Technology: Retailers’ New Toy
Retailers need to interact with their customers through new means, writes Dharmendra Patel, managing director of PlayNetwork EMEA.
Consumer expectations have changed dramatically since the advent of the smartphone and tablets.
There is a growing trend particularly amongst the 16 to 25 generation, to rely exclusively on their mobile handset to learn and communicate through visual media. The “social media generation” is forcing the rapid adoption of technology innovation by brands so they can engage with them.
Hence, brands are using technology to enhance the cultural experience they deliver to customers through unique content and innovative technology platforms.
A brand that offers something engaging and different will be talked about, commonly known as going “viral”, while a brand that does not will lose contact with both existing and potential customers.
In fact, adaptation to technology by brands is fast becoming a major consideration for how consumers decide which brand to engage with.
When considering the use of technology, brands must adopt a strategy where they can offer a consistent experience whether in-store or out of store. The customer experience must be seamless through all channels.
Growth in online sales is making brands reconsider the role of the store in the future.
Brands including Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21 are developing their store concepts with a focus on brand experience rather than just pure sales. How technology is used in store is a fundamental part of this experience.
In-store mobile engagement is likely to grow significantly over the next year, not only as a vehicle to check stock and showcase collections, but increasingly also as a payment point.
Near Field Communication (NFC) will also be an important driver in making contactless payment the preferred alternative to static till points in-store. A growing number of retailers are also seeing the benefit of offering free Wifi in store to customers.
Key areas of engagement in-store are music, video interactivity, mobile, online and point of sale (PoS). A successful long-term technology strategy must be able to engage consumers through all these capture points.
Overall, brands have to ensure that technology adaptation at an in-store level and the experiences they offer online are the same.
New technologies like transparent LCD screens, HD projection technologies, bio-metric recognition tools or virtual walls all have a role to play in helping define a retailer’s technology strategy but the adaptation of technology requires a brand to recognise how it intends to behave culturally.
When creating customer experiences, brands need to recognise the strategic value of the content they can create either visually or written.
A simple example of this could be a digital community board in a coffee shop – where customers create the content through their mobile, the brand engages with its customers and content is generated that the brand can use. If the experience engages customers it then becomes the starting point to introducing more technologies.
Ultimately, the adoption of technologies as part of the overall customer experience enables brands to measure impact while also enhancing their brand value.