As engaging and challenging as retail is every day of the year, there’s something special about bringing together everyone in this industry to discuss this ever-changing sector. ShopTalk 2019 was a whirlwind of insight and idea-sharing, and that held true in the Women in Retail Leadership – Girls Lounge, sponsored by Acxiom. Highlighting women in the retail and tech industries is always important to us, but with the conference falling in Women’s History Month—and the fact that today is International Women’s Day—our sponsorship seemed especially timely.
At the lounge (which, despite the name, was open to all genders), I had the opportunity to speak on a panel about the top trends in retail tech along with other female leaders. The discussion touched on a number of different trends and considerations for the near future, but there were a few themes that emerged.
The retail environment is in an extended transformation
You can read any number of articles or white papers discussing the retail apocalypse and the digital disruption in our industry. There are many proclamations about the change in the ways consumers shop and buy and the changing role of the retail store, as evidenced by reduced or changing foot traffic in stores each weekend. With all this change and turmoil for retailers, and the recognition that different retailers have different strengths and opportunities, we can all agree on one thing: it’s critical to get the customer experience right. And getting it right means having the right data, technology and integrations across your adtech stack and the martech stack.
Data and identity management is foundational to improving customer experiences
The explosion of digital data has become an exciting new resource for retailers of all types. But what we have since realized—and what was stressed at the panel—is that data itself is almost useless unless it’s being collected, structured, curated and utilized in an actionable way. Retailers’ ability to deliver data-driven marketing across channels will be more accurate and impactful with a unified data foundation. Real-time or near-real-time offer management is possible when you have a connected data layer.
What does this look like in practice? Data from the digital world (e.g., app or website logins) and the offline world (e.g., in-store membership), as well as transactional data (e.g., a shopper’s purchase history), can help retailers suggest relevant products and offers on an individual level. This in turn can create a near-concierge experience for the shopper, a personalization that can spur future purchases and build brand loyalty.
Innovative technologies are supercharging the shopper experience
As retailers seek to gain every competitive advantage they can, many are embracing technologies that help make shopping more convenient than ever. One solution gaining steam is scan-and-go testing that has rolled out in some locations of major retailers, including Sam’s Club. This technology lets customers scan their own items from the shelves via an app and bypass the register entirely, which helps reduce checkout-counter congestion.
Even more convenient is the use of RFID, a tracking technology that removes the need for shopper-directed scanning entirely and creates a frictionless shopping experience where a shopper can simply select items and walk out of the store. As retailers seek to increasingly personalize their interactions with customers, data has an important role to play in making the transition between in-store, mobile app and online shopping more seamless.
Retailers’ responsibility to stay on top of training
With the rapid evolution of technology, its innovative uses and the effect on the shopping habits and needs of customers, the need for up-to-date employee training and education has never been greater. It’s not enough now for companies to give new hires a brief training seminar and expect them to succeed. The retailers winning today are the ones leveraging data to empower their employees to deliver great customer engagement at every touchpoint. Great customer service has always been and will continue to be the key to success, but technology can help elevate it and keep with shoppers’ current needs.
It was great to see so many of our customers at ShopTalk this year. We look forward to working together to navigate another year of retail disruption and deliver exceptional shopper experiences. Read more about our panel in the recent The Female Quotient piece entitled: How Women are Changing the Rules in the Retail Industry.