Although a plausible strategy, it has also become a double-edged word on which many retailers seem to fall on. Retailers have seen power shift to the consumer who now understands that they are now shot callers, empowered through technology, can make demands and keep retailers on their toes.
The truth is, technology was the catalyst for the shift of power from retailer to consumer, but here are technologies that can help retailers back in the driving seat.
1. Big Data Analytics
Big data has fast become a ‘buzz word’ within the retail industry but it certainly can be argued that retailers have good reasons to be excited, especially those who understand the opportunities effective interpretation of big data can have on their ability to maximise customer retention and sales.
Constant pressure on retailers from consumers demanding what they want, how and when they want it has seen an increase in the retailers adopting advanced automatch analytics and predictive modelling technologies that is going someway to reshaping how retailers engage with consumers and vice versa.
E.g. Amazon make 35% to 65% increased margins from product recommendations alone, using historical data and machine learning to offer accurate recommendations before the customer leaves their website.
2017 will see retailers work at gaining increasingly deeper understanding of customer habits at every potential channel but also at using this data, insights and knowledge to drive deeper personalisation services to the consumer.
2. Delivery Drones and Bots
Drone delivery was the darling of the retail sector in 2016 much like mobile payments was in 2014 with great expectations founded on the high-profile launch of Apple Pay, believed by many to revolutionize how consumers transacted their purchase.
Like mobile payments consumer demand for convenience is heightened but has been overtaken by their need for speed, as today’s retail shopper becomes more impatient. This habit has gained immense momentum over the past year and certainly shows no signs of slowing down.
The rise of the impatient consumer’s ‘need for speed and convenience’ has seen intelligent retailers leverage this opportunity as a differentiator to win new customers and keep existing customers loyal. December 2016 saw Amazon make its first drone delivery, delivering an order of Amazon Fire TV and popcorn within 13 minutes of the order being placed on their website.
This same month also saw Just-Eat, the takeaway delivery service deliver a customer takeaway order using a delivery robot for this first time ever. Their partnership with Starship Technologies (developers of the robot) highlights the need for retailers to partner with technology providers to stay at the forefront of innovation in the industry.
3. Integrated Customer Relationship Management
Another retail buzzword, the ‘Omnichannel’, could be argued as being exasperated in use but this doesn’t make it any less relevant. It could also be argued that its application and involvement as part of any retail conversation could be elaborated on depending on context.
Undoubtedly, intelligent retailers understand the crucial role robust customer relationship management (CRM) systems play as these retailers strive to gain a deeper understanding of their customer personas and habits. The evolving multichannel approach adopted by today’s consumer demands retailers adopt technologies that can be implemented across physical, digital, mobile and any other channel.
Adopting a more streamlined approach to CRM means that consumer data received can be shared with partners, stock management, marketing and other relevant teams in real-time ensuring that the customer has the best information to make their purchasing decision when, where and how they want and having an enjoyable experience throughout their purchasing journey.
4. Mobile Payments
Touted as the ‘dawn of a retail revolution’ in 2015, many would argue that mobile payments still hasn’t delivered on the hype as predicted. The way consumers use their mobile device to communicate and search can be seen as ground breaking but this is yet to become mainstream.
As retailers continue to work on providing customers the best shopping experience at every touch point, this could present yet another opportunity for mobile payments to be incentivised and championed. Retailers need to understand the part mobile payments plays in the customer journey and how it adds real value to the consumer.
Starbucks, the poster company for mobile payments success, have obviously hit a mobile payments sweet spot with their customers that other retailers still struggle to find. Whether retailers use Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, android Pay or any other similar service, they need to find a way for this service to be very easily integrated as part of the customer’s shopping experience.
5. Competitor Monitoring
Today’s consumer is certainly wiser than ever before and can no doubt provide an exhaustive list detailing the many advantages of shopping online. These advantages are also the same reasons why the retail landscape is frightfully competitive.
Smart retailers understand this and also understand that the fierce nature of this competition is around price. As consumers hunt for the best prices for products they want, retailers now accept that competitive pricing has to be a tactic within their strategic play book.
Long gone are the days where effective competitor monitoring and competitor pricing strategies were executed using URL based off the shelf price trakker technologies. If consumers find value in using automatch tools online to find the best prices, then there’s no excuses for retailers to not adopt the same strategy to ensure they are competitively priced.
The emergence of the competitor monitoring plan as part of an ecommerce managers play book is rapidly becoming the norm for ambitious retailers as they execute profitable pricing strategies to increase sales and win big in 2017.
6. Virtual Assistants (VA’s)
With Amazon’s Alexa being the newest addition to the growing number of virtual assistant service technologies, it’s fair to say that 2017 will certainly be one to watch in this arena as they strive to offer the most convenient, simple and enjoyable customer purchase experience.
Consumer familiarity with other VA’s including Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Samsung’s Viv, Google’s Assistant and now Amazon’s Alexa is evidence that VR familiarity is fairly mainstream but the real test is the range of products where consumers can engage with the VR’s and the part these VR’s play in the customer purchase journey.
Apple lead the way by introducing Siri through their apple products and the launch of Apple pay presented a real opportunity that Apple failed to capitalise on. Amazon’s introduction of Echo in 2016 has been hailed as a game changer and 2017 presents a huge opportunity for the world’s largest online retailer to lead this space especially when manufacturers such LG are embedding Amazon technologies in their products.
LG already announced this year (2017) that they have developed a smart refrigerator with Amazons Alexa VA embedded that allows users to order groceries through Amazon Prime by speaking to the product. User can find recipes, create shopping lists and use the camera to view contents in the fridge anywhere via their smart device.
Retailers certainly have their work cut out for them in 2017 but we can see that there are just as many opportunities as there are challenges. As consumers get wiser to retailer tactics, understanding competitor pricing and executing competitive pricing strategies yield huge rewards.
Retailers are not innovative technology companies by nature hence the need for key partnerships (exclusive where possible) to develop and maintain an innovative approach to engaging consumers while offering increasingly personalised services at every customer’s touch point.
Whether retailers use private label technologies or partner with key technology providers, innovation is where intelligent retailers can win big in 2017.