It has nearly become a truism that shoppers expect greater flexibility and product choices, as well as consistent levels of stock and responsive customer service. Such expectations now define the consumer mindset, as illustrated by the fact that 86% of consumers would rather spend more to get a better shopping experience. Many of these same shoppers expect prices to be lower and response times to be quicker. How to keep up?

Teaming up with tech firms

As consumer–retailer interactions have been permanently altered by the digital revolution, and as social media and cloud computing have underpinned a more powerful position for the consumer and more customisation, retailers must necessarily embrace the integration of new platforms. A study from 2013 by Oracle found that more than 70 per cent of customers think it is important for stores to use new technology.

Moreover, a recent report from IBM points to the future of retail as one of continual and fairly drastic change, with stores becoming virtual showrooms and the majority of sales coming through online channels.

Many retailers do not dedicate resources to R&D; their focus is on the market they serve now more than what is over the horizon. Partnering up with technology firms can overcome such understandable shortsightedness; the rationale is more than simply the adoption of technology, but rather for a retailer to change its entire business perspective – the aim is to become more flexible, innovative and future-proof.

Applying technology to meet consumer demands

In order to keep stock replenished and shipping times down in the face of modern demands, a reassessment of logistics systems and supply chain management will be in order. Systems that allow for better demand forecasting will be key, and shipping and distribution methods will necessarily be re-examined. It takes careful planning to implement the click-and-collect services that customers have come to rely on.

Improving the convenience and speed of transactions is of critical importance for customer satisfaction. Happy customers enjoy hassle-free returns and simplified one-click ordering, and their favoured shops retain their billing information for repeat business. Omni-channel tenets such as the ease of connecting via multiple channels and devices, and the integration of effective and well-executed apps, play an increasingly important part.

Implementing technology in the right way

While enthusiasm for embracing technology is generally to be encouraged in retail, it is crucial to do so carefully, if quickly. The cost of implementation can be high, and a plethora of technologies clamour for retailers’ attention. If they are not careful in how they choose to implement new technologies, their systems may very quickly become outdated again, which leads to headaches and outsized costs – a hazard that partnering with a tech firm can serve to obviate.