Planning the Future of Retail

Everyday new technology is being designed and launched into stores meant to enhance the path to purchase for the consumer. With a plethora of options already available, and new innovations being created on the daily, the question is not only about deciding which technology to use, but also ensuring a strategy exists to make sure your brand is not left behind when a new and revolutionary concept hits your vertical.

During an Exhibitor Big Ideas Session at Shop.org last month, George Shaw, Head of R&D at Retail Next, spoke on this very topic by explaining that while we don’t know what technologies are coming down the road, we need a strategy to absorb them. Here is what he proposed:

Sense: This component is about getting a feel of what is happening inside your store through technology. Think of the countless devices in your store – it is truly an internet of things. Communication is a two-way road between the store and the consumer. For example, when I’m in a store I may try to access the public WiFi, which could direct me through a landing page with store specials. If they know me well, perhaps it was customized to my liking (let’s say fall décor) and I found myself in that aisle taking pictures to post to my social media page. This step is about observing how tech is being used in your store.

Process: As you begin to understand how tech is working in your store, it is time to bring together your data points. In Shaw’s presentation he mentioned how the data needs to be very scalable, very quickly. While this may not be extremely useful to be able to narrow data down to one customer, as you will want to be observing trends in mass, it is nice to have the option if needed. The ability to segment your data in a variety of ways can prove useful depending on the outcome you are trying to achieve.

Analyze: Now that data points have been brought together it is time to analyze your data. This is a term often heard in the tech space, but I think the meaning can get lost from time to time. Before you analyze, I think it is crucial to take two different approaches to this step. The first is to look at your company objectives, pain points and obstacles, and see if you can use the data collected to help you find an answer. The second is to play around with your data, without any specific objective in mind, to see what you find out. Either way, it is crucial that you are open to truly listening to what your data tells you. Often we try and manipulate data to fit the story we want to hear. Doing this will just make it more complex to meet your end goals.

Report: The entire purpose of reporting is to show that our findings have meaning. We can take them to create and implement a change that will direct us towards a more desired result than the current outcome(s) you are seeing. In terms of reporting, Shaw explains of two types. The first is for human consumption, such as data mining and actual reports. The second is for machine consumption, such as using an API to allow a feed of data to occur between two technologies already in place. Each has their unique purpose, but both can offer great insights to what your data revealed.

With the tech space changing so rapidly, I found this approach to be an insightful and solid framework as you begin to observe how to integrate new technology (both inward and external facing) throughout your store.

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