How technology can enhance the retail experience
By Claudio Bratovic, ANZ Regional Manager, Honeywell
Friday, 31 May, 2019
The path to purchase is becoming more complex than ever before for Australian retailers. Rising expectations of today’s empowered customers, who have unlimited access to choices and pricing information online, is creating operational challenges for many retail businesses.
Retailers cite meeting heightened customer expectations, managing a high turnover workforce and creating a frictionless experience between online and in-store as top challenges. Global research, undertaken by YouGov on behalf of Honeywell, recently found that only 44% of retailers believe they are meeting today’s customer expectations. As consumers increasingly seek new and surprising products and experiences, retailers are increasingly challenged to find ways to delight their customers and strengthen loyalty.
The omnichannel challenge
Worryingly for retailers trying to adjust to the rise in online shopping, while still maintaining bricks and mortar sites, a majority of retailers do not believe that they are prepared for the modern retail environment, with only 49% of retailers stating that they are doing an ‘excellent’ job with omnichannel integration.
Retailers need to adopt an omnichannel operations model to compete for the connected consumer today. Enabling the store network as a distribution point for inventory should be an advantage against online competitors that have no physical footprint. However, without investment in technology specifically designed for omnichannel, the workarounds required to deliver on the customer promise can have a negative impact on profit margins.
“In environments where online orders are fulfilled from warehouses only, if you trust the inventory accuracy, it is pretty easy to decide which facility to source from,” said Raghav Sibal, Manhattan Associates’ Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. “However, as online selling has become more prevalent, and inventory levels more real-time, advancements like selling against inbound inventory or inventory located at third-party drop-shippers now make the process more complex. A retail store is not simply another distribution centre, there are different systems, flow of people, processes and chaos.”
“When a member of a warehouse fulfilment team is going through the tasks of picking items for shipping, no one ever taps him or her on the shoulder and asks, ‘Can you help me with something?’ But that happens all the time to store associates who have to fill multiple roles at once. This dynamic highlights the difficulty of inventory sourcing in stores and the need for solutions designed to overcome these challenges,” added Raghav.
Access to real-time data and predictive analytics will bolster major efficiencies in managing the right levels of inventory and staffing in an omnichannel world. Further, retailers who embrace omnichannel solutions will have greater flexibility, improved accuracy and faster transaction times to meet the high standards and expectations of consumers.
Room to improve many key retail operations
When asked if they are outperforming their competitors in key success metrics like offering a smooth returns handling process and a personalised shopping experience, retailers reported overall low confidence in how they stack up against their competitors. Only 42% of retailers surveyed believed that they were offering a ‘personalised’ shopping experience, online or in-store. Furthermore, only 37% of retailers said that they offer convenient delivery options or ‘seamless’ delivery for customers.
As shoppers gain more price and quality transparency coupled with a wide range of convenient delivery options, technology will be a key driver of success to increase the value added to consumers. Retailers who proactively ready their organisation for change and deliver a more exciting, simple and convenient customer experience will be best placed to capitalise on evolving shopper priorities.
Retailers must enhance the shopping experience
Retailers must embrace a consumer-first mentality as business strategies and initiatives are developed. Retail organisations who understand their consumers in terms of demands, expectations and pain points will be more successful in shaping and enhancing consumer experiences.
Recent research conducted by global business mobility and IoT solutions provider SOTI, found that 61% of Australian consumers want to receive personalised customer service out of their in-store experience over other factors. Mobile technologies are sensible investments for retailers looking to improve the customer experience, which is key to converting shoppers into buyers in a competitive retail landscape. Shoppers today do not want to be confronted with long queues to make a purchase or encounter an impersonal retail environment.
“The use of technologies like mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices in-store allows salespeople to provide customers with a better retail experience, which leads to increased sales. For instance, the adoption of mPOS helps sales by allowing shoppers to avoid long lines at the cash register, which often results in customers not completing a purchase,” said Michael Dyson, Managing Director Australia & New Zealand, SOTI.
According to Honeywell research, 59% of retailers believe that technology has enhanced their customer experience. Arming retail associates with access to relevant, timely business information to enable consistent end-to-end customer experiences that span physical and digital channels is a key technology focus area today. Consumers want to be engaged by sales associates with information that enhances their shopping experience. This is leading to many retailers equipping customer facing staff with mobile devices that can showcase product ranges and pull up a customer’s purchasing history to better suggest new items, tailored to a customer’s own preferences.
Understand the consumer, have the right solutions to succeed
A successful understanding of the consumer, having the right systems in place and providing a personalised online and in-store shopping environment is critical to engaging shoppers today. Technologies such as advanced analytics, smartphone and mobile apps provide both the data to develop consumer insights and the direction to optimise consumer experiences.
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