Stores need to upgrade their digital offerings if they are to keep pace with e-commerce.
Digital is not only an integral part of retail, but part of every step of the buying process.
Covid-19 has accelerated the need for updated retail technology, notes Steve Rowen, managing partner of Retail Systems Research. “For the past 500 years, the store has sort of looked the same. But as a result of [the pandemic,] people were forced to connect to the internet and they got used to it. Now the [physical] store is just a note along the buying journey.
Retailers will need to take advantage of the technology if they are to compete with e-commerce companies, says John Harmon, senior analyst at global research and consulting firm Coresight Research. “Retailers can use technology to reduce friction in the buying process, such as when checking out and collecting payments, as well as to create experiences inside the store. ”
From design to display
For some businesses, in-store technology is already part of their brand.
“We’ve had a rapid prototyping machine for over 20 years,” says Dan Dement, founder of Stone Oak Jewelers in San Antonio, Texas. “We go from concept to ‘on their finger’ in a week. Computer Aided Design (CAD) enables him to get customers what they want faster. “If a customer wants a big, blingy ring, they’re either in trouble or it’s a big birthday or something. He doesn’t want to wait six weeks. My job is to make them happy. The sooner you can make them happy, the better off everyone will be. “
Designing in-house is also less expensive, he found, especially when there are supply chain issues – although he points out that CAD still requires equipment and someone to do it. ‘run.
Beyond the design, he adds: “I have a big screen TV with movies running. Plus two large 27-inch Apple monitors with 10,000 images and two diamond laser recorders. Customers can see each certificate and all the information is there. He also posts videos about diamonds and the ring-making process on YouTube.
To work, technology has to be personal, Rowen says. “The problem with the digital channel is that we try to replicate the human experience, and the problem with the in-person experience is that you are limited to knowing someone. This is the gap.
For many diamond buyers, shopping is research-driven, and the Internet excels in that regard, he continues. “So bring this technology into the store. An iPad, a kiosk, anything that helps educate would be helpful. Show how a ring will look in relation to human skin tone, or what 2 carats will look like against 1 carat. This technology would help bridge the gap.
Since many young shoppers are digital natives, the use of technology helps them connect with stores. “Younger consumers are more likely to view the shopping experience through their mobile devices,” says Harmon. “Successful retailers must deliver a superior mobile experience and merge the mobile and physical worlds. “
Looking to the future
Rowen agrees stores need to modernize their experience. “An in-store experience that I have [recently] had in a very reputable diamond store was like the 1950s. There was confidence, but it was not a 21st century shopping experience.
Updating your store can also improve customer service. “The digitization of items and payments can be streamlined, freeing up store employees,” says Harmon. “[Associates] with mobile devices [could have] customer and product information and have the authority to use that information.
He cautions, however, that the technology may require a large initial investment and may fail altogether if the retailer does not have clear business goals. “Many big tech projects fail because of a lack of focus or overly ambitious goals. Retailers can be more successful with small projects with clear benefits.
Image: Valeriya Simantovskaya / Stocksy
Article from Rapaport Magazine – December 2021. To subscribe click here.