How Technology Is Enabling the Connected Store

As retailers move technology in-store, consumers will become more in charge of their shopping journeys.

Connected commerce has become essential as today's shoppers expect to 'shop the brand' irrespective of how retailers are structured. This represents a fundamental change in the way that consumers behave, and retailers know that they have to change or risk obsolescence.

You can see this in the performance of leading retailers where connected commerce has been embraced (such as John Lewis in the U.K. where cross-channel sales including click and collect have powered incredible growth.) At the same time, new technologies have matured and prices have dropped significantly for a range of in-store innovations to become viable for the first time. Examples include mobile point of sale (POS), email receipting, and radio frequency identification (RFID).

For a truly connected store, the physical and digital experiences can't be siloed; the retailer must embrace strategies, technologies, and tactics that merge the two.

Elevating the in-store experience with technology

Mobile technology is on pace to becoming the go-to technique for empowering front-line store associates to provide even higher levels of customer service. For example, retailers can provide the sales team with tablets to assist customers, researching answers to their questions or helping order an item online that is not in stock.

More retailers are also using sensors to determine customer behavior within a store. For instance, they can learn how long a customer is looking at a product, footfall density, and traffic flow. By capturing this valuable data, retailers can drive supply orders and optimize merchandise assortment and shelf space. Sensor technology can also be used to play a detailed product video when the consumer picks up an item to explain benefits and other information.

Even without knowing the identities of consumers visiting the store, the data they leave behind will help determine supply and direct market research. There are ways to identify customers in the store through social media, geolocation data, loyalty programs, and questionnaires. With this information, retailers can link an unknown store visitor to a customer's digital profile to bridge the gap between physical and online experiences to provide a truly omnichannel approach.

With more technology used in-store, consumers will become even more in charge of their shopping journeys. Store associates will no longer need to give their expert recommendation. Instead, they can help customers navigate reviews at a kiosk. Consumers can pick and choose what size they want from an iPad (or other tablet) in the store. As the power shifts to the consumer and brands collect more customer data, retailers will bridge the physical and online shopping experience. The key lies in consolidating all customer data regardless of channel, to build rich and robust customer profiles. Armed with this insight in one unified location, brands can have comprehensive views of their customers and act accordingly for more personalized engagements and truly align with the customer's view of the brand, which is not a siloed experiences across channels.

In the coming months, there will be wider adoption of contactless payment, e-receipts, RFID, and in-store mobile POS to dominate the in-store digitization. These innovations and others lend themselves to making the experience more convenient and relevant for the consumer and creating a cost savings for retailers.