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Selecting the best in-store technology to improve customer experience

As more consumers look to omnichannel fulfilment options due to the pandemic, retailers are under pressure to connect the dots between online and offline customer interaction. 

From investing in unified commerce models and the latest technology, retailers must create physical stores that are dynamic to meet and exceed changing consumer shopping behaviors. Implementing the latest technology will help retailers gain consumer confidence during COVID-19 and beyond. Below are seven tips retailers should take into consideration to select and implement the most appropriate in-store technology:

Collaborate across departments
Whether you are beginning your digital transformation journey or selecting new technology, it is important to create a cross-functional team with common understanding and goals. To drive ROI and improve the customer experience, it’s critical for these teams  ̶  from IT to marketing  ̶  to work together.

Measure success
Now, with an established, cross-department team, it is critical to communicate your objectives, create measurable targets, and keep track of successes across the organization. From improved inventory management to bettering customer experience, each objective should have measurable KPIs. 

It is also important for retailers to balance success from the customer viewpoint with their internal operations to ensure alignment. Customer satisfaction may be measured by order and fulfilment convenience; while operationally, retailers look at fulfillment costs and delivery window. 

Map and evaluate customer journeys
Walk in the footsteps of your shoppers and associates. From the moment shoppers walk into the store to the moment they leave, retailers must deploy technologies to understand the customer journey and engage them in a meaningful way, while respecting their preferences and privacy. From how shoppers are using the space to where the conversions and missed opportunities happen, retailers can analyze the customer to make more informed business decisions. 

Build a single view of customers, orders and stock
A 360-degree view across the customer journey  ̶  the inventory, its presentation and order lifecycle  ̶  is key. Critical to fulfillment success is understanding the success drivers behind customer satisfaction at every touchpoint along the journey, including the point of order pickup. 

This level of information and visibility enables leaders to make decisions based on accurate and actionable insights aligned with measurements of success, which ultimately generates better results. For retailers to come out on top, they must have unmatched visibility around all business data, including inventory intelligence and ongoing shopper behavior analytics.

Leverage prescriptive and predictive insights
Analyzing multiple data streams, from both internal and external perspectives, under a single platform enables retailers to act on intelligent, data-driven outcomes. While having the proper data streams is the first step, it is even more important for retailers to be able to read and analyze the information to generate predictions (how can I prepare for what’s coming?) against different retail personas, product categories and shopper journeys and convert them into prescriptive insights (what do I need for sales today). 

Solid data science behind the analysis will be the key to driving retail success as we look to fast forward retail as it is no longer nice to have to stay competitive, but a requirement. Predictive and prescriptive insights applied to fulfillment is not just operational excellence improvement; but, should positively benefit the customer experience, the lifetime value of the customer, and basket growth during the return process. 

Rethink connectivity
Retailers can use IoT devices to help understand how individual points of value are connecting through the store network and receive a continuous view of their performance. This ultimately enables them to better manage the customer journey. These insights can also be used to transform store layouts to create a more digitized store of the future while simultaneously creating a more personalized, immersive experience for both associates and customers.

Understand complex technology relationships
Now more than ever, technology is key for brands to build lasting and loyal relationships with their customers. In a complex retail environment, there are a lot of technology suppliers and partners for consideration. Retailers must understand that implementing new technologies is not just about integration, but the robust operating needs that are required to stay up and running. 

Total cost of ownership (TCO) must be considered and included in the technology business case early on, which becomes even more complicated when looking at the edge-cloud IoT space. For example, fulfillment and the customer experience require retailers’ understanding of complex events that are best identified by using multisensory devices (i.e. sensors, processing of the edge, products running in the cloud, etc.) that require real-time data orchestration. As a result, retailers must have (or train) the necessary skills to keep technology running which must be incorporated in the TCO. 

As consumer habits constantly evolve and we enter a new era of digitized stores to keep up, it’s more critical than ever to ensure ROI is delivered across the enterprise. From new RFID readers to computer vision technologies, retailers must invest in new innovations to keep up with the fast-paced landscape to stay competitive.

Amin Shahidi is VP of strategy, alliances and M&A, Sensormatic Solutions.

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