You only have to talk about retail tech for a few moments before some choice buzzwords start to surface. Ahead of my talks at Retail Week’s Tech. event on 12-13 September, I thought I’d explain what I think is really behind five favourites in retail buzzword bingo.
- ‘The death of the high street’
For me, this isn’t just a doom-and-gloom cliché, it points to a big opportunity for strategic IT change.
We know that dwindling high street footfall and the race to innovation puts pressure on IT departments. In addition, peak periods such as Black Friday are sending unprecedented traffic to ecommerce websites.
Next week, we’ll release new research which explores the impact of this shift in retail. A survey of 250 IT decision makers will reveal how businesses are reacting to the adoption of new tech and consumer trends. All while delivering a better online experience, or in other words…
- Delivering a ‘flawless/seamless customer experience’
What this phrase means to me is customers expect the Amazon experience – everywhere, any time — and then some. Shoppers’ expectations of perfection are putting more demand on services to be always on, more resilient and better able to react to events at scale, across different regions.
Achieving ‘flawless’ isn’t just about performance, but knowing where demand is coming from. This could be your marketing campaign, or an online influencer or celebrity wearing your product. Think ITV’s This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby wearing a yellow t-shirt by J Crew this summer. It sold out in the UK where she is a known celebrity, but there was still stock available in the US.
There’s another phrase related to ‘flawless/seamless’ that isn’t part of the buzzword lexicon yet, but it should be: ‘inherent security’. If your experience is seamless – quick, works across channels and keeps pace with demand across locations – but it isn’t secure from end-to-end in line with GDPR and data privacy, it’s far from flawless.
- ‘Omni-channel retail’
This is about providing a truly integrated customer journey, whether they’re moving between devices or buying in-store. True omni-channel purchase processes are quick, responsive and joined-up.
But providing a genuinely all-round ‘omnichannel’ offer must be around ensuring an easy and flexible end-to-end experience. This means not just focussing on customers buying goods but also implementing a seamless returns process. Successful companies are delivering a fully integrated experience at the point of sale, during and just as important, within after care. For example, returning online purchases to your brick and mortar locations, but also to their local newsagent, through the post room at work using a bar code on their phone.
Online retailers have a wealth of information they can use to tailor your experience. Today, I expect a lot more than a ‘Hello again Lee’ when I return to a brand’s website. I don’t want to sift through thousands of shirts to find one I like. I want to see a selection tailored to what the retailer knows about me by analysing my preferences and behaviour.
A great example of this in action is the service I use from Thread. They start by asking you questions, showing you some items and checking how you feel about them – they then only show you things they believe you’d like. As you buy, this is reflected in their recommendations. They’re always looking to learn and hone, continually asking whether you like or loathe something. I get excited to see what they’re choosing for me because it feels genuinely personal.
Shoppers no longer need to walk down the street to buy from a competitor. They can do it with a tap of their phone.
Flawless and reliable experiences help customers stick around, but in the highly-commoditised online retail world, you need to work even harder to set apart the customer experience.
This might mean incorporating things like augmented reality, as DFS do. They give would-be buyers the opportunity to upload a picture of their front room and preview how a sofa might look at home.
For more examples of retailers delivering against today’s buzz phrases, come along to my presentation at Tech. I’ll be zeroing in on adapting and future proofing your digital strategy, and sharing more from our research with retail IT specialists.
Our ‘Customer Experienced’ stream also includes sessions from the likes of Boozt, a household name for Nordic fashion followers, attracting more than five-million visitors per month with its seamless service.
Keep an eye out for my post event blog where I’ll be covering key insights from the event.
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