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Tech Viewpoint: Top three omnichannel innovations from eTail Boston

Success in omnichannel retail requires keeping up with the pace of technology disruption.

The eTail Boston conference held Aug. 19-22 offered practical insight into how retailers can survive and even thrive in today’s chaotic and customer-driven omnichannel environment. Most importantly, retailers must be aware of and adapt to continual change happening in the omnichannel technology landscape. Here are three vitally important omnichannel innovations examined during conference sessions.

Augmented reality
Augmented reality (AR) itself is not a new technology, but it has evolved to the point retailers can cost-effectively deploy it on a wide scale. Jon Cheney, CEO of AR technology provider Seek and eTail Boston conference chair, said that retailers no longer need to use an app to offer AR experiences to customers. This has significantly reduced the cost of rolling out AR solutions.

In addition to lower deployment cost, AR can also provide retailers with some impressive ROI. According to Cheney, AR technology can increase conversion rates between 80 and 150% and also reduce return rates between 25 and 35%.

As a former sponsored whitewater kayaker, Cheney offered attendees some advice on how to approach disruptive technologies taken from the world of his sport.

“When you see an obstacle like a rock, you lean into it with your kayak and the river will safely push you past it,” said Cheney. “When you lean away from it, your kayak tips over.”

Constant testing
In order to take advantage of disruption, retailers must apply a strategy of constant technology testing and iteration. In a one-on-one interview with Chain Store Age, Jennifer Palerino, head of digital marketing at Kroger Digital, gave advice to retailers seeking to implement leading-edge technology.

“Always test,” said Palerino. “Learn as much as you can. Technology changes minute by minute. But don’t just run tests. Know what your end goal is. How will you use and implement the results?” (Editor’s note: Chain Store Age will run a full article based on the interview).

In a conference session, Jim Lyski, chief marketing officer of CarMax, said failure is actually a desirable result of technology testing.

“If you wait till you perfect your product, you’re behind the innovation curve,” said Lyski. “We use an agile development model where teams are constantly iterating. Most of the experiments they do are designed to fail. You learn a lot more from failure than success.”

Online marketplaces
Traditional e-retailers are being displaced by online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. Trevor George, CEO of digital/advertising firm Blue Wheel Media, eTail Boston conference chair, and highly successful third-party Amazon seller, said one major advantage of online marketplaces is they offer more competitive pricing.

“At Bed Bath & Beyond, a coffeemaker will cost $99.99 and have one seller of record – Bed Bath & Beyond,” said George. “On Amazon, it will sell for $55.99 and have competition between 40 different sellers of record.”

George also cautioned attendees that more entities are joining the marketplace environment, including Instagram and Google. “Go where the customer is going,” he said. “Deploy to any new marketplace that will be opening up in the near future.
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