by Todd Nicholson
The modern retailing experience is rapidly evolving. New technologies and approaches are being introduced all the time with the goal of improving the customer experience. As crowds returned to in-person shopping this past year, one of the key areas of focus has been improving the storefront itself. This is the first point of contact for many customers and can have a huge impact.
With an omnichannel customer strategy, real-time inventory management, returns of online goods, personalized shopping, and touch-free, frictionless checkouts, a proper IT network in place is critically important. Networks need to continuously maximize the customer experience, and be easy to roll out, implement, upgrade, and maintain.
Features that retailers can utilize to be ready for the shopping experiences that consumers have come to expect, including:
- Better Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth Connectivity
- Location Services
- Inventory Management Systems
- Reliable Connectivity
The Store of the Future is Here
This requires retailers to blend together the digital and physical worlds to attract consumers and provide interactive shopping experiences. Offer a top-notch user experience to each and every customer, regardless of the way they prefer to shop. This is what will separate a retailer from its competitors.
Some of the key offerings brands should look to support include:
Omnichannel Shopping Experiences
An omnichannel engagement strategy will allow customers to shop seamlessly across different channels because all are connected to the same network. Regardless of whether a customer is shopping online, in-store, or via a mobile app, they should see the same inventory and having a similar experience. This requires a strong and reliable network to manage everything in real-time.
To support options such as curbside pickup or buy online and ship to store, these connections must always be on. If a store doesn’t get the notification to package up goods for an arriving consumer, the shopping experience will be negatively affected.
Many stores offer mobile apps that improve and speed both the at-home and in-store shopping experience. For in-store shopping, the use of these apps enhances the buying experience with coupons, directions to in-store merchandise, and personalized shopping recommendations. These can all increase basket sizes and revenues.
Without the IT infrastructure to support in-store applications, retailers will lose out on the ability to directly engage with customers and risk frustrations and negative word-of-mouth. No brand wants this for their shoppers.
Frictionless, Touch-Free Shopping
Another key aspect of the modern retail experience is the introduction of touch-free, frictionless checkouts and contactless payment systems. This technology became important during the pandemic to help retailers keep their doors open. They will also be prepared for potential public health issues in the future. These technologies rely on reliable, high-performing connectivity to a corporate network and leverage wired, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and location services connectivity.
Technology for Streamlining and Improving Operations
Technology advancements can also help retailers streamline their operations and reduce costs — something that continues to be critical with the economic downturn. By automating certain tasks, such as inventory management and automated staffing, brands can free up time and resources to focus on other areas of the business.
Delivering an excellent end-user experience also depends on the tools provided by a retailer to its operations team. Better automation, more informed network insights, remote troubleshooting, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will help a company’s IT team deliver these retail services in a way that assures the experience is excellent. It also enables brands to better understand potential issues and quickly make repairs and changes when needed.
Reliable Technology Needed
To ensure a smooth shopping experience, it is critical that retailers have the infrastructure in place to support these new technologies. This includes investing in robust and reliable networks, hardware, and software to support these advancements.
Strong, reliable Wi-Fi is critical for in-store and warehouse staff to work efficiently and effectively. It is also key to delivering a best-in-class customer experience. Strong Wi-Fi doesn’t just ensure network performance for devices and users; a strong AI-driven network makes troubleshooting easier for IT teams, allowing them to quickly identify and troubleshoot any issues.
Location-based services help retailers elevate their brand with better in-store shopping experiences through asset tracking, in store traffic visibility, engagement and occupancy analytics, and route optimization. These technologies can also provide shoppers with localized services, such as turn-by-turn wayfinding, promotional offers, and product information.
This insight could be integrated into mobile apps, providing digital coupons, upsell recommendations, or hazard alerts. In addition, location services can help retailers monitor capacity and keep store occupancy at the desired levels. This is especially helpful during the holiday rush or public health emergencies.
Retailers need to focus on enriching, streamlining, and connecting the customer experience both in-store and online. It is clear that the storefront of the future will be powered by advanced technologies and a strong, scalable network. By investing in these technologies, retailers can set themselves up for success and stay ahead of their competition.
Todd Nicholson is the Director of Vertical Marketing at Juniper Networks. He is responsible for leading vertical go to market strategy in Juniper’s target industry verticals. Todd has an extensive 25+ year tech industry background working in executive level sales, marketing, and product management roles for small emerging startups and large enterprise IT industry leaders including IBM, EMC, and Gartner.