Customer-Centric Technologies in Demand
By Tom Ryan
A new report from U.K.-based Ovum finds that while retailers
will still be looking at technologies to further cut costs in what’s expected
to be another challenging year, a major focus will be on finding new ways to
build relationships with customers.
“Retailers are suffering because the general public is being
more cautious with its money,” Mike Davies, retail vice-president at IT services
supplier Wipro, told Computer Weekly. “Anything retailers can do to
get closer to customers and influence their spending patterns and behaviors
has to be beneficial.”
The Ovum report, 2010 Trends to Watch: Retail Technology,
said that especially with store staffs expected to be kept a minimum, mobile
handsets and automated management processes should be utilized to improve the
efficiency of retail staffs.
“Software which helps to manage the workforce and talent
so that experienced, trained or knowledgeable members of staff are available
when the customer needs assistance should be areas for technological investment,” said
Social networking and mobile shopping technologies are also
expected to get some attention.
“Countries like Thailand are really embracing mobile shopping,” said
Doug Hargrove, chief marketing officer at retail IT specialist Torex. “Even
in the UK, all the pieces of the jigsaw are there, so I wouldn’t be surprised
if mobile technology is adopted within the next 12 months.”
Meanwhile, interviews of some of the nation’s leading C-level
executives by the National Retail Federation BIG Show Expo producers likewise
indicated that the industry is focusing on technology solutions
geared toward the consumers.
The interviews – many of which will be available at The Innovation
Station on the EXPO Hall floor at the convention – identified six key challenges
for the retail industry:
- Delivering the bottom line
- Connecting with your customer
- Cross channel integration
- Creating customer experience
- Building customer loyalty
- Maximizing mobile retailing
Pinny Gniwsisch, founder and EVP at ice.com, the online jeweler,
said retailers should make sure that when they’re cutting costs, “they’re not
cutting the wrong things.” He emphasized the benefits of investing in innovation.
“If you think about site evaluation, the little changes –
putting this button here, adding this shipping cost earlier in the process
and all these little tweaks that you can find out with Google analytics …
if you look at those numbers and stay innovative, you’re going to make it through
the downturn,” said Mr. Gniwsisch.
Delaney Bellinger, chief information officer, Yum! Brands,
said her company focuses on proven technologies.
“It’s a low-margin and very lean industry so we can’t just
put wiz-bang stuff out there that kind of gooks good,” said Ms. Bellinger. “It’s
got to have a return on investment.”
Discussion Questions: What customer-centric
technologies do you think will provide the best payback for ROI over the
near-term and longer? What technologies are you most interested in at retail?
- IT will be key to retailers’ survival in 2010, says Ovum
– Computer Weekly
- NRF’s Innovation Station: Where retail executives and
technology collide – National Retail Federation
- The Bottom Line (NRF Innovation Station – Voices of Retail)