There’s no way around it anymore: today’s brick-and-mortar stores require a carefully planned out technology infrastructure that works to improve and enhance customer’s shopping experience. They insist on it, they know who’s


doing it right and they will reward those stores with loyalty and by spreading valuable word of mouth.

Taking Risks in Testing New Technologies

A big part of getting there is having an executive leadership team who believes in the benefits of technology and is willing to take risks in bringing it to fruition in-store, Jason Breazeale, senior manager of innovation at Ahold Delhaize said on a panel at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, as reported by BizTech. This is especially true with big or legacy brands, whose models are typically slower to adapt to such changes. Breazeale said brands need to harness IT teams in a way that brings value to their business, and come up with new solutions that when proven to work, can be put in place across a brand’s entire portfolio of stores.
IT solutions should also be holistic and scalable, and success should be judged how widely and rapidly a new technology solution proven to add value can be implemented. Mike Luzzi, director of global IT innovation at PepsiCo, also speaking at the NRF panel, said the company is using digital signage technology that “knows” who the customer is standing before a product display. That data is then used to ensure the company is displaying relevant products that customer will actually want to buy.

Online-Offline Synergy More Important Than Ever

A recurring theme at NRF 2018 was the continued integration of online and offline shopping, and to seize on that opportunity brands need more synergy between both presences than ever. Today’s customer expects stores to have robust digital content in their physical stores, according to BizTech, which behooves stores to rapidly introduce new technology. Digital inventory tracking, mobile POS technology, virtual assistants and mobile apps with augmented reality topped the list of a recent survey of retail IT managers by Riverbed about their planned technology investments over the next year. 
Grocery store chains are leading the charge in using technology to gain customer insight, enhance shopper convenience and use data analytics to predict customer behavior. For example, using scannable QR codes displayed on subway station advertisements, stores can prepare a customer’s grocery order for pick-up, timed to coincide with their arrival based on where they are in the subway system. Mobile apps that entice customers into the store with coupons is another tried-and-true method, and that also helps stores collect data about customer preferences and find out what works and what doesn’t.
Brands can’t afford to adopt a “kitchen sink” approach to their implementation of technology. It can be an expensive undertaking, and trying every new technology that comes along is cost prohibitive and unlikely to result in a return on the investment. That’s why retailers need a strategy in how they’ll leverage technology in a way that makes sense for their specific brand, and for their specific customers.

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