CIOs embrace cloud, mobile to transform stores

The explosive growth of digital technology is compelling retail CIOs to embrace mobile and cloud mediums.

Most retailers operate about 60 percent of their systems in the cloud, and others hope to increase that figure to 90 percent soon, according to an article written in Express Computer by Marco de Vries, CEO of Openbravo, an open-source software company based in Spain.

In the next two years, more retailers will adopt customer-facing mobile services to enhance the shopping experience, according to a study from Boston Retail Partners. The report found that the number of retailers offering advanced mobile technologies, including mobile point-of-sale terminals, geo-location and proximity payment solutions, will proliferate. Localization technologies, such as beacons and radio frequency identification, are also expected to grow, de Vries said.

In spite of online growth, brick-and-mortar stores will remain the dominant revenue-generating channel, Gartner reported. Online shopping makes up less than 10 percent of revenue in most developed countries, but physical stores continue to drive sales.

"Physical stores play a key role in today's omnichannel reality and as a result, these retailers are investing heavily on technologies that help provide a superior, seamless, omnichannel, in-store, shopping experience," de Vries wrote.

The digitally-driven changes in the retail market are forcing the transformation of physical stores. "Retailers now focus on improving business processes and the overall customer experience; starting from the beginning of the supply chain through to the final purchase. This process will be disruptive for many organizations, especially those entrenched in traditional business practices," de Vries wrote.

The implication is that retailers must break down organizational silos and make sure all stakeholders are working from the same shopper data.

To successfully manage the transformation, brick-and-mortar retailers must also invest in creating a bond with the in-store brands. "Retailers should engage more with their customers, thereby gaining store intelligence for deeper actionable insights on store, products and staff performance. This will help a retailer in leveraging the potential of valuable multiple in-store data sources, provide a personalized shopping experience and finally become an omnichannel hub while excelling in store operations," de Vries wrote.

Driven by new technologies and the real-time capabilities they enable, consumers are becoming more demanding. While shopping for a specific product, customers can get instant access to prices from several competitors while identifying in real time the closest store with the desired product.

"With information at their fingertips, consumers expect a seamless experience in stores and on the Web, too. Hence, 'real-time retail' becomes the new imperative today. Real-time retail refers to the ability to gather, analyze and disseminate customers' product, pricing and inventory data across all channels instantly, thereby providing a customer with a seamless and productive experience," de Vries wrote.

In the meantime, by utilizing innovations such as mobile point-of-sale technologies with assisted sale capabilities—including clienteling, inventory visibility, sensors using beacons and RFID, and mobile payments—"retailers are making progress and are able to address the new age consumer demands."

Aside from mobile POS, in-store localization technologies such as beacons and RFID provide a high-impact in-store shopping experience. Beacons are small wireless devices that broadcast radio signals using Bluetooth Low Energy. Smartphones that are nearby  connect with this device.

"The power of beacon technology can offer context, personalization, insight, efficiency and differentiation to the brick-and-mortar experience. Some additional in-store technologies like digital signage, augmented reality and self-checkout also help today's brick-and-mortar stores to drive their sales," de Vries wrote.

To work around the intricacies of the rapidly changing technology-driven retail landscape, brick-and-mortar retailers can bank on proper planning, training and execution to differentiate themselves in this competitive market. They also have a very big advantage over online retailers: face-to-face interaction with the consumer for effective consumer engagement.

"While delivering a seamless customer experience is the driver, technology allows the customer to tailor her own experience. Leveraging this technology is the key to delivering real-time, retail experience," de Vries wrote.

For more:
-See this Express Computer article

Related stories:
Target's transformation roadmap makes mobile the front door
Kroger charts path to digital transformation
Target gets serious about its digital transformation
RFID use reaching 'tipping point'
iBeacons are hot at SXSW

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