Article

Steve Powell
Steve Powell 12 May 2017
Categories B2B, Technology

The challenges of managing the tech-enabled store

Retailers have always understood that businesses only develop when customer satisfaction is considered a permanent goal, rather than viewed as a destination. But throughout the decades, the simple equation remains; the more businesses provide in terms of value, quality and service, the more customers expect.

As soon as the bar is raised, the quest to deliver that little bit extra begins again.

The rapid adoption of consumer technologies has pushed these expectations to new levels, particularly within the store environment. Shoppers are hungry for real-time digital engagement, and retailers are increasingly finding themselves in a race to keep up with the needs of these tech-driven audiences.

It’s alright – until things go wrong

While digital tools present retailers with new ways to interact with bricks-and-mortar shoppers, these new opportunities are not without complexity. IT departments are having to deploy, integrate, manage and maintain an increasing number of systems and devices across the retail organisation. When working in harmony, these systems have the ability to vastly improve both the customer experience and store operations. But any infrastructural issues can have an equally negative impact.

And, while IT takes most of the heat internally, external frustrations with poorly optimised store technology are felt hardest by store managers and associates. They are the ones that have to deal with customer disappointment when digital tools are too slow, non-operational, or simply can’t be worked properly by employees.

The moment of truth

One of the best examples of how technology can work for or against the store, depending on how successfully it is managed, occurs at the point of sale (POS).

From the customer perspective, successfully digitising POS is extremely powerful, as it means store associates can offer the same information-rich immediacy that they are used to experiencing when shopping online.

In order to offer customers a true omnichannel experience in-store, retailers need to have a clear strategic roadmap that encompasses how the technology they are using at the frontline of their business not only best serves the customer – but how they intend to scale, innovate and build on that service to consistently deliver outstanding tech-enabled experiences.

Most of the challenges of running a tech enabled store will come when organisations start adding additional processes, software and devices to legacy technology, as the back-end infrastructure becomes exponentially more complex.

In addition, many retailers don’t have effective strategic support processes in place should something go wrong. As the amount of tech being used by a business increases, so does the pressure on IT, to the point where in-house teams cannot always manage all queries efficiently or effectively.

Collaboration around the customer

The truth of the matter is that store technology is no longer just the domain of IT; it is a business-wide initiative. All parts of the retail organisation will either use digital tools directly, or benefit from the data they generate. As a result, departments must communicate effectively to develop a long-term, scalable strategy for digital customer engagement.

With a clear strategy in place, the next step is to develop a roadmap for implementing, maintaining and upgrading in-store technology. This ensures that every stage in the process is adequately planned and resourced, minimising business disruption and ensuring return on investment.

Many retailers find the best approach to resourcing and expertise is to work with a third party partner who can understand what their organisation needs right now, and in the near future.  In addition, partners should be able to recognise and advise on how technology and the supporting infrastructure can be implemented and enhanced in a scalable manner.

The right technology partner can also reduce pressure on front-line staff by providing them with user-friendly operating systems, which enable them to provide an enhanced customer experience at the shelf edge or point of sale, safe in the knowledge that the technology they are using is reliable, robust and secure.

With a clear long-term roadmap in place, retailers can rest assured that they are building solid omnichannel foundations for customer engagement. Foundations on which new technologies can be introduced and integrated continuously, to meet consumer demands well into the future. 

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