These new channels are rapidly multiplying and evolving, so when retailers create five-year plans for store systems they need to design them to accommodate new technologies that break through traditional store walls.
What's at Stake
One of the fastest-growing channels today is mobile commerce, but it is just one of many on the horizon that consumers are racing to adopt. Tomorrow's customers will demand to shop how they want, where they want, and when they want. As a result, retailers must be able to quickly adapt, a task getting harder as consumer-based technologies advance faster than business IT.
The first step in moving toward an advanced store systems model is the ability for associates and customers to tap into real-time databases for transaction histories, order tracking, loyalty program status, coupon redemption, product look-up, and inventory status.
The second step is to create a deep level of cross-channel integration that demolishes silos, removes point-to-point app integration schemes, shutters legacy systems, and tightly couples customer-facing and back-end systems onto a unified technology platform.
The third step is deployment of demand-driven systems for computer-assisted ordering, localized CRM-based assortments and promotions, and end-to-end supply chain systems that fill shelves and create customer satisfaction.
The fourth step is using technology as a differentiator to achieve competitive edge and a personalized shopping experience through interactive signage, kiosks, and location-based messaging.
This innovative step links customer-facing applications to store systems. In a big box store, for example, customer service can be delivered by enabling shoppers with cell phones to summon a store associate for assistance.
An electronics store could allow consumers to scan a barcode and use a mobile app to look up customer reviews or product comparisons. A drug store could use kiosks to let shoppers access a centralized pool of product experts.
Retailers also will use location-based applications, such as digital signage activated by an RF-equipped shopping cart or linked to a real-time "heat map" sensing physical concentrations of shoppers.
They will also be able to send messages or offers to a shopper's cell phone as she nears a special display. By linking customer-specific offerings to a shopper's loyalty program and purchase history, messages ultimately can be personalized to a one-to-one level.
By 2015, store systems will need to become agile enough to reach beyond the four walls that no longer hold them back from serving customers anywhere, anytime.