How bricks and mortar retailers can power themselves into the future

It’s no secret that the convenience of online shopping has been challenging retailers for some time now. With the world of technology ever changing, retailers need to adapt and change in order to keep up with their competitors and the industry. And they understand only all too well that the only way to grow market share is to deliver a state-of-the-art customer service experience.

With customers so attuned to the high-powered technology they carry around every day, they expect nothing less than a fluid, omni-channel experience when shopping. Still, while shoppers appear to be more and more connected, there are some things that even the best applications can’t recreate — and that’s the power of face-to-face interaction. Inevitably, bricks and mortar retailers excel at intelligent customer-facing interactions, putting interpersonal care at their core.

Faced with the ease of e-commerce, physical stores have been forced to continuously evolve to remain not only relevant but wholly desirable. Beyond the stock they sell, these stores have promoted their roof and walls as a social destination — everything from afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, cocktails at Selfridges, to yoga lessons at athleisure boutiques. Developments in marketing technology mean that it’s never been easier for retailers to target potential shoppers through various online channels. These channels range from marketing emails to social media to in-store-assisted shopping platforms that, for example, feature inventory check, customer history, and preferences. Collectively, this omnichannel approach develops a more rounded campaign with greater potential to attract shoppers to the store

However, if bricks and mortar stores don’t update their retail foundations, their business model risks destabilisation. Operational costs are a huge inhibitor to growth, alongside overstocking and inaccurate data. The reasons for this are twofold: siloed departments, whereby information is stored on countless endpoints with unclear version control, scuppered further by unreliable networks.

Across the industry, network control has often been poor, which leads to inferior performance of applications — from CRMs to stock management — and productivity of staff. On the consumer side, an unstable network hinders transactions, making payments slower. By leveraging the right technology — specifically, a robust and reliable network to underpin all business operations — retailers can rid themselves of legacy problems, such as lack of stock and customer visibility.

Get retail networks right and the benefits are transformational, for example rich customer insights that can improve everything from supply chain to personalised customer experiences. Get networks wrong and they can provide rich pickings from the hackers who cost the UK retail industry billions of pounds annually.

By partnering with the right network supplier, physical retailers can oversee this data on a cloud management platform, supported by a team of IT experts.

Modernising infrastructure enables retailers to increase their agility and reduce management overheads. This allows IT staff to focus on revenue generation projects, instead of time-consuming BAU tasks such as fault-fixing, patching, and managing compliance issues. All of this allows retailers to do what they do best: deliver a truly personalised customer experience, equipping them with the tools to react faster to market opportunity in the process.

Cary Duffy, Senior Consultant, Exponential-e

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