The convergence of online and offline commerce is a phenomenon of modern retail. Understanding and adapting to this is crucial for any retailer hoping to build an effective omni-channel strategy.

The use of technology in bricks and mortar stores presents a fantastic opportunity for brands to create an integrated experience for customers. However, before investing in tablets, beacons and mobile POS systems it’s worth remembering that there are a few pitfalls to watch out for. In this blog we share some questions to ask yourself to avoid some of the commonest mistakes retailers make with in-store technology.

Why do you need technology?

It’s important to approach this as you would any other investment in your business, firstly understanding the problem you are trying to solve and secondly setting clear targets to measure the return on investment. Technology is constantly evolving so it's crucial to have a clear strategy to avoid buying something that will be obsolete within a few years.

One problem familiar to all retailers is a customer asking for an item that is out of stock. Burberry have invested in arming its staff with iPads in stores, so that they can help customers purchase products that aren’t stocked. This seems to have been a catalyst for growth; Essential Retail reported that 25% of Burberry’s total digital sales were accounted for from in-store iPad purchases last year.

Have you trained your staff?

Until robots and drones truly arrive, any technology you implement will only be as good as the staff demonstrating it. Without effective training staff can miss out on understanding important features and may see new technology as more of a hindrance than a help. Staff are your ultimate ambassadors of your brand and if they are enthusiastic about the tech you put in your stores, chances are customers will be too.

Audi provide a great example of how to get it right with their Audi City experience. Cutting-edge technology allows customers to create their own virtual vehicles whilst experienced sales staff are on hand for anyone wanting to convert their creation into a purchase.

How will technology integrate with the rest of your business?

Ideally any new technology you implement in your stores should be complementing existing offerings and processes. For example, you could put in place technology that not only provides customers with an improved experience but also creates an opportunity for you to learn more about them. Alternatively, you might concentrate on inventory management and look for a solution that helps keep track of stock levels or reduces pressure on tills. What you opt for will depend upon the specifics of your business, but what’s important is that you look for technology that might have more than one use and will form part of an integrated strategy.

Some of the best examples of retailers doing this well involve relatively straightforward technology. Westfield have collected mountains of data from customers through offering free Wi-Fi. John Lewis’ Click and Collect system accounted for over half of online sales last Christmas, reducing pressure on their home delivery service at a busy time of year.

Have you tested it?

Last but not least, before you open your doors and unleash your new technology on the unsuspecting public it’s crucial that you test, test and test again. This will allow you to iron out any glitches, understand how it will work on a practical level and, returning to an earlier point, will ensure that you have trained your staff effectively.

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