Explore The Future Of Retail

Joerg Koesters

Today’s shoppers want personalized service. They expect an omnichannel experience where they can connect directly to retailers across social media, in-store, and through websites. They want to be able to see an Instagram photo of an outfit, click on a link, and have it delivered to their door within days. How can retailers compete in this market? It all comes down to digitalization. Creating better information access and providing on-the-go connectivity to consumers is critical.

Statistics and trends show shoppers are ready

Consumers today are ready to embrace a digital future. And, in many ways, they are already doing so. A survey from PWC.com shows that of 24,000 shoppers surveyed across 29 countries, 56% have shopped at Amazon.com and 47% own or plan to buy a wearable, connected device. More so, 39% of these shoppers are turning to social networks to gain insight and inspiration into what they purchase. Considering how important a connected retail experience is to consumers, retailers must take action to implement solutions.

Yet, many worry about costs. Over the last few years, we’ve physical retailers have seen less foot traffic in their stores as e-commerce grows by double digits. According to Fox Business, 24 large retailers have announced they are closed stores due to the industry’s overbuilt landscape. Simply, there are too many stores in some markets, making it harder to compete for shoppers. With so much uncertainty, investments need to be thoroughly researched. The connection of investment to business value needs to be made explicitly clear.

Digital investments allow retailers to build brand awareness, provide just-in-time services, and offer personalized interaction. It is these services and connection points that help retailers compete across the board. Take a closer look at some of the ways today’s consumers are demanding change and how retailers of all sizes can facilitate it.

Retailers are already poised to embrace digitalization, data analytics, and IoT

The good news is many retailers do not have to overinvest. Many of the technology components necessary to develop this type of connectivity are already in place. In a recent S.M.A.C. Talk Technology podcast, Oliver Grob, solutions manager within the Retail Industry Business Unit with SAP, expressed the same view. “You have cameras, you have interaction sensors, Bluetooth beacons, products which have intelligence techs on their RFID, and so many possibilities [that] what you can do and the level of insight into the retail business is dramatically raised compared to what retailers really know about their business.”

With this groundwork in place, retailers have access to the data they need to create customer-first decisions and services. Utilizing beacon sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT), retailers can gather a better level of insight into where consumers go when they enter a mall, what they buy, and what they desire. Applying advanced analytics to this sensor data can allow retailers to provide a better end result to virtually any customer who walks in the door.

Connecting with consumers through technology

Today’s connected shoppers are making it easier for retailers to provide instant personalized connections before, during, and after a physical shopping experience.  Grob says in the podcast, “Today we have smartphones all over the place that are connected all the time. They [shoppers] have GPS. So you have the possibility to sense what the customer is doing; what he is wanting. I mean, you can even start chatting with him on the spot. So you have the possibility to connect to the customer.”

Imagine a world in which a consumer gets help on the spot. The shopper visits a retailer and finds a pair of shoes to buy. But the shopper has a question. Instead of waiting for a sales associate, the shopper logs into an app, uses a chatbot to ask key questions, and makes a buying decision. What’s more, the shopper who doesn’t want to carry the shoes through the mall can push a few buttons on a smartphone and get the product delivered to their door.

Improving offerings to meet customer demand in advance with data

Data is critical throughout this process. With data, retailers are better enabled to make customer-focused decisions. They no longer need to manage that data either. Solutions are available to fill in that gap in real time. “You need to have the right things for the customer. You need to have the right answers, the right products, the right reaction, and the right time to deliver something. So to tackle this, of course, you need to analyze a lot of data. You need to know what is out there in the community, what’s hip, what Facebook likes, what Instagram likes, and all the social media,” continues Grob.

With this type of data, processed in real time by technology solutions, retailers can answer all of these questions and facilitate a strong sense of satisfaction from their shoppers. Buyers today have dozens of options for making a purchase. The companies that are able to stand out, solve customers’ problems, and – most importantly – connect with customers when they need and want that connection are the retailers that will flourish in a changing retail landscape.

Exploring the connectivity possible in retail is every company’s need

Achieving any of these goals takes connectivity and a dedication to innovation. It also takes partnerships with companies already creating positive results. Minimizing costs, personalizing service, and delivering incredible solutions at competitive prices are a possibility with innovations enabled by technologies such as machine learning, advanced analytics, and IoT.

Explore more of the ways retailers are transforming this industry with SAP.  Take a few minutes to listen to the full podcast from SAP’s Oliver Grob at S.M.A.C. Talk Technology.

Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value by reading Accelerating Digital Transformation in Retail. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a technology marketing executive with 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products, having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.