Today’s retail organizations are being forced to rethink their approach as customer needs and demands continue to shift. That’s why innovative retailers are developing and rolling out exciting new forms of digital retail technology to create a better customer experience for consumers.
So, what is digital retail, exactly? The term is broad enough to encompass a variety of methods and strategies that allow retail organizations to use technology to streamline and diversify customer experiences. But digital retail is more than just adopting the latest innovations and platforms. It also involves a complete reimagining of the retail experience, providing new avenues of engagement for customers and helping companies to deliver their products and services through channels that didn’t exist as recently as a few years ago.
This digital revolution is massively important due to changing customer tastes and expectations. Today’s consumers no longer have the patience for complicated website interfaces or bland in-store experiences. They expect retailers to engage them across multiple channels to accommodate their busy schedules and meet their needs more efficiently. If retailers want to win over and retain customers, they must embrace digital retail strategies that allow them to create the compelling user experiences people are looking for.
10 Innovations in Digital Retail
There are a number of exciting technologies at the forefront of the digital retail revolution. Here are just a few of the most important.
1. Augmented Reality
Virtual reality may get all the headlines, but augmented reality is more likely to have a direct impact on the lives of consumers over the next decade. Augmented reality involves overlaying digitally generated graphical elements over the physical world, usually through the medium of special goggles or a smartphone camera. With AR tools, customers can see what a piece of furniture will look like in their home or quickly scan a store shelf with their phone to see what items are on sale. Forward thinking retailers are only scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with augmented reality, so failing to invest in the technology today could leave companies struggling to catch up in the future.
2. Big Data
Thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) technology (more on that in a moment), organizations are gathering more data about customers and their behavior than ever before. They’re also tracking key business metrics that provide a granular view of what’s happening in the market on a day to day basis. Of course, they’re also gathering a lot of data that’s little more than meaningless noise. In order to extract meaningful trends and insights from this unstructured data, retailers are turning to powerful “big data” analytics tools. Powered by machine learning, these programs are able to provide a much more comprehensive view of all business activities, allowing organizations to plan better and take more strategic action to better meet the needs of their customers.
3. Predictive Recommendations
One of the key uses of big data analysis, predictive recommendations start by creating a detailed overview of a customer’s purchasing habits and demographic characteristics. This allows retailers to predict what products and services might appeal to those customers, making it possible to push the right offer to the right person at the right time to maximize the likelihood of a purchase.
4. Supply Chain Automation
Keeping the flow of goods moving through global supply chains and onto store shelves (or a customer’s doorstep) is a complex undertaking. A delay or disruption of only a few hours can send ripples throughout the delivery network, often impacting seemingly unrelated services. Thanks to increased automation, RFID-enabled tracking, and shipping schedules optimized by sophisticated algorithms, retailers are using digital technology to deliver products faster and more efficiently than ever to minimize the amount of time customers have to wait to receive purchases or find items on the local store shelf.
5. IoT Integration
Each year, consumers are bringing more devices into their homes that connect to the internet over WiFi connections. These devices not only make it easier for them to access services, but they also provide companies with valuable data that allow retailers to get a better idea of how people are actually using their products. Armed with that information, they can adapt their services and products accordingly, making them more intuitive and beneficial for users. As more IoT devices enter the home, they can interact with one another to improve performance and meet the needs of customers even faster.
6. Geolocation Strategies
As technology tools become more ubiquitous, the opportunities to leverage them in new and exciting ways grow as well. One exciting development has been the use of geolocation strategies that provide a granular view of customers, their environment, and their needs. Customer experiences can be designed around the particulars of a specific market, connecting users to local stores and businesses. They can also integrate with other location-based services. Knowing that someone is close to a specific location opens up unique marketing opportunities. For instance, someone using a ride-sharing service may receive notifications about nearby retailers or restaurants they never knew existed.
7. Digital Wallets
Payments have also taken a digital turn. While they’re a long way off from replacing cash and traditional credit/debit cards, digital wallet apps have become a popular feature for smart phones and wearable smart devices. Smart retailers are already working to accept digital payments from a variety of providers to provide customers the flexibility to pay how they want, when they want.
8. Reverse Showrooming
In the early days of online shopping, many retailers where justifiably concerned that customers would shop in the store and then go home to make their purchase online at a better price. Increasingly, however, retailers have taken steps to reverse the trend in order to offer a broader range of items for local pickup. Many of today’s customers now shop for items online (perhaps utilizing AR-enabled tools) and then go to the nearest store for same-day pickup at a competitive price.
9. Voice Search
Between voice activated smart phones and home speaker devices, customers have a variety of options when it comes to voice search tools. Retailers have adapted to this trend by optimizing their online stores for voice search and developing their own voice-driven apps for use on existing IoT platforms. Well-designed voice recognition technology can make the customer experience completely frictionless, allowing people to find exactly what they’re looking for (and purchase it) quickly and easily.
10. Contactless Retail
With the COVID-19 pandemic likely to continue affecting retailers for the rest of 2020 and beyond, many retailers have invested heavily in contactless technology to keep their customers and employees safe. From contactless point of sale scanners to innovative new touchless screens that use sophisticated sensors and algorithms to predict user behavior, these devices are sweeping aside legacy infrastructure that might have remained entrenched were it not for the disruption of the pandemic.
Empowering Digital Retail Solutions with a Colocation Data Center
As organizations consider strategies for implementing digital retail technology at various levels of their operations, they often lack the infrastructure with sufficient reliability, scalability, and connectivity to execute those plans. That’s why migrating their IT stack to a colocation data center is such an attractive option for companies of all sizes and industries. Transitioning from an on-premises data solution typically means leaving behind an inefficient infrastructure that doesn’t deliver enough performance to overcome the inefficient power and cooling costs.
Colocation data centers are also an attractive alternative to a purely cloud-based infrastructure thanks to their versatility and reliability. Since colo data centers provide direct on-ramps to the leading cloud platforms, companies don’t have to subject themselves to vender lock-in as they roll out their digital retail technology. They also deliver much higher uptime reliability than the typical cloud provider. vXchnge data centers, for instance, are backed by 100% uptime SLAs, which is a substantial upgrade from the modest 99.99% SLA of the leading cloud platforms.
Thanks to innovative intelligent monitoring technology like our award-winning in\site platform, companies no longer have to sacrifice visibility and control over their assets when they migrate into a colocation data center (Experience it for yourself with a FREE demo!). For companies looking to deploy the latest in digital retail services, colo data centers can deliver the infrastructure and power that was once available to only the largest enterprises.