In modern retail, the key differentiator that provides a competitive advantage is an excellent customer experience. By encompassing the entire buyer/seller relationship, retailers are looking for ways to increase positive and memorable experiences in their customers' minds. Retailers understand that bringing about a positive customer experience increases satisfaction, which leads to an increase in repeat sales, customer loyalty, fortified relationships, and ultimately more revenue.
With the average consumers' heavy reliance on technology for everyday functions, retailers must leverage trends in technology to bring about a favorable experience. Research conducted by Market Reports Hub suggests that global customer experience expenditures are projected to grow from $3.77 billion in 2014 to $8.39 billion in 2019. By utilizing customer experience technology such as mobile/tablet applications, omni-channel, big data platforms, and highly scalable software products, retailers can deliver added value to their customers.
Leveraging mobile and tablet applications allows retailers to reap enormous rewards by satiating the customers' desire for technology to enhance their lives. This is created by delivering brand value to their customers with localization marketing, augmented reality, and unifying the shopping experience from in-store to online. These technologies help the customer interact with the brand and the product before buying, which brings about a positive experience.
With consumers' heavy reliance on smart phones, a retailer's first move may be to exploit mobile by creating customer centric applications. By creating an instinctive extension of customer loyalty, including loyalty applications, retailers are bettering the experience by utilizing a consumer's natural appendage to the technological world, their smart phone. Popular customer loyalty apps utilize QR code and location based services integrated with loyalty programs to increase customer engagement and overall experience with targeted coupons and communication. Location-based services also known as beaconing and geo-fencing facilitate communication to a user's device. Location aware marketing hardware and software uses Bluetooth and GPS technology to send information to a device. This type of marketing can be used in a variety of ways to enhance a retailer's communication with its patrons. When a geo-function is triggered, personalized content including promotions, advertisements, and coupons can be sent in an instant to any smart device equipped with the specific application. Location-based services can be integrated with any existing CRM and branding application. When engineering a location aware application for geo-fencing it is imperative that the users' location be identified through specific programing of geo-coordinates using GPS functions, which will then require integration with a location API such as Google Maps or similar map software to ensure accurate location data.
The use of tablets in stores has become a natural accessory to support retail functions including point-of-sale functions, real-time access to product information, and inventory management to increase the amount of data a salesperson has at their disposal. They can maintain interaction with the customer from the point of contact all the way through the buying process to check out. This creates a personalized experience for the consumer. To help retailers offer this experience, software proprietors must develop POS applications that allow floor personnel to accept payments for all traditional payment methods as well as the new standard of EMV smart cards. Terminal development as well as integration with tablets and 3rd party payment processors will be important to offer a complete POS solutions that retailers can easily implement to positively enhance the customer experience.
Another emerging technology retailers are using to create a positive interaction with consumers is Augmented Reality (AR). Augmented reality apps blur the lines between real world views and Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI). The fundamental idea is superimposing computer generated graphics over the environment as we see it by using the camera function on mobile devices. The apps use an actual picture generated by the camera and overlay images to compliment the image in real-time, ergo, augmented reality. It improves how customers can see and interact with a product. Application proprietors can develop an augmented reality app using appropriate operating system APIs for interacting with a devices camera function. Also, programming the appropriate algorithms for image recognition is imperative. Creating the 3D graphics and having them seamlessly interact with the reacting image will be the most important aspect of the augmented reality program.
It is important that retail entities use innovation in technology to reach consumers and keep them engaged in their brand. Customer satisfaction and experience applications that integrate flawlessly with all channels will improve a shopper's total brand experience. It is the task of software entrepreneurs to develop software solutions that offer a seamless integration of brand mediums with technologies that facilitate an omni-channel presence. The primary feature of any retail software should be the inclusion of a data aggregation and content curation application. The chief function is to ensure that all data is available through one easily managed platform. Creating a centralized data repository that migrates data across every channel is the best solution. Integrating inventory management modules with POS software is also essential to offering a product that facilitates a brand's omni-channel efforts. These applications give a transparent view of supply reserves with real-time accuracy. Incorporating data repository and content curation modules into a software product that will ensure all channels portray a brand cohesively, minimizing customer frustration and creating a seamless brand interaction.
Establishing customer needs and wants by employing big data software will help entities know what a customer is expecting. After revealing the voids that a customer wants to fill, a retail entity can work backwards to provide an experience that surpasses their expectation. To gain these precious insights, it is imperative to employ business intelligence software. Marketers are leveraging omni-channel strategies that utilize a complex mix of technology to facilitate operational functions. As such, it is important that software proprietors offer a data warehousing system on the back-end of their customer loyalty and experience technology. Data warehousing systems extract the miscellaneous information from various sources including applications, systems, platforms, channels, and departments. The data is then transformed into a structured readable format and loaded into a database. There it waits for customer loyalty and engagement programs to mine data from it. Some popular and reliable Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) include Oracle, SQL Server, and DB2. Customizing these RDBMSs to best suit the inherent needs will maintain proper functionality. A major trend is offering Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) where data is stored in the cloud. Providing this service allows an end-user to easily set up multiple nodes for data aggregation and secure the data cluster safely in the cloud.
A big challenge for software proprietors is to offer technology that fills a genuine need and integrates seamlessly to the customer's interaction with a brand. With the shift toward retailers looking for new opportunities to build relationships, software proprietors need to adopt new ways to keep a brand attuned to the marketplace and their customers. Offering a retailer an extension beyond the product they offer will create high demand for technology that enhances the consumer-brand relationship.
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Chetu's Retail team implements solutions for the Retail industry. Chetu differentiates itself in providing industry specific expertise combined with its low cost, high productivity model. You can find more information about the portfolio of our Retail experience at: http://www.chetu.com/retail-it-solutions.php
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