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Brenda McCurry

How Technology is Revolutionizing the Retail Space

In a recent survey ScanSource conducted of SMB retailers across various business verticals, 96 percent of owner/operators said they are in charge of determining the investments their businesses must make, and 84 percent said they like trying new things for their business. SMB retailers know they are competing with big-box stores and online empires, and they look to deliver outstanding customer service in order to gain repeat business. While we have seen a rise in e-commerce over the last decade, many consumers agree that shopping in a brick and mortar store is still necessary. An online shopping experience most notably lacks one thing: the unparalleled customer experience that can be created in-store.

The majority of smaller retailers feel they must continually train on and implement new technologies as a means of improving the customer experience in their shop, however, only 13 percent of these business owners said they are actually responsible for maintaining current IT systems in their stores. This leads us to believe there is a huge opportunity to help these retailers deliver the technology solutions that will give their customers and excellent shopping experience.

For some retailers, this takes the form of kiosks, or self-checkouts. Many of America’s favorite fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Panera and Starbucks, are pioneering the industry in terms of self-service ordering. This purchasing format offers guests the ability to ensure their order is correct, peruse all the restaurant’s offerings, better customize their orders, and even see the caloric and nutritional information of each item. In short, the kiosks put the customer in control of their time within a retail space. The benefits of a kiosk aren’t necessarily revolutionary, but they are increasing overall customer satisfaction – especially among younger generations – by speeding up the process and prioritizing what guests are there for: a quick bite to eat or some much-needed caffeine.

Meanwhile, other retailers are benefiting more from handheld and mobile technologies. While less strictly focused on increasing speed, tablets, for example, are being utilized to better tailor the customer’s experience. Imagine walking into a store in search of new work clothes. Do you know all your measurements off the top of your head, or were you planning on trying on sizes until you find the best fit? By integrating store employees with tablets, a clerk can identify you by your name or phone number and pull up your past orders, allowing them to point you in the right direction and quickly find the correct sizes. If an item isn’t available in the store, they can order it and have it shipped to your doorstep in a matter of days.

For new customers, this represents a great way for stores to collect emails and other contact information, generating leads and helping to build a loyal customer base. And by aggregating a guest’s past orders, retailers can send targeted ads customized to the individual shopper. All things considered, it’s essentially an investment for retailers that will pay dividends.

Improving the customer experience doesn’t necessarily mean retailers need to have more employees, nor does it mean that technology will replace employees’ jobs. It’s all about identifying and prioritizing what the customer is there for and implementing the appropriate technology to help accomplish that goal.