Many technologies converge in the retail industry and the most interesting is the internet. The impact of technology in retail is considered as the biggest game-changer of all, with the current technologies affecting small, medium and even retail giants.
Convergence is a trend and is here to stay. It is not just a fad and most industries are affected, some faster than the others. A lot of technologies converge in the retail industry and the most interesting is the internet, since it delivers the opportunity to access. The retail industry is no stranger to transformation and change. From the early days of shopping from mom and pop stores within communities, the sector has evolved to department stores in bigger cities, the mega shopping in suburb centers where everything could be found under one roof, which caused local stores to close down.
Technology has given access to the world and it seas of content. The impact of technology in retail could be the greatest game-changer of all. The current wave of emerging technology affects both smaller, local shops and even retail giants as well. Retailers that were unprepared for new ways of doing things or the new ways that technology provides found themselves in a graveyard of ‘has-beens’ and joined the list of those who suffered. The key areas where technology transforms the retail field include the supply chain, in-store operations and customer outreach. The technology footprint that leads the transformation impacts numerous stages of retail, such as back office and enterprise system, to a lot of customer-facing functionalities like payments, customer services and loyalty programs.
TRANSFORMATIVE EFFECT OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN
By forecasting demand accurately, keeping track and predicting inventory levels that can separate a discount retailer that competes in a division that has razor thin margins. Technology advancements on supply chain also enables for new business model in the sector. Until now, physical shops had the protection of immediacy than online. Customers want things inexpensive and they want them at the moment. Ecommerce can compete on price, but not speed up availability and purchase. Nevertheless, technology giants like Amazon, Google and even Uber are slicing away the advantage from brick-and-mortar stores by piloting same day delivery that provide more threat to physical stores that cater to immediate needs.
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TRANSFORMATIVE EFFECT OF TECHNOLOGY IN IN-STORE OPERATIONS
In-store operations have been transformed by new developments like mobile payments, interactive kiosks, RFID tagged products, BLE technology and smart shopping carts. Most aim to minimize the friction of in-store customer experience, from minimizing waiting times at the register to ensuring that customers could determine which products are in stock, while continue to manage an efficient inventory. Smart phones in particular are putting pressure on physical shop sales. Furthermore, trends like ‘showrooming’ are causing physical locations to be the means for customers to see or try the products they want, only to find a cheaper option on the web. To battle this, stores should be updated with their inventories and other alternatives available to customers from their competitors. Retailers should also look for ways to leverage technology to enhance the in-store experience. Innovations like interactive kiosks and virtual mirrors could also refuel the desire of customers to shop in a physical store.
TRANSFORMATIVE EFFECT OF TECHNOLOGY IN CUSTOMER OUTREACH
Probably, the biggest transformation happens in the customer outreach department on the back of predictive analytics technology and big data. Today, customer experience is no longer limited to browsing or buying certain goods in physical shops. Now, it extends to an end-to-end journey, beginning with the customer researching the products on the web, coming into a shop or ordering online to buy and continuing well after the purchase has been finalized by giving feedbacks about the good and the brand. Customers leave bits of information that some retailers ignore. Others however leverage big data or predictive analytics to make sense of the information and use insights to encourage customers to spend more time at the shops.
Several technology trends over the past five years have considerably altered the retail environment. These days, each and every customer is a digital customer, with fast rising expectations regarding quality and a seamless shopping experience. They are becoming more and more savvy on taking more control of their shopping experience. As retailers grappled with the challenge, some sought to maximize the choices that are available to the clientele. Others have brought a more tailored approach to providing customers what they want. To benefit, retailers have to be honest with themselves regarding their choice of strategies and think hard about which could be rendered obsolete by the spread of technologies.
New technology is developed on a daily basis. Each development should offer improvement on the capabilities and capacities of the old system. IT investment is essential not just for the success, but for the survival of the industry as well. The future offers new systems with emphasis placed firmly on continuous improvements in effectiveness, efficiency and profitability.