Technical support is integral to the modern retail experience
The modern retail experience will look markedly different in the near future, as merchants try to replicate the personalized touch of e-commerce in their stores. They want to mimic the real-time feel of online shopping with interactive experiences that guide consumers to products tailored to their needs. Wi-Fi beacons, touchscreens, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and other technologies will shape how customers purchase goods in what will be a nearly all-encompassing transformation of brick-and-mortar stores.
But just as the customer experience will determine how retailers will fare in a highly competitive industry, proper technical support for all of that smart technology will similarly make or break a merchant. As new systems are integrated with old ones — and as normal malfunctions occur — retailers will need full technical support to entice customers to spend time and money in their stores.
The future of retail starts now
Most retailers are experiencing a bit of a hiatus in their physical stores as e-commerce continues to flourish. U.S. online sales hit $115 billion in the third quarter of 20171, while the calendar year brought more than 15 major retail bankruptcies and the closure of 596 department stores.2 But there is hope: By 2019, nearly 90 percent of retail business will still be done in physical stores. This will be driven in large part by digital channels, which influence as much as 75 percent of in-store sales.3
This digital-first mentality means that technology won’t keep consumers away from stores. Retailers must start duplicating the digital experience in their stores as well. Several modern retail technologies aim to enhance how shoppers move aisle to aisle and are introduced to products. For example, many retailers have already embraced mobile pay, allowing customers to pay with their digital wallets. Other mobile offerings making their way into retail include interactive video games on the store floor, serving as a nudge to like the brand behind the games.
Smart beacons, also known as geofencing, use Bluetooth to send targeted marketing and sales notifications to consumers’ devices as they pass a store. Inside the store, personalized touchscreens can make product descriptions come to life. Behind the scenes, retailers will increasingly rely on AI-driven analytics to power marketing, sales, and staffing initiatives. Employees will continue to use mobile devices to handle point of sale, inventory, customer service and other elements of store management.
In short, the consumer experience will be key to motivating consumers to visit retail stores. For retailers, this will also be key to deploy and maintain smart technology. Retailers will need help quickly resolving technology disruptions to ensure that they can deliver the modern customer experience.
New technology requires full support
While retailers are only just now coming around to changing their in-store experiences, store support has lagged even further behind. Many retailers still use the traditional method of calling a technology vendor for a support ticket. From the creation of the ticket to deal with a repair person in the store, businesses can spend an hour or more on each technology issue.
If your retail business wants to transform its stores with new, smart technology, you’ll also need to change how you handle technology support. You’ll particularly need help integrating legacy technology with new technology.
IBM Retail Technology Support Solutions maintain all of the devices, software, and networks in your store, reducing operational costs and helping your business adopt a modern retail experience. Support technicians examine your technology via a camera on the app, giving them eyes on the equipment from afar. IBM Services Platform with Watson supports this technical knowledge base, helping technicians make accurate decisions. And if a fix isn’t quick and easy to resolve, a ticket will be automatically issued for on-site repair. In the future, your store manager will be able to log into the IBM support app to communicate with our remote center of retail excellence, where experts troubleshoot the problem.