White Paper

How Digital Transformation Delivers Retail Innovation

A strategic approach to technology can help stores see dramatic improvements.
  • by Calvin Hennick
  • Business and technology journalist | March 28, 2018

Retailers are using technology to improve the productivity of their sales staffs and deliver a superior customer experience. Using mobile devices or data analytics, for example, can help retailers achieve a digital transformation that enables more efficient operations and more profitable sales. 

The point of embracing digital transformation in retail isn't simply to have better technology than the competition. When advanced technologies are interconnected to support one another, they can yield dramatic improvements in retail operations. 

By making the appropriate investments in technology, and by tying these technologies together strategically, retailers can achieve the following benefits:

59%

The portion of retailers who list "empowering store associates" among their top IT priorities

SOURCE: IHL Group, "2018 Retail Market Study: Retail Transformation," January 2018

Retailers are using technology to improve the productivity of their sales staffs and deliver a superior customer experience. Using mobile devices or data analytics, for example, can help retailers achieve a digital transformation that enables more efficient operations and more profitable sales. 

The point of embracing digital transformation in retail isn't simply to have better technology than the competition. When advanced technologies are interconnected to support one another, they can yield dramatic improvements in retail operations. 

By making the appropriate investments in technology, and by tying these technologies together strategically, retailers can achieve the following benefits:

Mobile Point of Sale

When employees can take payment from anywhere in the store with mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solutions, they no longer need to hover around cash registers. This simple change can put workers in better position to assist customers and aid with line busting. 

Retail mPOS solutions can even improve employee satisfaction and engagement. Studies show that nearly half of retail workers prefer using mPOS, and more than 60 percent say that mPOS has made their jobs easier. Mobile payment systems also give retailers a way to experiment with new forms of payment, such as Apple Pay, without having to revamp their stationary point-of-sale solutions. While a handful of large retailers have been using mPOS for years, it's still a relatively uncommon practice, and can help differentiate stores from their competitors. 

Inventory Tracking

While inventory management systems may feel disconnected from shoppers, the truth is that they can have a profound impact on the customer experience. According to a February 2017 consumer survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, 41 percent of shoppers are interested in interactive shelves that give product information and 36 percent are interested in in-store tablets that show a larger offering of products to purchase. Customer expectations in this area are growing quickly. By 2020, 62 percent of shoppers expect to be able to know if products or sizes are in stock without asking a salesperson, and 54 percent expect that they'll be able to input a shopping list on a store app and instantly receive a map to help them locate products. 

Omnichannel Fulfillment

Traditional retailers continue to increase their investments in omnichannel fulfillment and are learning lessons along the way about how to do so without incurring losses. According to research from PwC in JDA Software's "CEO Viewpoint 2017: The Transformation of Retail," 51 percent of retailers offered a BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) option to customers in 2017 or planned to do so within the next 12 months — up from 47 percent in 2016. But the portion of retailers offering or planning to offer same-day delivery actually dropped 10 percentage points, from 43 to 33 percent. Some retailers are also increasing customer charges for online orders or increasing the minimum order value to qualify for free shipping. 

Connected Customer

The prevalence of smartphones has led a number of retailers to create mobile apps that foster "connected customer" programs, allowing store managers to know when loyal customers walk through their doors and provide them with personalized service based on their shopping history. While this can be achieved through technology alone (for example, by pinging a shopper with custom offers), solutions that incorporate sales staff provide a more personal touch, and help lessen the perception on the part of customers that they are being watched by technology. When employees have ready access to information about a customer making a large purchase, they're better positioned to suggest accessories, warrantees or services that fit the shopper's buying history — potentially yielding higher sales. 

Optimized Store Layout

For decades, retailers have been tinkering with store layouts — from putting high-profit products at the front to placing staple items at the back — in an attempt to maximize both sales numbers and the amount of time that shoppers spend in the store. Data from customer mobile devices and in-store mobile beacons can help uncover trends about foot traffic patterns and dwell time, helping retailers to optimize their layouts even further. 

Loss Prevention

Equipping floor employees with technology can sometimes have unintended benefits. While loss prevention is typically associated with technologies such as RFID tagging, simply giving mPOS devices to workers can also curb shoplifting. Solutions such as mPOS encourage sales associates to circulate around the store — including near the entrance — rather than standing behind a cash register. This can have an especially significant impact in certain types of stores, such as mall clothing stores, where cash registers tend to be located at the back of the physical space. Some retailers have slashed shoplifting by 60 percent or more practically overnight as a result of employee mobility initiatives. 

Many of these use cases — and the technologies that enable them — rely on and support one another. The same RFID tags that support loss prevention also lead to improved inventory tracking; better inventory management practices help enable omnichannel fulfillment; omnichannel programs help get more shoppers into stores, creating more opportunities for connected customer programs; and connected customer programs are supported by employee mobile devices, which also assist with loss prevention. 

This interconnectedness can complicate the decision-making process surrounding IT investments, but it also provides a multiplier effect — meaning that an investment designed primarily to boost one specific aspect of employee productivity may end up paying off with multiple benefits. A trusted partner can help retailers navigate the shifting IT landscape to design solutions that put workers in position to provide customers with the best possible shopping experience. 


Retailers are improving the customer experience by connecting data, devices and sales associates. Learn how by reading the white paper "Technology to Boost Retail Productivity."

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