Technology Is Rewriting The Rules Of Retail

Matt Laukaitis

Retail today continues to change at lightning speed, and technology is helping leaders rewrite all the rules. Taking into account shifting consumer expectations and an unrelenting flood of data, a single digital core is essential to executing a winning consumer experience strategy (no matter where or how they shop), which is the key to driving future growth and market share.

As more consumers browse, buy and socialize online, having a complete omnichannel presence merely gives retailers the opportunity to compete; the retailers that want to lead and not just survive are going even further. However, many retailers still struggle with even the simplest omnichannel operations because their archaic technology infrastructure hinders their ability to execute their plan.

Technology has become so interwoven with business strategies that the two cannot be separated anymore. Winning retailers are implementing digitally transformative technologies as part of reimagining their business – those that do not continue to fall behind.

Reimagine everything, from shopper engagement to business models

Technology has been reimagined beyond what we thought was possible even 20 years ago – and the innovations aren’t slowing down. From an IoT-enabled refrigerator that tracks stock levels, to virtually trying on makeup with ULTA Beauty’s clienteling app, technology is fundamentally redefining the way consumers live, work, and communicate with one another.

As a result, consumers prefer to interact with brands and retailers in new ways – and every aspect of retail should also be reimagined with technology in mind.

Consumers expect a new type of individualized experience, where commerce is seamless on any channel, gratification is instant, and technology is invisible. The use of digital at every turn in the consumer shopping journey is compelling retailers to think of shopper engagement across all physical and digital touchpoints – not just a single transaction.

It makes sense that the retailers disrupting and excelling today are thinking in terms of consumer relationships, not just transactions. Retailers like Nordstrom Trunk Club are delivering fashion for consumers that don’t have time to shop, and subscription-based companies like HelloFresh and Sun Basket are delivering hassle-free home-cooked meals in a box. They are moving past simply selling products to delivering on a memorable consumer outcome.

To meet evolving consumer expectations and reimagine the shopper journey, brands should implement a digital core to leverage innovations including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain. Retailers are reaching new heights of brand loyalty and customer satisfaction by utilizing these technologies, driving opportunities for incremental revenue.

Disruption in the form of an app

With the mindset of leveraging technology to increase consumer engagement, fashion company Badgley Mischka reimagined the runway at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) with an interactive app, which provided a truly innovative and interactive experience for consumers both at the runway show and those tuning in virtually.

The fashion industry has been slower than others to embrace technology and e-commerce, aiming to keep the feeling of exclusivity among customers. Badgley Mischka, on the other hand, was looking for a way to get products to consumers faster and determined technology was the key. The Badgley Mischka Runway app was created to share exclusive details on each look in the collection, showcase the brand’s clothing to a wider audience, and glean real-time insights from the audience. Show-goers had the ability to ‘like’ or ‘love’ looks on the app as they came down the runway. In less than 10 minutes, the designer obtained quality feedback that would normally take six months to receive.

Additionally, the results were surprising to Badgley Mischka – a black dress they weren’t expecting to top the charts ended up being the second most popular item.

Reimagining consumer engagement has launched Badgley Mischka one step ahead of the competition. These insights can now allow them to determine which styles to bring to market first and gauge how much to produce based on the popularity of each look. This helps prevent the production of low-popularity items, matching supply with demand to save on costs and reduce waste.

Write your own story in the retail renaissance

Today, technology is rewriting the rules of retail. While some companies are struggling to keep up during this period of retail renaissance, the winners are thriving by embracing technology at the heart of their business.

I continue to hear from executives at leading retailers that their tried-and-true methods that have worked for them in the past are no longer effective today. Working harder and doubling down on those strategies will not fix the problem. Only reimagining ways to engage consumers with personalized experiences during their shopper journey – enabled by a digital core – will help retailers move forward. Furthermore, for greatest success, stakeholders should find ways to be aligned and engaged to close the execution gap.

The roadmap to success is to proactively evolve before your competitors force you to. Rather than letting technology rewrite all the rules, leverage it to control and write your own story of success.

For more on digital disruption in the retail industry, see The New Retail Reality: Moving Beyond Sales.

This article originally appeared on The Robin Report.


About Matt Laukaitis

Matt Laukaitis is Senior Vice President And General Manager of SAP Retail. He is responsible for the division’s strategy, business operations, and sales performance throughout the region.