Forbes reported that Amazon has now taken over from Walmart as the world’s largest retailer. You can buy virtually anything from this giant – even a small, pre-built house! It is quite a daunting thought to go into competition with them. But history has also shown that much smaller retailers who embrace the latest technologies have the fire power to compete with the big guns such as the aforementioned Amazon, eBay, Target, BestBuy and Alibaba.
This highly competitive environment has seen many traders pull up their socks and come up with new ideas on how to use Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain to boost sales and deepen connections with their customers. Let’s look at a few of these technology trends and how retailers are benefiting from them.
1. The Internet of Things
IoT is basically a network of billions of physical ‘things’ into which software, sensors and other technologies have been embedded. They are connected through the internet to communicate with each other and exchange data. The IoT has been widely recognised as the enabler of progressive retail systems and satisfactory customer journeys.
IoT capabilities are applied in functions such as supply chain management and logistics – to track products from factory right through to after sales service; to monitor fridges and storage spaces to ensure food safety; to track assets and equipment such as trolleys and baskets; and to manage customer satisfaction surveys and dashboards.
It is estimated that retail spending on IoT technology will exceed US$ 3 billion this year.
Radio Frequency Identification is another important evolution on the retail landscape. RFID tags with smart barcodes are able to track products from manufacture to sale – enabling an end to end view of goods. RFID takes the guesswork out of stock management, shipping, returns and after sales service.
Inventory accuracy of companies who use RFID is now estimated to be at around 98%. Tech savvy retailers are consequently saving fortunes in stock holding costs – savings which they are able to pass on to customers.
Shelf level sensors in storage facilities and in-store also make it possible to detect, and produce reports, on the movement of products on smart shelves. Another benefit of RFID is that sales assistants can use wireless devices to accurately advise customers on prices, stock availability, sizes, styles and the availability of their preferred colours.
3. Bluetooth beacons
Bluetooth beacon technology makes it possible for stores to target customers in specific locations and inform them about promotions or special offers nearby. The location-based information is delivered directly to the smartphones of potential buyers. In this way, shops in the vicinity can engage with their target market to lure them to the store.
4. Omnichannel marketing
The lines between what we all do online, and in real life, are becoming increasingly blurred. Customers no longer distinguish between digital and real-life communication channels. For this reason, retailers have had to adopt holistic, multi-channel approaches to marketing, sales and customer service. Seamlessly connected sales channels afford shoppers a unified brand experience, whether they are shopping on-line or find themselves in a brick-and-mortar setting. An omnichannel approach enables customers to research, discover, buy, and access post-purchase support by using whatever channel they choose – at their own convenience.
5. Social commerce
Social commerce is the practice of using social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest for the purpose of promoting e-commerce transactions. These sites, originally intended to facilitate digital social interaction, now invite 3rd party endorsements to bring products to the attention of groups. The peer recommendations and ability to click on and purchase a featured product directly from the site has seen great uptake.
So, whether you are a superstore like Walmart with a revenue of USD 500 000 m or a start-up in fashion accessories, tech continues to be the way to lead you to retail paradise. Let’s take the first steps now.
Altron Managed Solutions
20 Woodlands Dr, Woodlands, Sandton, 2128, Gauteng,
PO Box 3591, Johannesburg, 2000,
Gauteng, South Africa
+27 (11) 373 4000 email@example.com