According to Moore’s law, a chip can hold twice as much memory, or twice as many transistors, approximately every two years. This is not a Law of The Universe binding us to the ground like gravity; people often cite this observation as a benchmark for the development of technology. While retailers don’t devote much time thinking about transistors and RAM, technology that can affect retailers’ operations changes consistently with Moore’s Law. This past year brought the innovations we have come to expect from Silicon Valley, but how can retailers best use them, and how can retailers keep pace?
Retailers should know that omni-channel isn’t really a strategy anymore; it’s all just retail. So if everything is retail, and retail can be in everything, how can online stores reach customers only when and where it matters without overwhelming them?
Stay on Your Toes
Retailers have taken mobile to the next level; instead of simply establishing a digital mobile presence, retailers are going beyond to a physical mobile presence as well. Pop-up stores have been around for a while, but new point-of-sale (POS) advances are expanding possibilities for retailers.
Mobile payment options have pushed to become a bigger part of customers’ lives recently. With Amazon crowding into credit card reading hardware and software, the competition for mobile payments is fierce right now. Square, Google Wallet, and PayPal are all packing to handle people’s peer-to-peer or business transactions. All of this competition would not exist unless these blue chip companies saw the future in quick and easy financials on the go. These companies all want their payment systems to go beyond simple tasks and contribute to a small business accounting records and sales data. These improvements in POS technology open up space for web-based retailers releasing a new line or product to pop up a store without missing a beat.
Hard Sells Are Fading
In the retail of late, store associates range from mannequins who can mumble hello when you enter to car salesmen with persistency to match. The role of store clerks now needs to change as the industry does. No longer will store associates need to worry about hard selling information about the product; consumers are reading up on the details before and during their shopping. Instead, store associates will be stressing their relationship-building responsibilities.
Just as customers in brick and mortar stores, online shoppers do not suffer from information asymmetry, so hard sells are less effective. Social media strategies should account for this by performing a different function. Instead of monitoring feedback and connecting users, social media can function as a development center of sorts. With active users available to provide input in the early stages of product development, social media can assist pull marketing campaigns.
Control Your Future
As mentioned above, all of the big players are finding ways to enter (or expand within) the retail sector. With some of the most entrepreneurial people already working for the big guys, retailers have turned in-house for innovation. Most people have heard of Google Labs, but investing big internally in your company’s research and development is not just for techies.
A few years ago, Nordstrom Innovation Lab sprang up within the company to allow a team of retail veterans across functions to singularly focus on the future of retailing. Wal-Mart started their own ‘Lab’ team around the same time with the same goal. Retailers of all specialties recognize the need to rely on themselves for innovation, and no idea is too small.
So while companies like Amazon and Google still have an edge in the sheer amount of data gathered, you can tailor research to fit the projected desires of your unique customer base. Think Retail of Things or customized loyalty plans (by person or location); there is a lot to be gained, and a lot of A/B testing to be done.
Staying up to date with the latest in technology should be a given for serious online retailers; at this rate, the two grow hand in hand. Because of Moore’s Law, your business will be obsolete in two years, so complacent technology is not a winning strategy.
Contributing Writer: Jack Symington