Who Keeps Retail Technology Up and Running?
In select Neiman Marcus stores in San Francisco, customers can now walk to the designer-dress department, select a few outfits and discover the magic of the Memory Mirror, a technology showcased in a recent CBS article. The store has clothing for all genders, but it’s designed mainly with women in mind. The Memory Mirror is just one of the latest pieces of retail technology that looks to streamline the buying process and reduce the stress of decision-making. A woman can pick out her favorite power suit or wedding dress and model her options in front of this new technology, which creates eight-second, password-protected, 360-degree video clips that she can email to her friends and family.
For customers eager for new in-store experiences, innovations like the Memory Mirror revolutionize brick-and-mortar retail. But these technologies also present IT challenges. Just a decade ago, retailers may have had a few support phone numbers on hand, including one vendor who could repair the cash register and the card reader, one who could fix the closed-circuit television and another who could perform some remote shared-desktop tweaks if the sales reports couldn’t be run. But between emerging technologies like the Memory Mirror, iBeacons, digital signage, mobile payments and more, today’s in-store technology ecosystem can be harder to assemble than the perfect date-night outfit.
Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) has identified several retail technology priorities businesses plan to implement over the next few years. The first is to collect data and leverage analytics for a more personalized shopping experience.
Walmart, according to business data expert Bernard Marr, has created @WalmartLabs to generate pioneering ways to use big data and predictive analytics. The venture has yielded Polaris, a customized semantic search engine; Shoppycat, a gift suggestion service; and in-store navigation apps that show customers where to find products based on anticipated need.
Another key innovation is cross-channel messaging. Nordstrom has mastered the concept of social showrooming through its Pinterest channel: Shoppers can pin their favorite Nordstrom items, and store associates create dynamic displays of those favorite items, rotated to match the preferences of current Pinterest users shopping in the store, according to Business Insider. Talk about catering to real-time needs.
Mobile and IoT Retail Technology
Mobility first entered retail outlets through the point of sale (POS), as outlets like the Apple Store empowered cashiers to perform mobile checkouts on the sales floor. Today, stores like Whole Foods are pushing widespread rollout of Apple Pay and payment terminals that utilize near-field communication technology, according to Zacks.
Retailers have also looped in the Internet of Things (IoT) devices like beacons and sensors into their mobile ecosystems. TechCrunch reports that Target uses beacons in some of its stores to send information about deals to customers over Bluetooth. Business Insider reports that Whole Foods, Lowe’s, Walgreen’s and other stores have installed smart sensors on their shelves that alert employees when item quantities run low.
Consumer-Driven Supply Chain
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told Zacks that placing the right product accurately in stores and distribution centers is a great way to make money.
“A dynamic, connected supply chain with improved forecasting leveraging predictive analytics can serve customers and reduce cost by merging truckload, pallet, case and each movement,” McMillon said.
The right price is essential to optimizing inventory. Walmart’s Pangaea technology, for instance, manages pricing algorithms in real time to adapt to price changes from online competitors, Retail Info Systems News reports.
Uninterrupted Experiences Require Support
Cloud services mean businesses can develop a bottomless number of applications for every new piece of hardware invented, but retailers investing in these new technologies don’t always have the capital to update or replace legacy systems. A POS system from 15 years ago and a virtual-reality chamber can coexist within a single building.
Helping customers build the perfect car, library, date-night outfit or home theater system will be a lot easier and more effective with a one-stop support provider for retail technology needs. Let someone else corral all those devices — and their many vendors — while the business attends to customers.