Five Ways Technology Has Transformed the Retail Industry
Technology is more than a tool or machine that makes your life easier. It’s an extension of your biology and your business.
It’s sometimes difficult to comprehend the full meaning and consequences of technology in the short-term, but if you examine modern business today compared to a decade ago—you begin to see how we’re already living in the future.
For example, when you examine your phone compared to writing letters in the 1800’s, your phone today essentially makes you telepathic—enabling you to send your thoughts through time and space to someone else on the other side of planet instantaneously. In other words, the concept of telecommunication itself has completely transformed humanity on a much larger scale than the newest version of that technology, such as a new app.
In the retail world, what technology has ultimately done is enabled businesses to make decisions with more information, more speed and more accuracy than at any time in human history. It has empowered smaller companies to compete with giant corporations on the same playing field.
Below are five ways technology has reshaped the retail landscape.
The single most important invention in human history was language. Without it, communication was reduced to meaningless noises and grunts. With it, we can combine words to form ideas and combine those ideas to form better ideas. Communication has evolved.
In the retail industry, this translates into:
- Integrated communication systems improve coordination for deliveries to different store locations.
- Quicker response enables proactive adaptation to the environment.
- Video conferencing tools people from different locations to improve the efficiency of making quick decisions.
- Social media and SMS strategies enable a more intimate two-way marketing interaction between your brand and your customers.
- Evolving innovations in mobile technology enhance your ability to manage nearly every aspect of your business from anywhere in the world.
In only 20 years, customer service has evolved from having to wait on your phone for hours, to sending a quick question via email before lunch and having the answer when you return.
- Today, businesses provide customer support through a wide range of channels:
- FAQ’s on their websites;
- Email contacts for departments related to specific issues;
- Support forums where customers can support one another;
- Twitter support for companies that aren’t afraid to show their customer service and even
traditional phone lines.
Online customer service channels save retail businesses time and money, by making it easier for customers to help themselves, which also frees up resources to invest in other elements of your business.
The entire basis for technology is to make tasks faster, easier and more efficient. In the retail industry, there’s no question technology has revolutionized productivity on a macro level.
- Mobile technology enables departments at different location to integrate fluidly to accomplish complex objectives.
- Google, Bing and other search engines empower you to find the answer to almost any question, without needing to hire an expert for everything.
- Skype and other video conferencing tools save your company and employees money and time wasted on travel.
Powerful improvements to mobile computing enable store managers to complete complex task and multi-task from wherever they are.
- Automated systems, such as automated checkouts, free up human resources to complete other jobs.
The best example for how technology has leveled the playing field between small and large businesses is the new age of marketing. Instead of having to buy expensive advertising time on television or radio, you can reach your audience instantly for free, and have a two-way conversation with your customers. This past Super Bowl, the most successful advertisement cost $0 in the form of a tweet from Oreo.
- Retail companies are continually coming up with creative ideas for deploying these new marketing strategies, which are constantly evolving and breeding new concepts.
- The Internet and mobile technology have multiplied the number of channels a company can use to reach their audience.
- Digital coupons, discounts and promotions are more deployable and accessible than ever before, making it as simple as a customer scanning their smartphone.
- Enhanced two-way communication has greatly improved your ability to understand your audience on a more deeply, intimate level – to the degree encouraging your customer to promote your brand for you.
- Ultimately, technology has made marketing dramatically more affordable by opening new channels enable smaller budgets to compete with behemoths.
- Finally, technology has given businesses (and their customers) more access to information than any generation before it. And it’s now easier than ever to collect in-depth information from your shoppers.
- Bigger data storage systems have grown exponentially in size and complexity, enabling businesses to collect, store and analyze information in infinitely more customizable ways.
- Enhanced integration among these systems enable stores to compare and reconcile data among different locations, departments and strategies.
- The Internet and mobile technologies have blossomed a new culture unedited information sharing, providing store owners mountains of data on their target demographic and competitors.
- The Flonomics FloPro will automatically count your shoppers as they enter your business, store that data remotely and then display it for you in a user-friendly dashboard to help you make informed business decisions.
- The Flonomics FloTrack enables you to track a customer’s mobile device, and detect how often that customer returns (and for how long) without revealing the customer’s actual identity.
Technology has transformed the retail industry, as well almost every industry on the planet. But more technology also means more complexity, and information overload can sometimes cause more headache than ease.