We have previously introduced you to our 2019 retail playbook, which outlines the steps that retailers need to take today to meet customer needs with technology. However, retailers also need to have an eye on the future, especially in a forward-looking market such as retail. This is a world where Christmas is in July.
As I discussed in my first blog, there are significant challenges for retailers to meet today, but they do also need to make sure they have an eye on the future; not just the store of tomorrow, but the store of 5, 10, or even 20 years’ time.
The retail market has so many unknowns, especially with the next generation likely to be even more digital than Generation Z. Capacity within the network and data privacy are key topics to consider when retailers are planning this far ahead, and the decisions taken today will impact the store for decades to come.
Using technology to build tomorrow’s store – the retail showroom
In the immediate future, retailers need to begin adapting to a retail showroom environment. This environment will inform and showcase products, but still drive sales through an easier purchasing process.
We know that there’s a demand for this technology – all the technologies that we put into our survey received interest from at least one in ten younger shoppers (those under 34) and this combined with our understanding of why shoppers go in-store (to buy and browse) creates a compelling reason for retailers to start adapting to this trend.
Of particular note is the potential role for the Internet of Things (IoT) in building the future store. Whether it is offering dynamic pricing, self-scanning shopping or real-time stock availability, the functionality most popular amongst those surveyed all relies on the use of connected sensors and devices. As such, having the connectivity capability to support these new functions is critical to a retailer’s future success, which in turn means that getting your network in shape has to be a top priority.
The playbook considers these technology changes in more detail, discusses what a retail showroom might look like in practice, as well as outlining how to prepare for it.
The unknown unknowns
Retailers seeking out return on investment will be asking themselves some key questions:
- Is my network ready for the technology bandwidth crunches of a future retail environment?
- Is my business/marketing model prepared for privacy conscious consumers?
- What investment factors do I need to consider? How can I balance the staff and consumer experience?
Every decision retailers make today will have an impact well into the future. The first step needs to be creating a technological foundation for the connected store. The technology for business-critical functions need to be chosen now and demands on bandwidth from capacity-hungry in-store usage will put pressure on networks – for example, augmented reality and smart mirrors. We also know there’s consumer demand for the right in-store technology to help them view products and buy them in a smoother, easier way. Our research also looks at Wi-Fi as a customer service, and how many consumers from each age group would like to see this available where they shop.
Of course – many retailers also look at technology like Wi-Fi to get to know their customers better. Especially in-store, Wi-Fi can be used to track footfall and dwell time throughout a shop and offer personalised notifications. However, there is a data exchange here. Consumers need to be provided with a real reason to hand over their valuable data, and as you can imagine, our report uncovers some interesting nuances across different countries and different age groups.
When making decisions about their network infrastructure, retailers need to account for the growing strain upon, and importance of, their network. IoT adoption coupled with cloud hosted services and a requirement for edge processing means that retailers need to invest in the capacity to support the extra traffic their networks will soon be carrying. Without this investment in the networking foundations, each layer of new technology placed on top will fail to deliver the expected results thanks to traffic bottlenecks and inevitable latency.
What to do today to secure tomorrow
Retailers need to secure the future of the retail environment today before we can build the store of tomorrow. There are lots of opportunities for actions now and tomorrow, and as we see it there are three key plays for retailers to get to that stage. We also think understanding your audience and what they want is essential.
It is essential that retailers make the right decision today, so they can positively impact store performance far into the future. In-store connectivity has gone from nice to have, to customer freebie, and is now evolving into a business-critical asset. This is set to become even more true. Cloud services that allow for greater collaboration between colleagues and help retailers manage their entire estates from a single pane of glass; capacity at the edge to process data from IoT devices that will both improve customer experience and create running efficiencies; and then unknown capabilities that are yet to be developed but the usefulness of which retailers need to anticipate and be ready for are all set to bestow such significant benefits that retailers cannot afford to miss out on.
As you read the report, it is clear that shoppers want the in-store retail experience to have the same technological dynamism that the online experience delivers. Getting the retail showroom of the future right requires that retailers have networks that can handle the new demands IoT, edge networking and cloud hosted services will place on a retail store’s network.
Download the report to understand the data and trends and contact us to make it a reality.