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How technology answers the retail challenge

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Retailers used to have almost total control of the selling process – how, where, when and what changed hands. More recently, the rise of the Internet, ubiquitous wireless connectivity and social media have spawned the age of enlightened buyers. They choose when and how to interact with brands — and demand a customised purchasing experience when they do so.

Responding to online competitors, traditional retailers added online options and made investments in data analytics. These steps have improved processes and provided the foundation for more customised selling. While retailers have certainly made great strides in becoming truly omnichannel, it would be fair to say that most, if not all, would say there is still a long way to go – and there always will be.

Retail is evolving so quickly today that success is a perpetually moving target. Retailers need the ability to pivot quickly and in multiple directions to meet or exceed the always changing expectations of the modern consumer.

As traditional retailers close the online gap, a yawning data chasm remains. Most retailers can’t “see” or record information regarding the in-store, brick-and-mortar shopping experience. This is both a challenge and a source of huge, untapped potential for established brands with significant physical footprints.

Advances have reached a point where it’s both technologically and financially feasible to close this blind spot for customer retail interactions. In particular, the continued evolution of big data analytics and cloud computing allows forward-thinking retailers to make strides toward the ultimate goal of an omnichannel and personalised consumer experience.

This type of experience could include biometric recognition of shoppers. The consumer, when recognised upon entering the store, could be engaged by a store staff member who knows that shopper’s history and can provide a more convenient and personalised experience.

And the digital integration doesn’t have to stop there. Retailers could augment their newly enhanced consumer data with additional third-party information, such as demographic trends, geographic location, etc. The potential is enormous, not just in customer interactions but for other business functions, such as supply chain management, workforce management, product development and marketing.

However, for this vision to be realised, execution is paramount. Consumers must be allowed to opt-in to biometric technology and understand the value it delivers for them. IT integration and usability testing must be rigorous, with customer experience foremost in mind.

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