Even as the focus of the retail industry shifts from multi-channel retail to Omnichannel retail, most technology investments are going towards enhancing online presence, leveraging technology that can help retailers have a great online experience. However, what will differentiate conventional brick-n-mortar retailer from pure-play online retailers? Is it their presence across the channels, and more so delivering consistent experience across all the channels?
Yes, it is important to deliver great experience online, but Omnichannel engagement actually ends at stores. In scenarios like ‘Buy-online-pickup-in-store’, or ‘Buy-online-return-in-store’, to name a few, ‘store’ is where the engagement ends.
The experience for the customer has to be consistent when s/he arrives at the store.
In this modern era of devices, retailers will opt for technology that helps their store to do much more than just the PoS transactions. Concepts like Clientelling/Assisted Selling, or Endless Aisle are possible if we empower store assistants with devices and content on the devices – content which is consistent with information on other channels, help them engage with the customers and at the same time, also fulfill the need of the PoS , the most important transaction type at the stores.
The future of retail lies in multi-faceted customer engagement, with more and more consumers making an online purchase at least once a month. An increasing number of consumers are looking towards Facebook for information on their favorite retailer before making a purchase; retail organizations are looking to expand and re-define their physical store locations to drive a more direct and personalized brand experience.
Customer touch-points will only increase here-on. The scenario is something like this – initiating a transaction/engagement online, continuing the same while on the move on a mobile device or a tablet and completing it in the brick-and-mortar store. Such is the ask today.
That is where we say that software will not be the answer now, it has to be a platform and should enable retail enterprises to deliver such experiences, which are consistent, seamless, connected, personal and continuous across multiple touch-points.
There are quite a few exciting use cases we can envisage that help enhancing experience across the brick-and-mortar format. Retailers are now looking to deliver more engaging experience every time a customer walks into their stores. Modern devices play a very important role in delivering this experience.
Microsoft’s point of view in retail is grounded in delivering intelligent systems to deliver shopping experiences that are personal to each shopper, seamless across every point of interaction, and differentiated in a way that increases brand value.
By providing one trusted platform of reliable, secure, and flexible technologies, Microsoft equips retailers to quickly adapt business models to changing business climates, productively absorb disruptions in technology, accommodate individual customer preferences, identify and exploit new opportunities, and address regulatory pressures as they arise, from a position that is informed by actionable intelligence.
Our message is to the industry is to invest in the technology piece which can help them in differentiating with others and with that making their model look more relevant.