Why Meeting Customers Where They Are May Mean Ditching Legacy Tools & Processes


One constant during the COVID-19 pandemic for retailers is that consumer shopping patterns have forever changed.

Sure, many consumers have already and will continue to go back into brick-and-mortar locations to squeeze the produce or to try on a pair of shoes before buying. But many have experimented with new ways to shop — like click and collect, home delivery, or grab and go (think meal kits) — and are oftentimes pleased. There are several analysts and market researchers that predict a percentage of consumers — as high as 35-45% — will maintain the habits formed during COVID-19.

As such, retailers must adopt next-generation retail store architecture to power more digital shopping experiences. Otherwise, they could be left behind.

Retailers that have been slow to adopt technology to enable things like online ordering, contactless payments and BOPIS must modernize. Investing in technology that helps them meet today’s safety-conscious consumer “where they are” will make them even more viable in an unpredictable and forever-changing retail landscape.

Legacy retail infrastructure won’t cut it

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the pandemic has disrupted all generations’ purchasing patterns, particularly baby boomers, who are ages 55-74. NRF reports that before COVID-19, boomers, who are more at risk of contracting the virus than younger generations, made less than half of their purchases online. Today, two-thirds of them use technology that enables modern and safer shopping methods like curbside pickup.

Legacy retail infrastructure in the post-pandemic world will have its limits as shoppers grow more accustomed to contactless retail experiences. CNBC reports that consumers of all ages have downloaded new shopping apps, tried curbside pickup for the first time and are willing to find ways to avoid interactions with others while shopping. Although many enjoy the in-store shopping experience, COVID-19 has forced other plans into action.

The software-defined store is a must

Since many consumers are working from home with children learning from home, too, they’re prioritizing fast, frictionless and touchless purchasing options. To satisfy this need, retailers must deploy more technologies, manage higher workloads and process and analyze increasing amounts of real-time data — all while trying to keep costs down.

For retailers lacking the time, resources of funds to invest in a complete IT overhaul, a software-defined store provides the solution. It enables brick-and-mortar retailers to optimize existing IT stacks while migrating to a more open, agile and scalable infrastructure.

Doing nothing is not a viable option; however, a software-defined store allows software and operating systems to become decoupled from each touchpoint and moved to a virtualized edge serve inside the store. The result? Retailers can upgrade hardware and software independently — with less cost and risk.

The time to invest is now

Today’s consumers crave newer, safer ways to shop, such as online ordering or BOPIS. Before the pandemic, these and similar methods might have been nice-to-haves, but today’s circumstances have made them must-haves.

While it can be expensive to make some of the necessary changes to satisfy consumer demand, technology is the enabler to make productivity gains and preserve margins. Failure to invest in next-generation retail store architecture could come at a much steeper cost.

David Wilkinson is president and general manager for NCR Retail.

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