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Tech Bytes: Three Tech Learnings from SPECS


Technology-themed sessions were in abundance at Chain Store Age’s 52nd annual SPECS conference, which was held March 13-15 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. The conference focuses on store planning/design, equipment, construction and facility services, and IT is slowly but surely becoming a much bigger part of this end of the retail enterprise.

Here are three technology-related learnings from the conference.

Buildings get smart

The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a dramatic impact on how retailers engage in marketing, customer service, and even order fulfillment. None of these activities may seem to be especially interesting to construction and facilities professionals, but we are nearing the age of the Internet of Buildings.

In the not-too-distant future, retailers will likely construct stores where the frame of the building itself serves a giant server array. This will enable the store to “talk” to construction and facilities personnel.

As a result, real-time notifications of maintenance and safety issues will become routine.

In addition, responses to those issues will also in many instances become automated. The building itself may even be able to bypass human interaction altogether, and simply dispatch drones or robots to immediately perform repairs, cleanup, etc.

It is also feasible a store may automatically place orders for light bulbs, cleaning supplies, and other maintenance/facility management items when they run low. And customer service is also a part of the Internet of Buildings, as a smart building may sense when a registered shopper’s car enters the parking lot and dispatch a drone carrying their online order, bringing the convenience of buy online pickup in store to a whole new level.

Fulfilling store destiny

Speaking of buy online pickup in store, the physical stores of the future will be rearranged around providing fulfillment of online orders. Store design will need to be altered to provide maximum convenience to customers who are simply coming in to pick up online orders.

The stores themselves will act like online fulfillment centers, with associates needing spaces to pick and pack e-commerce orders. Stores will also need access to the proper technology solutions for performing distributed order management.

And since customers don’t really want to come in the store when they pick up online goods, store design will also have to incorporate features such as front-of-store or curbside pickup areas, or even separate dedicated facilities for online pickup located on store grounds or in the parking lot.

Tablets open possibilities

Tablets have become common connected devices in the personal lives of consumers. In addition to using tablets as a tool to engage consumers, retailers can also use them as a means to engage employees.

Using tablet-based apps or cloud-based, SaaS tablet solutions, retailers can greatly simplify construction and facilities activities such as creating, reviewing and finalizing development plans, taking and uploading photos to support activities such as compliance management and site review, and processing and management of work orders.

Tablets also serve as an ideal means of getting more functionality into the hands of field personnel, with a larger interface and more bandwidth than offered by smartphones.

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