Transforming Retail

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Technology continue to reshape the way we live, work and… shop. Across retail, technology is driving an ever-increasing pace of change, making it easier than ever for the retailer’ to innovate. From the customer journey, to the supply chain, technology innovation is transforming the retail world. Retailers are now building large teams of software developers to improve in-house innovation and ensure the intellectual development stays in-house. For example, Mark & Spencer is building a group of up to 150 developers to achieve “more speed and agility”. But they also are broadening the scope of their relationships with software and technology providers to remain on top of the latest innovations. Wireless and mobility are certainly at the center stage of that transformation

Improving the customer experience

Today people expect Wi-Fi everywhere, including in-store, and they expect it to remain free. According to a recent study in the UK by Arqiva, while 45% of UK adults own a smartphone, 75% of UK retailers still don’t have in-store Wi-Fi. Yet Wi-Fi is a great opportunity to provide customers with a better shopping experience and drive sales. That’s because 44% of these smartphone owners say the availability of Wi-Fi influences where they shop. An amazing 94% of them use their smartphone in-store.

A recent survey of about? 50 international retailers reported that 87% are using digital strategies to increase revenues. Four-fifths of the chains said they expect these strategies to increase footfall. So it’s no wonder that one of the hot trends tipped for 2014 is location-based technology. Put simply, this gives retailers ways to communicate with smartphone-owning customers in their stores without having an assistant ask them ‘are you being served?’

From highly targeted advertising to geofencing, push marketing is becoming a must-have for brand recognition, and with that comes big data. Stores are becoming a valuable source of data whose value is increased by the immediacy of being on the premises. The range of analytics is requiring the increasing involvement of database giants such as Oracle.

Targeted promotions

Targeted promotions to customers’ mobile devices via in-store Wi-Fi are a great way to achieve a better customer experience.  Stores and venues benefit from the predominance of Wi-Fi enabled devices to communicate more effectively with their customers through a wide array of cloud-based Wi-Fi platforms which enable store and venue owner to build sophisticated marketing activities including:

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Source: Cloud4Wi

Retailers can also use Wi-Fi to the ability to pay with the mobile device in-store with the aim to reduce lines at cash desks … and staff. The possibilities are just starting to emerge and they are many more to come.

 A wave of innovation

Among the new terms in vogue is geofencing, which combines awareness of the user’s current location with awareness of their proximity to features that may be of interest. A location service treat a geofence as an area rather than as “ points and proximity. This allows it to detect when the shopper enters or exits a geofence. For each geofence, retailers can ask the location services to send the shoppers entrance events or exit events or both. Retailers can also limit the duration of a geofence by specifying an expiration timed in milliseconds. After the geofence expires, the service automatically removes it.

Among the technologies generating most buzz is iBeacons – Apple’s data sharing system. Since it was first announced in June last year at the same time as iOS7, there has been speculation about how the technology can be used to help retailers. iBeacon uses a Bluetooth connection to send radio waves to mobile devices from stationary beacons, which can broadcast to a distance of about 50 meters. They can send just about any kind of data – including special offers, hence the obvious appeal for retailers. Devices running the Android operating system can receive iBeacon advertisements but cannot emit iBeacon advertisements. While iBeacons are one of the most talked about technologies of 2014, they aren’t the only location-based tools emerging, and for any retailer wanting to investigate communicating with customers via their mobiles, there are other technologies to consider.

Operational efficiency

But many retailers have a number of obstacles to transform their 20th century IT environment to support the 21th century latest technology innovations. Many do not have the budget to simply modernize everything. For the majority of retailers it will be a slow and long transformation where monetizing is a first priority. Wi-Fi solutions can help them embrace the new wave of tools available to them.  With Amazon, already a leader in many markets, those retailers dragging their feet will not survive for very long.