While growing up, I often heard my grandmother refer to “the dog that caught the car.” As a young kid, I found the concept both hilarious and frightening. The vision of our spry pup actually catching the minivan he chased down the road every afternoon is one of both great triumph and then sheer confusion. Imagine what would have happened if our 60-pound Labrador had really managed to catch the 4,000+ pound Honda? That’s a lot to bite off. What would he do next?
I frequently draw this parallel in my work with clients looking to quickly transition their way of doing business to meet customer needs in the wake of the pandemic. In the widely competitive and fast-paced world of retail, you can either be at the forefront of innovation or go out of business. The key to success lies in the data, but organizations must not only collect vital information (catch the minivan), but also have a plan for how to use it.
This blog will share some retail technology insights that are gaining traction for enterprises hoping to gain footing in the marketplace. The key theme throughout is the importance of data collection, analysis and implementation. Let’s take a closer look.
Optimizing inventory and implementing data-driven processes
As a retailer, having a firm grasp on inventory and fulfillment is vital to delivering on your brand promise. A consumer orders a product, expects that product to be readily available – either in-store or online – and then demands a fair market price for that product.
Over the last decade, the increase in e-commerce transactions has shed light on the siloed data systems many retailers have relied upon. To optimize the inventory process and to allow for more flexibility in the fulfillment process (, e.g., fulfillment from the store versus a warehouse), the data must be accurate, accessible and ready to be acted upon in real-time. As a result, data management has become essential to this business area in answering -- What goods are in demand, what is the availability in the current inventory, and how long is the demand expected to last?
Many solutions on the market have delivered proven outcomes for inventory optimization using artificial intelligence (AI) and data integration - enabling retailers to consolidate their data into the cloud quickly. Retailers should look for solutions that provide a holistic view of data across the entire inventory process.
Enhancing the in-store experience
Modern technology has dramatically changed consumer expectations when it comes to variety and convenience – not to mention immediacy of fulfillment and shipping. We’re beginning to see companies incorporating solutions to deliver a new technology-driven, in-store experience for shoppers. When it comes to this approach, however, it’s important not to lose sight of the reasons people choose the in-store experience in the first place.
The first way to truly improve the customer experience is to improve the employee experience - to instill pride in the brand and become invested in the retailer’s mission. When employees are committed to their work, they are more likely to take the time to become knowledgeable about the product, inventory, pricing and technologies needed to deliver excellent customer service. And its key to provide them with the right information at their fingertips (product features, availability etc.) so that they can easily answer customers’ questions. Using technology to automate some in-store tasks to free up employees to help customers is a smart, people-first investment. For example, arming employees with smartphone application technologies that show inventory information, including product, quantity, size, and inter-store availability, allows associates to remain on the floor with customers instead of searching through inventory in the back of the shop.
Companies are also opting for self-service technologies to help meet the needs of consumers who prefer a more convenience-driven in-store experience. Self-check-out lines, ordering kiosks, and other amenities help retailers more seamlessly serve customers and address the challenges of labor shortage so prevalent today.
Organizations should ensure their systems are integrated across the enterprise when implementing these new technologies – from planning and merchandising to inventory and processing. Overall, these new customer experiences prove beneficial to the bottom line.
Increasing AI in retail environments
Cross-industry, we continue to see an increase in companies specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning use cases -- retailers are getting in on the action. The deployment of AI and machine learning solutions are moving from the back of the house to the front of the store as retailers invest in technologies that deliver the processing power to intake, clean and process data to provide more informed decisions and transform their business.
And as the cost of AI implementation has been decreasing, it has opened the door for many more productive solutions to meet the needs of retail organizations across their entire enterprise, including customer-facing technology to employee process improvement solutions.
The complexity of choices retailers face now has never been greater, customer expectations have never been higher, and the retail environment continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Instead of simply chasing the latest trends and keeping up with the competition, you should be thinking about your organization holistically and investing in areas that improve the business while keeping the brand promise your customers have come to expect.
For this reason, it’s critical to find the right integration partner who has the expertise to help you develop and implement your strategy, and also understands how these technologies can enhance your customer experience and deliver your brand promise.
Ready to learn more? Download our whitepaper, Accelerating digital transformation to deliver on your brand promise or connect with a CGI retail technology expert today.