can cost retailers between $500 and $3,000, depending on the features they selects.

Final Thoughts

New technology is presenting more obstacles for retailers to overcome in order to engage with consumers.

In order to be successful, retailers must be able to change these challenges into business opportunities. It’s a daunting task, but those who prevail will reap the benefits. ?


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