Today, technology shapes every aspect of our lives – communication, commerce, education, and the list goes on. This revolution has disrupted industries as a whole, challenging established practices and beliefs. One of these disruptions is commerce through brick-and-mortar establishments. You can do so much more using technology than by relying on the traditional in-store experience.
As a business owner, you should realize now that competition is not the store next door. It might be an amazing e-commerce website or a distributor in Thailand with an active social media page. To build a storefront of the future, you need to digitize the way you do business. That means investing in systems that help you build a modern storefront that is open to any and all customers, online or offline. Let's take a walk through next-gen retail tech that might reshape your business in the years to come.
Designing a modern customer journey
According to Think with Google, over two-thirds of smartphone users (68 percent) say they check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning. People actually get anxious if they are not checking their phones regularly. That means mobile devices are prime real estate for product campaigns. They're also a key component in devising, developing, and delivering a truly convenient and personal retail experience to customers.
However, smartphones are just one piece of the puzzle. Another avenue to modern and truly next-gen retail experience is POS systems. We have systems today that enable sellers to compete with bigger competition by making them more agile, quicker to market and much more efficient at managing overhead costs.
On this front, some software providers are experimenting with synergizing conventional storefronts with mobile devices. Shopify is a leader in this area, offering retail POS systems that use iPhones and iPads to sell in a physical location, online or on the road, changing the definition of a retailer (and opening more doors) in 2018 and beyond.
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Creating experiences that redefine retail
Disruption has led to the inception of game-changing products and companies that have changed industries, like Netflix, which was once up for grabs by Blockbuster, and Apple, which just became the first trillion-dollar U.S. company. The point here is that each one of these giants saw a gap in the way business was being done and capitalized on it to lift the market from mediocrity.
Let's take the basic ability to pay someone as an example. It went from passing someone currency over a counter to passing them your credit card to paying for the goods while on your couch via your internet banking. Now you've got platforms like Apple Pay that create a truly next-gen experience of not only buying things at a store, but sending money to your friends and family. It's gotten as easy as sending a text message. These platforms give more power and convenience to the user. They no longer have to worry about carrying around their credit cards or cash, or about any of the in-person hassles of transactions.
Brands use technology in different ways to complement the overall user experience. Another example is Target. Its Drive Up feature lets customers buy whatever they're looking for from the Target app and then just pick it up from a rep at the Drive Up point. These are efforts that reach out to customers and take the business to wherever they are. That is the hallmark of a good brand: It becomes available to the customer at their convenience.
Enter the enablers
I have had the unique pleasure of working with multiple businesses throughout my career. My pursuit for innovation has led me to work with organizations in banking, telecom, software and retail. While I was working with these firms, the one thing that always bothered me was how every one of them wanted to go it alone when it came to innovation. Call it fear or something else, but the idea of collaborating, be it with partners or vendors, just freaked the owners out.
The idea that innovation can be done in silos, with no regard for the outside world or what it can offer, is foolish. Working in the technology space, I am very happy to report that this school of thought is dying out. Businesses nowadays realize that, in this competitive world, you can't just go it alone. You need some level of collaboration and guidance to make sense of the digital world.
I still remember one of my early clients, a retailer who thought the e-commerce store was a silly fad soon to disappear. Well, I am happy to report that their digital storefront is up and running, taking their brand much further than their conventional brick-and-mortar storefront could.
In a connected world, we are all global citizens who have access to a huge amount of information. Most of that information is in the form of brands and promotions. To remain relevant in this overloaded world, you have to be relevant everywhere – in your shop, online, across social media. The omnichannel message has to be "we serve you – here and beyond!"
Take action today!
The first thing any business owner needs to do in their journey from good to great is to get their grounding right. Talk to the right consultants or the best technology providers to evaluate where your business needs strengthening. The right balance of a good product and a strong go-to-market strategy can make the difference in establishing your business as the next big thing – because in this new decentralized, interconnected and intelligent world, if you don't do it better, someone else will.