After a Year of Uncertainty, Retailers Embrace Agility in 2021


Retailers learned firsthand in 2020 how quickly and unexpectedly consumers’ needs can change as the pandemic upended businesses of all sizes. The need to adapt seamlessly in real time is a lesson learned that will remain relevant to the retail industry for years to come.

As many retail businesses discovered, legacy technology (hardware and software) can be one of the biggest obstacles in responding nimbly to changing customer and staff needs. By applying lessons learned in 2020, retailers can develop a strong self-service strategy to recover and thrive in the new year.

Create a seamless consumer journey

Prior to adding new, self-service technology to their store infrastructure, retailers should start by analyzing which consumer journeys they will support, as well as which ones their customers may require or prefer in the future. This process focuses on identifying and eliminating today’s points of friction, and offering consumers more choice in their personal shopping experiences.

Modularity can play a critical role in developing this seamless journey. A platform-based approach offers flexibility and allows retailers to scale or upgrade their technology solutions as needed to easily adapt to change.

Modularity: A key differentiator

Modular and open self-service solutions allow retailers to easily deploy different combinations of technology in each location, ensuring they can deliver the optimal checkout experience today and in the future.

The ability to quickly upgrade store infrastructure — and sometimes even store layouts — with innovations like self-checkout, in-store ordering via kiosks and mobile scanning, has become a key differentiator. Modularity offers businesses the agility to quickly respond to changes in consumer expectations and competitive threats.

A modular approach to hardware setup allows retailers to keep their options open, and to make changes to their retail space as they see fit, based on emerging consumer journey patterns. Modularity is not only key in adapting to emerging trends, it also gives retailers the flexibility to configure different journeys today.

If the retail network includes different types of store formats, retailers need a flexible platform approach that can support the range of formats. A modular platform approach offers more options and allows retailers to respond faster to short-term changes in consumer preferences by leveraging and adapting technology investments they’ve already made.

On-site scalability and easy upgradability

By implementing modular, self-service solutions, retailers can quickly scale up or scale down the same modules across all store locations, regardless of location or store format. This approach can improve store efficiency and reduce overall total cost of ownership, as well as time benefits.

The same modules can be purchased once — in bulk —and then deployed across multiple store formats. In addition, the learning curve is dramatically reduced both for staff and consumers since the same equipment modules are used everywhere.

Modular solutions make it much easier to adjust hardware configurations to new consumer journeys, store innovations or government regulations. For example, if a retailer decides to replace cash with digital payments, upgrades and extensions could be rather cumbersome and costly to achieve in traditional, fixed setups. However, with a modular system setup and standardized interfaces, this can be realized quite easily, cost efficiently and in a relatively short time, by simply taking out the cash module and adding a new digital payment module.

This can help retail organizations become more responsive to changes in consumer demands, adopting a step-by-step innovation path without needing any upfront or prohibitive investments.

2020 was a challenging year for businesses, and the retail sector is no exception. But by leveraging important lessons learned about flexibility and agility, strategic retailers can set themselves up for success in 2021 and beyond.

Matt Redwood is director of advanced self-service solutions at Diebold Nixdorf.

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