Technology has been developing exponentially over the past few decades. From dial-up internet to fiber-optic broadband, similar jumps in the speed and quality of tech have been felt across the spectrum of industries, and retail has been no different.
Not only has the quality of tech on offer improved, but the availability of it has too. Today, even the smallest businesses have access to state-of-the-art tech.
Take point of sale (POS) systems for example. The data afforded to businesses from this type of software can be invaluable when determining stock refreshes, marketing strategies and logistics. These systems allow you to receive up-to-the-minute information on what products are being sold, when and to whom.
Now that small enterprises have access to this data, it gives them the ability to spot opportunities and threats much earlier than could have been previously possible. This is essential when a business is just starting out. With tight budgets you need to be able to make the most of every chance you are afforded.
Technology has also offered retailers the opportunity to sell via different mediums. The social media boom of the 2000s opened up a whole new way for businesses to speak to their customers via advertising.
This social media innovation continues at a pace and is taking retail brands into exciting new areas. Platforms such as Snapchat for example are offering businesses the ability to create their own augmented reality experiences. This gives retailers a chance to showcase their products vividly in a way which would not have been possible just a few years ago.
Social media isn’t the only new opportunity in town for retailers either. Voice assistants such as Google Home, Alexa and Cortana have opened the door for customers to be able to order products from their favourite brands by simply speaking to their devices in the comfort of their own home.
While these innovations provide plenty of new opportunity for retailers, they also have presented a range of new challenges. For example, creating a “voice-compatible” retail proposition is a feature which customers are starting to expect by default but can be very tricky to get working seamlessly.
Then there’s the matter of increased competition. Over the past decade Amazon has grown into a behemoth of a brand. Turning over billions every year, retailers across the world have to live with the fact that they need to provide an offering which can compete with Jeff Bezos and his huge team.
It can feel like an impossible task at times, so brand positioning and product offering are key. Finding an audience that respects the care and attention put into your products, as opposed to the mass manufactured output of Amazon, can help you stand out from the crowd.
Whatever new challenges and opportunities arise from new technology, retailers need to be ready to adapt quickly to these innovations, which seem to be happening more frequently than ever before.
Amanda Walters is a freelance writer covering the tech industry.