Let’s face it, over the past decade, retail has changed and in some aspects seems unrecognisable.
The rise of ecommerce disruptors such as Amazon and eBay, and the multichannel mix coming to the fore have pressed retailers to focus their attention and investment on their ecommerce and mcommerce offerings to keep up with the pace of change.
Instore technology has been updated, tactically and frequently from creaking legacy systems to more modern applications, but digital strategies have effectively centred on empowering the consumer online.
Thanks to this digitally focused movement, what consumers expect and desire from retailers has evolved too. Consumers’ experiences of platforms such as Amazon have clearly driven their expectations and demands for the store.
Recent Fujitsu research revealed three quarters of consumers in the UK believe a physical Amazon store would become their favourite place to shop should it be available, emphasising the weight the Amazon brand has amongst consumers.
Amazon has built up this level of consumer loyalty by consistently delivering outstanding convenience and service enabled by technology.
Other retailers should be looking to find ways to do this themselves.
Reflecting online experiences in stores
The online shop delivers highly personalised services, from making suggestions for customers and providing customised offers, to same day delivery.
These things have heightened consumer expectations of the role of a modern-day retailer and mean that consumers are more vocal and emotional in their reactions to poor tech experiences in the store.
It’s not only Amazon’s online service that’s influencing consumers today, however.
Despite the gloomiest forecasts, the high street experience is far from dead. Amazon is even branching out into physical stores, applying its online principles to instore operations.
Take Amazon’s book store in New York, for instance: it’s testament to the fact that shoppers still want a physical experience with retailers, whilst highlighting perfectly how a retailer can mirror its online journey in a physical environment.
From the displays of suggested books based on a customer’s previous purchases, to facilitating purchases through the app, it enables consumers to receive a more personalised shopping experience instore – something which typically has been tough for other retailers to deliver.
Then there’s Amazon Go, its store that enables shoppers to walk around the store scanning items and paying there and then via an app, eliminating the checkout process altogether. It has completely transformed the method in which physical stores function.
In most cases, retail processes have been the same for decades, but Amazon Go is pushing the boundaries of retailing as we know it and, in doing so, advancing consumers’ expectations.
Adopting a new model
These new models tap into consumer demand for frictionless, flexible shopping – sometimes online, sometimes instore, always convenient – and expect the experience to be seamless regardless of the channel they choose.
This is where retailers need to find different ways to influence their customer and ensure they are differentiating themselves from their competitors.
Our study uncovered that 8 in 10 consumers would spend more with retailers that have a better technology offering.
Whilst high street stores remain the primary differentiator, this demonstrates that those unwilling to embrace technological advancements will not reap the rewards.
Shopping instore is now very much experiential. By offering innovative new ways to shop, retailers can enhance that experience to make it more interactive and digitally enabled.
Now that the level of customers’ expectations is at an all-time high, retailers need to find ways to match it and ensure they are differentiating themselves from their competitors.
Retailers must be visionary in their use of tech and give shoppers what they want, before they know they want it.
Competition is fierce and both customer loyalty and shopping experience are weighing in. As we enter the next stage of the high street’s evolution, retailers need to think about how they can best deploy their instore technology investment and deliver the best experience possible to achieve long term success.
Those that do so will be the players that stand out against a noisy retail landscape and find themselves able to compete with the giant that is Amazon.
As a member of Generation Y, he focuses on innovation to enable business change for Retail colleagues and customers.
Tom challenges the way traditional IT is delivered, collaborating with partners, adopting innovation from other industries and above all working closely with customers to realise business benefits with technology.
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