The face of retail is rapidly changing with a significant increase in online shopping and reduced footfall in high-street stores.
But rather than fighting against online retail, brands are using technology to offer a version of what draws customers to the online experience. Many retailers are re-imagining the brick-and-mortar shopping experience as customers place emphasis on a frictionless service delivery.
Although millennials make 54% of their purchases online, the retailers adapting their stores to offer greater convenience are still making headway with the remaining 46%
Many are working hard to create a frictionless store of the future; for instance, British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is now trialling its first “till-free” store, meaning shoppers will have the luxury of skipping the queue at checkout.
The Sainsbury’s SmartShop app lets customers scan the contents of their trolley as they browse the aisles, reducing waiting time at the checkout. This app is already available in 68 stores.
But turning this kind of retail experience from dream to reality requires them to think about a couple of key considerations.
Secure your store
While these innovations are appealing to the current customer demographic, the advent of self-scanning in supermarkets means less staff on the ground. This creates a pressing need to re-think the approach towards retail crime prevention.
Retailers are already faced with rising in-store theft, with retail crime increasing by 15% and the amount spent on retail crime prevention reaching a record high of £700 million in the last year, according to this year’s British Retail Crime Survey. But in order to remain attractive to customers, retailers have no choice but to innovate despite the risk of increased retail crime. So, how exactly can retailers successfully facilitate the move towards an excellent customer experience and put preventive measures in place to reduce the risk of retail crime?
For retailers who wish to adopt a cost-effective method to in-store theft, a data-driven approach is advisable as a whole host of information can be used in the fight against theft. For instance, the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags enables retailers to collect a constant stream of data. RFID tags contain an integrated circuit and an antenna which are used to transmit data to the RFID reader. The reader then converts the radio waves to a more usable form of data.
Data from RFID tags can be used for both real-time and historical reporting allowing retailers to track which products have been picked up and moved around. These are often expensive or high-demand items which are vulnerable to being stolen. Using an in-store Wi-Fi network, customer journey patterns can be used to design a store plan which places the most vulnerable items in the most secure location.
It’s all in the network
The problem that many retailers are currently facing is reconciling the vision of their future store with the limitations presented by their outdated infrastructure. Archaic legacy wireless systems can bar implementation of major initiatives that would drive a better customer experience, such as point-of-sale systems with mobile checkout capabilities or self-scan devices and advanced customer analytics.
To put this into context, online checkouts happen instantly in the modern retail market – if physical stores can’t offer fast and easy checkout options, customers may become frustrated and are likely to leave the store without making any purchases. So, in order to enable initiatives like this, retailers need to identify the best platform on which to position their wireless networks. Before determining which solution to deploy throughout the organisation, retailers need to run a successful, effective proof of concept to ensure that it is secure, sustainable and scalable.
Ultimately, to create a truly frictionless shopping experience, it’s important that retailers don’t buy into the hype of high-tech innovations without understanding how to successfully update their infrastructure and secure their stores. To ensure that “store of the future” plans are viable, retailers need to do the less glamorous groundwork to survive and thrive in the new environment.
Matt Sebek, Vice President of Digital at World Wide Technology, which serves the technology needs of large public and private organisations around the globe, including many of the world’s best-known brands.