A number of technology trends over the past five years have dramatically altered the retail landscape. Today, every customer is a digital customer, with rapidly rising expectations about the quality and ubiquity of a seamless shopping experience across their digital and in-store activities. They are becoming increasingly savvy at taking more control of their shopping experiences.
At the same time, technologies surrounding new forms of data and analytics are driving better operations and raising the level of understanding of customer behaviours. And the continuous improvement of infrastructure and core IT is providing the ability to support massive amounts of data and the need to access, analyze and process it in real-time.
The Accenture Retail Technology Vision 2014 examines these technology trends and outlines their future impact on the retail industry. Retailers who view these trends as opportunities versus threats have the ability to set their business apart from others by strengthening their customer relationships, better leveraging data and supporting their workforces.
The following enablers are the primary game changers:
- Explosion of end devices. The popularity of tablets and smartphones is undeniable - in fact, on an average day, 79% of consumers have their phone on or near them for all but two hours of their waking day - but wearable devices like personal fitness monitors, smart watches and even Google Glass are also rapidly growing in popularity.
As personal technologies continue to become engrained in everyday lives, retailers can take advantage of the power of these devices by investing in mobile and end applications to provide a seamless bridge between customers’ online and in-store experiences. This will enable retailers to build more personalized relationships and better differentiate themselves from the competition.
- Social media infiltration. Moving beyond just social listening, leading retailers are using social data to analyse local markets at scale, follow trends, identify influencers and respond intelligently. Social media can allow retailers to do everything from predicting demand for products and influencing in-store displays to creating more convenient and personalized shopping experiences for customers at each step of their shopping journey - from intent through to point of sale. For retailers just getting started, it’s important to identify the business goals or problems that need to be addressed and then outline an actionable roadmap.
- Technology-enriched stores. Online competition continues to present a threat to retailers with brick and mortar stores, but there’s an opportunity for retailers to take advantage of new technologies to enrich the store experience. 3D printing, immersive technologies like virtual reality, Bluetooth low energy beacons and mobile applications can quickly transform the store to be a destination experience can serve as a clear differentiator for retailers who wish to capitalise on their physical assets.
Today’s digital customers hold the reins - choosing when, why and how they buy products. As such, they will do business with those stores who will serve them quickly, consistently and seamlessly across multiple channels. If not, another retailer is only a click away.
Dave Richards is global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice and Mary Hamilton is a managing director within Accenture Technology Labs